Rusting rims

I purchased a 2011 Toyota Rav 4 brand new less than a year and a half ago, and am now noticing that the rims are starting to rust. I live in New England but am careful to get the road salt off and the car is washed often enough. I also noticed that some of the lug nuts are getting rusty. I am assuming that this should be covered as the car is still under warranty but i’m assuming the dealer will fight me on this. I have also noticed that this seems to be an inherent problem with the Rav 4 as I have seen it on others. Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks!

If the vehicle has the base steel wheels it’s a common problem. The paint job on the steel wheels just doesn’t last so wheel rusts.


Agree. I believe the only thing covered by the rust warranty is actual rust through the sheet metal on the body-if you actually get a hole in the sheet metal. This kind of rust is normal for northern climates.

+1 to the preceding comments.

Years ago, it seemed that steel wheels were not prone to rust until they had been on a car for many years, and even then, the rust was likely only on areas of the wheel that had been scratched by rocks or by balancing weights. None of my father’s cars, and none of my older cars with steel wheels (up thru the '81 model year), ever had a problem of rust appearing all over the steel wheels.

For several years, I have noticed that late-model cars with steel wheels seem to develop an all-over rust patina after just a few years, and it is visible through the openings in the decorative plastic wheel covers, so I have to say that the OP’s problem does not seem to be unique on a late-model car. My theory is that, because so few people still buy steel wheels nowadays (as compared to alloy wheels), car mfrs do not enforce the same quality standards with their wheel suppliers as they did years ago when steel wheels were installed on every car.

Just yesterday, I happened upon a '60s-era Fiat 600 (not as well-known as the 500 model) which had apparently been abandoned in the woods of my local state park many years ago, before it became a state park. While the car had suffered a lot of bullet holes over the years, and while there was rust on some areas of its dented body, overall that old car had less rust on it after several decades than modern steel wheels seem to have after just 3 or 4 years, so clearly the attention paid to painting modern steel wheels is not what it should be.

As to warranty protection, Bing is correct that the vehicle is covered for “rust-through” damage. If the body is actually perforated by rust within the warranty period (typically 7 years), then the car mfr will pay for repairs. While the rust on steel wheels is certainly not attractive, it will likely take decades before surface rust actually damages the wheels to the point of perforating them.

Truthfully, the only way around this problem nowadays is to opt for alloy wheels, and I think it is a shame that this one area of workmanship on modern cars has taken a step backward.

This is the old car that I found in the woods yesterday, and as I stated in my previous post, it has a lot less rust on it than most modern steel wheels do after just a few years. Although it is a rear-engine car, the engine is missing, as are the badges and other ways of identifying the car, but, based on information that I found online, it appears to be a Fiat 600.

These cars were produced from 1955-1969, so the newest that this car could possibly be is 44 years old.

If an old Fiat (a make that was not considered to be well rust-proofed) could survive with this little rust after a few decades, surely car mfrs could do much better nowadays with rust-prevention on their steel wheels.