Rust Specs

I have an '04 Saab and have been a little concerned about it’s corrosive future. In the last year I’ve noticed many tiny rust specs all over my car. I’ve always kept up with washing it, especially in Winter but nonetheless the problem seems to be getting worse. What should I do? Is there a shop I should go to to have it coated with a rust treatment or get it painted? Is that sort of thing expensive? Is there a way I could have prevented this?

Rust can only form when there’s NO paint. What happened to the Paint???

I’ve had a few (3-4) over the years…Mainly due to stone chips…But it sounds like your’s is different.

You should be waxing it twice a year. Using the clay bar on it will also pull the surface contaminants off of the paint before it can cause harm. Twice a year in spring and fall, I clay, machine polish, glaze, and wax my cars.

You need to have a good body shop look at it. Having rust come from below ‘all over my car’ would be extremely unusual. What color is it?

The color is Silver. You can’t really see the specks unless you’re up close, but they are all over the top surface of my car. I suppose that maybe the specks may not be rust but something else, but they sure look like rust. Could it be something in the paint that’s corroding and not the actual pieces of metal?

“Rail Dust” Is Probably What You’re Seeing.
It Comes From The Environment, Not From The Car’s Steel Or Finish.

Silver, White, and other light colors show the rail dust more readily than darker car colors do.

The specs actually are tiny bits of iron that stick to the car’s clear-coat finish. It’s debated where they come from. Some say it’s from the metal in semi-metallic brake pads. Others say it comes from iron bits left on roadways from wearing (grinding and sparking) snowplow blades clearing snow. Our highways actually get rust-colored stripes on them. It’s called rail dust because cars transported on trains get this and some attribute it to iron from the track’s rails creating airborne dust.

Try cleaning a small area and with wax on a cloth rub the specs and with a little effort they should disappear. I get these during winter on three of our cars that happen to be white, and clean them off every spring. I’m usually able to clean them off with wax and my small random-orbit electric car waxer (smaller than a polisher). Other people use clay bars, available everywhere car cleaners and waxes are available.

Here’s the real test to see if you’ve got rail dust. Plastic doesn’t rust. Examine painted plastic parts of the car, particularly a plastic rear bumper cover. The area just to the rear of the rear wheels takes the most abuse. If you’ve got rust specs on that painted plastic then you’ve got environmental rail dust and not a problem with your car’s body or finish.


I just bought a brand new 2011 Oxford White Ford Fiesta (July 30, 2011). It’s a shiny, bright, white car and I have little orange dots that keep re-appearing even after washing and waxing. Some have suggested that my dots are cause by “industrial fallout” and that this is perfectly normal, but I have also have a white, 1996 F-250 parked right next to the car and it does not have these orange dots. So, somehow the industrial fallout hits my new car and misses my truck!

I noticed the dots when I brought the car home from the dealer, but I was able to rub them out with some effort (car wash soap, water and sponge). However, every week since then, the dots keep coming back. Upon closer inspection, I can see a tiny, little hole in the area where I clean away the orange. There is something in there, it may be rusting, but whatever it is doing it is leaching orange stuff out and the orange stuff takes quite a bit of effort to wash away.

Clay is not going to solve this problem. Clay just takes away stuff on top of the paint. My problem is below the surface. I have read about several companies that produce paint decontamination products, but they sound very intimidating. I don’t think I want to go through that process. I contacted a lawyer who says he will ask the dealer to take the car back. He suspects they will balk at that, but they may offer detailing and if the car requires detailing 4 times, then this could officially be a lemon law case (I’m in California).

Sadly, this is the only problem with the car and I like it otherwise. I do not want the car re-painted, they’ll never do it as well as the factory paint job. I did find a product on the internet called IronX and I am going to try it. If I can at least find an easier way to get rid of the orange spots when they re-appear, I might be able to live with the problem. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Does the F250 tow the Fiesta everywhere it goes. Are they joined at the hip or something? I find it hard to believe that they are ALWAYS parked together.

You are taking the Fiesta someplace that you don’t take the F250 and that is where it is getting the fallout. Maybe at work? I had a similar problem with one car I owned, but I worked at a foundry at the time and that was my drive to work car. None of the others had this problem.

I don’t work at a foundry and there is no foundry or other such industrial facility nearby. I work a mile from my house, so I usually just ride my bicycle to work and, so, yes, the Fiesta and F250 are just about joined at the hip. Nice guess!

This problem was there when I received the car from the dealer. Tom and Ray (the Car Talk guys) believe the problem is “rail dust” from when the car was delivered to the dealer and I believe that as well. I know that all white cars do not suffer from this problem. I had a white Acura Integra for 10 years and I babied that car. I was up close and personal regularly and never saw these little orange dots. I owned that car in a city about 20 miles away and there was an aluminum foundry almost right next door!

My problem, at least, is not due to any “industrial fallout.”

Yes it is called rail dust. It will eat right into the paint. It comes off the road and break pads. Waxing and clay is about the only way to go. There is no real fix that I know of. Why it eats into lighter colors I don’t know. You would think darker colorers would rust the same. The paint is the same.

Last week the Business Manager at the dealer acknowledged that Tom and Ray were right! Good job boys! He told me that he has been in the auto business for 40 years and never heard of this before. He offered to have the car clayed. He told me he would contact about where and when. I’ve been waiting for nearly a week for him to get back to me, apparently there is no hurry on his part.

In the mean time, I did contact a lawyer and the lawyer says he thinks this may be a lemon law issue. The lawyer will charge the auto dealer for any legal fees, so there is no cost to me. The problem is that clay is not going to eliminate the problem. The it’s just going to get rid of the rust that’s leaching to the surface. I think that the dealer needs to take the car back.

Also, I did buy a product called IronX and it seems to have some promise. For one thing, it turns any iron a purplish color, so it’s really obvious where the iron particles are (and it turns out there are a lot more than what I thought, it’s just that some particles are bigger than others). IronX does make it a bit easier to remove the rust spots, but I’m waiting to see whether they come back.

If you have the car clay barred just remember that the specs will return. There is no getting away from it. The dealer should not take the car back since it’s not a defect or anything remotely like it. It happens on all cars ( since a source of this rail dust is brake pads ), all makes and models. You only see them on light colors. Keep in mind this will not harm the car. After all, how many cars go down the road with the body panels flapping in the breeze from rail dust issues? They don’t. Rust comes from neglect, age, poor design, etc.

Also if you read all the requirements for a vehicle to be considered a lemon law car then you will realize this will in fact not be a candidate.

When buying any product, there is an implied warranty of fitness and mercantability. Also, with regard to lemon law, a case can be made for the impact that these rust spots have on the value of the car- and they do have a negative impact on the value of the car. I agree with you regarding the clay, but I’m just glad that the dealer is at least proposing a fix for the problem. I’d be the happiest guy in the world if the problem never came back.

By the way, in the interest of full disclosure meaneyedcatz, do you work for a car dealer or auto company? I’ve seen your other posts and you seem to take the approach: consumer suck it up. Why should I suck it up? If you buy a $1,000 refrigerator at the appliance store and it has rust specs all over it, your sure as heck going to demand that they take care of the problem or replace the unit. Why shouldn’t I feel the same way about my my $15,000 purchase?

Hmmm, your state may be different but lemon laws pertain mainly to new cars, not 7 year old cars. Even then, it only applies when the dealer has been unable to correct a problem after so many tries. I just don’t see any warranty issue, implied or express that would cover a vehicle this old anymore.

You can clay it yourself in about 20 minutes for $20, then give it a good coat of wax. You need to pull the metal particles out of the paint, and that’s what clay does. It is hard to describe the results unless you have done it, but the sooner you do it the better and repeat every 6 months. If the spots are still there after claying, have a detailer polish it before waxing.


By the way, in the interest of full disclosure meaneyedcatz, do you work for a car dealer or auto company?..yes I do, does it matter?

I’ve seen your other posts and you seem to take the approach: consumer suck it up…INCORRECT!! My “approach” is never simply for the consumer to suck it up. Opinions are based upon information given and knowledge acquired. Sometimes the consumer does need to suck it up, no one can deny that. But, the dealer, independent shop, driver, vehicle owner, tech, parts, body, etc., all need to suck it up when it is appropriate. You would know this if you read more but that is impractical, I would not expect you too.

Why should I suck it up? Your question, not mine. This is not a design flaw, defect, etc., etc., it is just one of those annoying things that happen.