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Rust never sleeps

You may have read a post or two about my old Honda . . . an '89 Accord with now 585,000 miles on her. Well, I’m at a point where I have to make a decision. One of my friends (he’s a real mechanic, not a shadetree like me) had my car up on his lift a few weeks ago and told me to retire the Accord due to rust. He feels that it may not be safe and suggested that I might not pass inspection when due. So I’m at a point where I need to make a decision. On the one side the car runs amazing for a 24 year old car with that many miles. Starts, drives, runs good, uses/loses a little oil. Good mpg. Little smoke. Paid-for 22 years ago, I bought it new and paid it off in two years. Original motor, trans, clutch, but over the years a lot of maintenance and parts when needed. So my question . . . . should I keep driving until the wheels literally fall off? I’m thinking about taking her to my other friend,( a real bodyman, not a shadetree like me), and ask him to reinforce the rusty areas underneath, which is where the rust is. The body still looks OK because I kept after it and fixed rust as time went by. Or do I just let her go, donate it or sell it to the salvage yard? Thoughts? Rocketman

@rocketman exactly what is rusty?

Could you post some pictures of the rust that is troubling you?
A rusty fender isn’t a safety issue. But when a control arm has nothing left to bolt on to, that is a serious problem.
If you can get it “patched” for a low price, that might buy you a significant amount of time.
Here’s another idea: “patch” the worst areas for low $, get a fresh smog, safety inspection, and try to sell it “as is.” And if there are no takers, keep driving the car.
If you decide to donate it, may I suggest donating it to car talk or npr?

You are right that it may not pass inspection. My brother has a 1987 model, and it will sooon be sold for parts.

In your case, if there are no gas leaks into the passenger compartment and you live in rural area where you will not likely collide when a suspension component fails, you could keep driving it if the local authorities don’t condemn it. In Western Europe you would be instantly taken off the road during the yearly inspection.

When there was no rustproofing prior to 1976, we drove our cars literally into the ground, as a lot of rust was expected. I became quite skilled in covering up rust with fiberglass patching kits. Bondo was a big seller!

However, the minute the car becomes UNSAFE, get rid of it. The front frame on my 1965 Dart rusted out so badly that the car changed direction when traversing diagonal railroad crossings. That was the final signal to get $30 for it as scrap.

I’d retire it. Much of any rust greatly compromises the crash worthyness, which is much lower to begin with for any car this old. One of those ‘loose nuts behind the wheel’ might just find you…

Luckily cars/trucks don’t rust like they did 30+ years ago. My wifes 80 Datsun 510 was rusting out after 3 years. But when it really starts to rust badly…the time to get a new vehicle. If it’s a classic then it might be worth keeping. While the 89 Accord is an excellent…it’s still not considered a “Classic”…so it’s NOT worth it.

I think you need to talk with that bodyman friend of yours. None of us can actually see how bad the rust is or where it is located so i can’t see how we can express an accurate opinion. If your bodyman friend advises you to get rid of it, then do that.

I would not rust welds where the suspension attaches to the body. No matter how good the welder is, every weld (except spot welds) leaves a seam cavity that is weaker than the surrounding metal.

Donating it will gwt you very little. If you are in a position where you can’t itemize on your income tax you get nothing. If you can itemize you get a deduction for what the charity got paid for it. Say $300, of you are in the 15% bracket that would net you $45.

That’s really too bad. As I have posted too many times not to bore even the occasional reader, cars can last for generations or more in the rust belt too, depending on how much work you are willing to do. They can remain rust free and safe. As Mike alludes to, back in the late 70’s, early 80’s in dismantling some cars, especially oriental brands, I found they were so poorly constructed, you would swear they were engineered to rust as soon as possible.

Now, Unibody cars are especially easy to treat, much more so then body on frame as their body panals are more continuous and better engineered, not necessarily for rust prevention, but for access during construction and crash integrity. This access makes it easy to keep them from rusting. Ask almost any body man…

They still don’t make cars now as rust free as they easily could with no additional cost, that would be tantamount to car sales suicide, but the demanding public has forced them to at least keep up with the mechanics which has improved in cars as much because of govt. regulation as anything.

You may be could have saved it for a few more years…perhaps if you were treating it, but I agree with “texases” now. If you haven’t been taking care of it, it’s time to contribute more to our economy.

I would trust your mechanic assessment, you can give up the car, Cheap option buy another same model with a solid body and keep yours for parts.

I think its time to move on while you can still drive it to a dealer. Wait till they’ve got the $500 special for anything being traded. If the under carriage is rusting, thats it. You can’t weld new plates onto rust.

Due to age and mileage the car is essentially worthless as a resale, donation, or the boneyard.
Just me, but I would get another opinion and if it’s not a matter of actually crumbling apart I would try to squeeze that 600k miles mark out of it. It’s a shame to get that close and throw in the towel. :slight_smile:

I spent some time with my friend the bodyman yesterday and we talked about my old Accord. I think I’m going to have him do some work to the underside of the car. I’ll post pictures once we get it up on his rack. It could use two new rocker panels and patch pieces around the rear wheels, and I’ve found those from a parts place for less than $100 total. The underside certainly could be reinforced if it’s not too bad, we’ll see. In the meantime I’m thinking about getting classic plates for cheaper insurance and registration, since this won’t be my primary driver and will probably be in and out of the body shop for the next few months. My Son’s del Sol is in there now and it’s coming out really nice, we’re both doing the dirty work while my friend does the real bodywork. Thanks for your comments, I’ll keep you posted. Rocketman

There’s nothing magic about 600K. I got a picture of my dash in the Riviera at 500K but traded it at 530K. Never felt better to get into something else. Just get rid of it and don’t look back. You’ve put your time in. Give it a rest.

Just a humble opinion…l
I looked at cars with unibody construction, and one was an older Accord, that had been cut out to demonstrate how the body integrity and strength was dependent upon parts like… the rockers. . I did this to better inform myself of where to rust proof my wife’s older Accord. I think the money would be more wisely spent on a newer car…without the optional,rust.

Also, expect the new to rust our faster then the old…if you keep it that long. Patchwork welds without properly located drain holes will hold moisture. And, you have check the entire floor panel including the trunk and removal of all carpeting ? I just don’t think that the time and money needed will result in a safe car that will last…if you actually use it. You are reinforcing the under side to hold the mechanics, not to perform well in a crash as intended, even in older Accords…

Are you a gambling man?
Because if your car has structural rust, you are more likely to be pretty unlucky in an accident. You’ve had some good luck with this car, but it’s not your friend any more.

Great post @rocketman! Me, I’d try to keep it going myself. It’s a sort of a Guinness Book of Worl Records challenge at this point. That’s how I look at it. But it depends on how bad the rust problem is. Pretty much any rust problem can be fixed, but whether doing so is economical, well that’s up to you. It’s your wallet.

I must congratulate you for keeping this beauty on the road for almost 600k! And the original clutch! That must be close to a record for an original clutch. Do you have any secrets for making your clutch last so long?

Just curious, what about your other observations about this car? You are practically the world’s expert on 1989 Accords it seems to me. Have you always been perfectly content about the car’s design, i.e. that it always met your expectations? Or did you wish it had some different feature than it has, like more power with lower mpg, or visa versa? Disc brakes rather than drums? Are you happy you bought the manual xmission or would you have preferred an automatic?

What is the car’s design weak spot (other than rust tolerance)? Are there any annoyances you’d have wished the Honda engineers had worked out better before selling it to you? What about maintenance? Did you find it easy to work on in your driveway? Are there some things you’d have wished the Honda designers had changed so that it was easier and less expensive to fix yourself? Did you find the technical documentation you needed to fix the car was easily available and affordable?

First I’d like to congratulate you on your accomplishment. 22 years and 585,000 with the same vehicle is quite an accomplishment.

But once serious body rot sets in on a unibody car, it’s over. No matter how much you patch it (that’s if you can find something to attach the patches/welds to), it’ll never be safe again. Sudden loss of control due to a key chassis part falling off or a corroded brake line fitting could very easily leave you or someone innocent a parapalegic. Have it hauled away for scrap value before you end up in a motorized wheelchair.