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Rail Dust

We bought a white Sienna a few months ago. When we washed it we noticed spots of rust all over the car especially on the top and halfway down the sides. Dealer told us it is rail dust and has had someone buff it three times now. But there are still little spots all over. Does rail dust lead to premature rusting? We usually keep a car 8+ years. We don’t know whether to keep geting buffing done or go through try to go through arbitration with toyota. Thanks for any help.

What is “rail dust”?

Is this a new or used car?

We were told it comes from the wheels of the train rubbing against train tracks during transport of vehicles. It looks like tiny specks of rust. And some will come off with elbow grease but most won’t. It has been on the car since we bought it and some of literature we’ve read says it leads to premature rust.


Take it back and not to the sale person. This car is still under warranty and that is covered. They have to correct this at their cost not yours. Take it back, they are fibbing you to try to get out of this.

I don’t know about where you live but you may have laws that protect you with this.

The particles have penetrated the finish and damaged it. I would try for a replacement car, as a paint job will never match the factory finish…

Rail dust is from brake pads from the front brakes. It is going to happen no matter what. Repeated buffing can effect the factory texture and reduce the clear coat. I don’t think it will cause premature rust.

it is not a quality issue.
it is not a warranty issue.
a new paint job will not correct it.
a new paint job will get rail dust embedded in it also.
notice the rail dust on the plastic parts? most likely it’s there.
rail dust is only noticed on light colored vehicle.
the cure is to stop driving the car.
notice the rail dust on the rims? it might be there also.

This will never happen, no dealer will replace or swap cars for this.

As far as I know, vehicles transported by rail ride in enclosed cars. Unlike the old days where everything was wide open.

If “rail dust” was the problem then I would think this would affect almost all vehicles out there because the vast majority are railed to distribution centers and then trucked to their final destinations.

While going down the highway with a friend of mine in his classic 68 Mustang one time an oil field bobtail truck passed us and a minute later a faint white film started appearing on the windshield.
Eventually this thickened up so bad my friend was having to peer around the door pillar to see where he was going.
He passed the truck and at the next town we stopped at the local police station and alerted them. The cops stopped the truck and issued them a ticket which carried a hefty fine along with the oil field company agreeing to pay all cleanup costs.

The driver had forgotten to close a valve and airflow was siphoning the parrafinic based oil out and spraying it backwards. The entire front end and windshield of my friend’s car looked like it had been covered in candle wax. Luckily, no lasting damage was done.

I’m inclined to think maybe a chemical off of another vehicle or what about this possibility? What if the vehicle was transported on the lower level of a truck and the truck had a leaking hydraulic ram up top? (Rams are what operate the truck ramps, etc.) This fluid could be oozing back on the vehicle(s) underneath. Maybe the paint was damaged by the fluid and rust set in shortly afterwards.
What about your new vehicle on the bottom row and a used vehicle up top leaking anti-freeze, etc. onto the new ones downstairs?
That would explain the damage on the roof and top half of the sides.
Just a theory (maybe even half-baked) for consideration anyway.

I think you are going to have to take this to Toyota to get anything done. It is a defect in your new car. I doubt they will give you a new car, but certainly the dealer couldn’t absorb this cost without cooperation from the factory.

My guess is the best answer you may get is an offer to repaint the entire car. This will be a body shop paint job, which is not going to be as good as factory paint. Since it is going over factory paint this will make sure the car won’t rust prematurely. After 5 years you may have issues with the new paint, but if it is a quality job the new paint should hold up OK.

The only other answer you may can get is some money back for compensation for the diminished value of the car compared to a car without the defect.

I like most of the theories I’ve read here, but whatever the cause it the dealer has an obligation to correct the problem properly, even if that means repainting the entire car.

Take this to the Toyota zone rep. The number is in the warranty booklet you got with your owner’s manual.

Rail dust is a real problem and as noted by some folks below, it is for real and IS metal particles coming from the friction between the railroad car and the track rails. I am assuming you live in the south or west where delivery by rail is most common. Most manufacturers and dealers use a service called ‘pre-delivery’ where an independant company unloads and washes the vehicles when they arrive by rail and before delivery to the dealership. The soap solution they use is very aggressive and in most cases does remove the dust.

The idea of buffing the raildust from the finish is absolutely absurd and is creating more damage. I would without question take the issue up with the manufacturers representative. The finish will never be the same.

Basically, hot metal burning through the paint and then leading to rust?

Question though. Why is this problem only present on the roof and upper sides of the vehicle in question?
Why not the mid and lower sections?

disregard above post.

Railcars pass through some NASTY neighborhoods…Something settled on the paint and damaged it. I have seen many new cars with plastic sheets covering the horizontal surfaces to protect them from shipping damage.

Lets hear more from the OP…

I have inspected rail dust several times and I have seen it on the roof but only a small amount. The upper sides as in the fenders & quarters, get it the most and seldom on the doors. I theorize this is because the wind turbulence carries a small amount of the metal particles up onto the leading portion of the roof. The fenders & quarters get it obviously since these panels are close to the brakes and the metal brake particles settle on these parts. I have even seen rail dust rust on plastic bumper covers, fender flares and the rims. The rims get it because they are clear coated and the metal embeds in the clear.

What do you mean?

The OP bought a new car with damaged paint and he wants a solution. So far, none has been offered.

This is because there is no solution. Nobody can operate a vehicle without using the brakes which is where the metal particles are coming from.