What to do about this rust?
If it’s that rusted on top, first thing I would do is pay a mechanic to inspect the body from below, see if it’s a real problem down there.
It would be a major repair involving cutting out and welding in strut towers. The cost would exceed the value of the car.
I’m sure the underneath is worse than what can be seen here. If the bottom is not horribly bad one might find somebody willing to make a couple of gusset plates and weld those over the areas shown. Cheaper than strut towers but still a bit pricey.
2001 Mazda Protege about 77000 miles.
Those are overlay brackets, they may not have been painted when manufactured, I would close the hood.
Remove the rusty brackets, buy new ones or sandblast the old ones. Sand off the strut tower rust, if a hole pops through, put it back together and hang a For Sale sign on it. If the rust cleans off, prime, paint the towers and the brackets you blasted and re-assemble.
If you are thinking about buying this car, have a shop you trust do a pre-purchase inspection and ask specifically about the bracket rust. Maybe they can be refurbished or replaced for a small amount.
Having owned a 2001 Protege myself for several years, I can say that none of those rust issues are extreme - in fact, your rear fender rust seems to be on the milder side of things.
As others have said, those strut tower brackets under the hood can be removed and replaced…I haven’t looked for a while, but eBay used to have used ones for pretty cheap. Just be careful that you get the right ones…there was also a 1.6L engine that year which uses different brackets, and there’s a separate variant which was used for engines which include a strut tower brace - which you don’t have. As long as you get brackets compatible with either an LX 2.0 or ES 2.0 model, without the strut tower brace, you should be fine.
The rear fender well rust…nothing can be done. I even had mine repaired with new metal and paint, but the rust returned in less than 2 years. Just consider yourself lucky that it’s not too bad, and perhaps consider hitting it with a rust converter spray to try and slow down the spread. They call it “car cancer” for a reason, unfortunately.
The strut towers themselves . . . some of which is visible, in spite of the brackets covering them . . . don’t look too healthy
Mine used to look like that…it was just surface rust.
The bigger issue is further down in the wheel well area under the hood…water can pool due to the design and actually rust through back to the outside wheel well area
I zoomed in . . . it looks pretty ugly
That’s nothing here in Minnesota.
I’ve seen much worse.
Exactly, it’s a matter of perspective, I guess.
On the Proteges, that level of damage can happen further down in the engine bay, particularly on the passenger side near the wheel well. I’ve not seen that happen to a strut tower on the Protege before though - either in Iowa or Michigan where I currently live.