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Rust Problems

When I was a kid (1960’s), it was well known that cars rusted - and as the amount of salt used increased, so did the rust problem.

Somewhere in the 1980’s, the rust problem was largely solved. The car manufacturers started using coated steel.

But just this week, I have heard lots of complaints about rusty cars and I wonder if it is just one of those things that comes around from time to time - OR - has there been some slippage by the car manufacturers on their corrosion protection.

Wish, I knew the answer. Sheet metal seems to be doing much better here in Florida than it was up through the 80’s. Yet on this forum I see many comments regarding frame/subframe rust.

In Canada,we use a second rust treatment called Krown.

Yes, cars rusted a lot in the 60s. However. starting in 1976 governments dictated better rust treatment and we have seen massive improvement.

At the same time, thanks to the Japanese inspired quality programs, the durability of cars in general has improved greatly. Whereas in the 60s we were happy to get 100,000 miles out of a car, we now expect 200,000 miles and at least 10 years of reliable performance. With that comes the eventual rust, which we ow complain about.

Our 1994 Nissan Sentra at 18 years was in near perfect mechanical shape but the body was rusting badly. An 18 year old car of the 60s would have long expired and in the junk yard. So, rust is no more prevalent but much more talked about because bad engines, transmission and other bad hardware no longer are.

There is a parallel in medicine. After licking the major diseases such as TB, polio, we now have heart disease and cancer as the major remaining killer diseases. They are no more prominent than before but the most visible and talked about.


Actually heart disease and cancer are more prominent, but that’s exactly because we have indeed licked so many other causes of death that got us young, before we had a chance to get to the diseases of older bodies, like heart and cancer and dementia. Same with cars and trucks. Better manufacturing and better control of the functions of machinery result in longer life for mechanical parts, but sooner or later things like cancer (rust) or heart disease (failing automatic transmission or multi-system wear at 200,000 plus miles) brings them down.

Everything gotta die of something.

I guess I haven’t noticed late models with rust problems, except Ford wheel wells and Toyota truck frames. A lot of plastic used now for wheel wells, and what little trim there is is glued on so you don’t have the holes anymore. Still in their never ending quest to lighten the cars up, I think the sheet metal has gotten thinner and I still suspect some of the sheet metal and frame rusting is due to the composition of the metal or the unreliable composition of the metal. No facts, just an off the top of my head suspicion.

Do you have a reference for that regulation? I’ve never heard of such a regulation.

In the late 70’s, much greater emphasis was placed on corrosion protection for cars by many manufacturers because they would pop rust holes out in as little as 3 years. Customers in the rust belt didn’t like that much. That effort increased during the 90’s with single-side galvanized steel sheet being used for car and truck bodies. I saw it as a marketing effort, not a regulatory requirement.

The rust problem has not been solved. It’s just been delayed. Any metal object will rust eventually no matter how well you protect it from corrosion. Coatings wear off, or get compromised by damage, etc.

The rust problem will only be solved when we start building cars entirely out of composites, not metal, and that’s not likely for non-supercars because it’s expensive.

Saturn vehicule use to have plastic door panels.You couldn’t fix these panels when the car was in an accident.You had to order a whole panel and paint it at a high cost.

And the underpinnings were still metal, and so you could still get the car to rust out from under you, underneath the bodywork. The plastic panels were marketed as “if your kid whacks it with a baseball bat, it won’t dent,” which was true, but it would crack…

The Corvette did it better, using fiberglass which can be repaired (though the frame was still metal). But that doesn’t really count because what dimwit drives a 'Vette through the snow?

I specifically said composite and not plastic because it’s not enough to make the bodywork out of it. You need to make the whole thing out of it, like they already do with the high-dollar supercars.

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Oh, that got my attention. Can you imagine what that would do to the waste stream? Rust is natures way of recycling so is it really that bad? Metal cars are melted down and recycled again into more cars or refrigerators or who knows? Can you imagine the mess with trying to deal with plastic cars when their usefulness has ended? Rust is a good thing. I don’t like rusty body panels or frames but keep in mind unintended consequences.

…and only the side panels were plastic. The hood, the roof, and the trunk were also metal.

It’s something that should be studied if things like carbon fiber ever get down to a price point where you could use it to build, say, a Malibu. Something tells me that’s a long way away. :wink:

But a counter-argument to the waste stream is that you’d generate less of it because, at least up here in the frozen states, a lot of people get rid of cars when they start to rust. Eliminate rust and people might just go longer before they get rid of it.

Of course that will drive the price of used cars up, because there won’t be as big of a supply, etc etc.

All that said, most likely self-driving cars will eliminate a lot of car sales anyway. What sells cars these days? Horsepower, 0-60, electronics packages… Well, if I’m not driving, and I’m spending the whole ride reading a book or watching a movie on my phone, I don’t really care how fast the thing is, and I don’t need all those electronic toys because I have my own.

And those panels aligned so well, too!

I guess I am totally missing the logic of this. Let’s not work on the wrong problem. I’ve never bought a car for horsepower and certainly not the electronics package.

@Bing, this isn’t about you, it’s about the market.

I don’t look for HP and electronics either, but these things are important in selling cars to the masses.

How many people in this forum insist their car have the ability to accelerate quickly as a so-called safety feature? As someone who has been driving a 106 hp car for almost 20 years, so I don’t buy it. I can merge into traffic just fine without 200+ HP.

People say they need it, but they merely enjoy it. Nonetheless, horsepower sells cars.

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And I’ll admit that HP sells cars to me. I don’t need the 700 horsepower ridiculous-rides, but I like a 0-60 in the 5-6 second range.

And I can also say that if I’m not the one driving it, I don’t care how fast it gets to 60.


Ya just gotta remember back to 1960 if you are old enough when they came out with the low powered, no frills, Falcon, Corvair, etc. It was a huge untapped market that until then, the marketing genius’ missed. May not be everyone but I suspect there is a market for cars with normal features that is going to be missed. The reasons are probably too long to list.

So ask yourself why someone would keep their car 20 years and rust control would be their main concern? Maybe 'cause they all look the same and are rather unimpressive in their features? Way back, new models were exciting with styling and feature changes so a two year old car was kind of dated. Not now. A five year old car can be about the same as a new model and folks worry about the sheet metal rusting.

Point was, focusing on sheet metal rust and thinking instead we should make plastic cars to prevent a 20 year old car from rusting, so people can keep their cars longer and not buy a new one, seems to me a bad idea. Maybe Ms. Barta doesn’t agree though. At any rate, maybe it’s time to melt down the 20 year old vehicle and get one of those new ones with all the electronic gadgetry on it. :grin:

In my neck of the woods, it is very unusual to see rust damage, except on older GM vehicles and on Mercedes sedans that are all of… maybe… 7 years old.

In the mid 70s a US marine, Phil Edmondston, who went to Canada and married a local girl started the “Rusty Ford” campaign there., He also is the founder of the “Automobile Protection Association” based in Montreal. His campaign was so successful that the Canadian Government LEGISLATED a 5 year no rust perforation law for car makers, starting in 1976. I had a 1976 Ford with the treatment and it did not rust through till 1986.

Soon after the US government enacted a similar requirement.

Today there are even companies that offer a 10 years rust warranty…

If you could provide a link, please do. I could find nothing about this law in Canada nor the US except your post from 2009 on the CarTalk site talking about “Rusty Ford.” I can find the APA site but they have no info on that subject nor accomplishment. Not denying it exists, I just can find any mention.

On Wikipedia’s (every entry for Phil quotes Wikipedia) Phil Edmondston entry it says;

“In 1982, he testified on inadequate automobile quality and rust protection before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Technology and successfully pressured Ford to become the first automaker to provide a corrosion compensation warranty.”

Says nothing about a law either in Canada nor the US. So maybe he pressured Ford and other’s followed suit.