Rust is a form of iron oxide which occurs when iron combines with oxygen in the air creating corrosion. When this happens on your vehicle it can be the beginning of a long road mechanical and cosmetic issues. So on the matter of how to protect your truck from oxidization, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Most rust occurs when paint breaks down through mechanical or UV damage. Regular maintenance is the most effective way to protect your truck from forming rust in the first place. But it can also slow the progress of any surface rust beginning to develop. Once oxidization sets in, it can spread like a virus. It’s critical to keep an eye out for early warning signs while going about your truck’s normal maintenance and cleaning schedule.
Where To watch for problems
Often rusting begins under fender wells, where the metal is thin and weak. When balancing or rotating tires, thoroughly examine your fender wells for discoloration or deteriorated metal. Examine for signs of rust where body components meet, namely where parts are likely to experience friction over frequent use (door frame, where the hood meets fenders, around the trunk). These repetitive motions will deteriorate paint and protective coatings and over time can leave critical components exposed to the elements.
Other key areas of your vehicle to keep an eye on include:
- The spare tire well in the trunk
- Driver side floor
- Front and rear corners of the rocker panels
- The lower sections of all corner panels
Preventing damage in the first place
Regular hand washing of your truck is recommended to best maintain it’s paint and protective clear coat. The force of the brushes in automatic car washes can be surprisingly abrasive; capable of wearing down your trucks finish with repetitive use. Corrosive contaminants like spilled gas and bird droppings should be removed as soon as possible. These substances are highly corrosive and can quickly wear through clear coat and paint, creating opportunities for oxidization.
In addition to regular washing, a monthly coat of wax will ensure your clear coat stays thick and effective.
If you live near the ocean or in a region with snowy winter weather, salt or other chemicals used to de-ice roads are likely to be a persistent source of wear on your truck’s finish. Especially on the underside. So your wash and wax schedule is even more important throughout the winter months. Many automatic washes offer an undercarriage clean, But if you’re the D.I.Y. type, simply raise your vehicle up on jack stands and remove debris with a hose. If road salt is an issue you find yourself dealing with on a frequent basis, try a small amount of baking soda mixed in with your automotive soap and water while washing. This will help to neutralize the acidity of the salt and chemicals.
Proper drying of your truck is as important as washing it. The vehicle should be driven after washing so the airflow can dry any crevices that can hold water. Pooling water is always a bad thing. Don’t allow water to sit for extended periods in or on your truck. If you notice your truck bed has collected water be sure to drain it and dry any remaining moisture.
Stopping the spread of rust
It’s best to correct surface rust as soon as identified to prevent issues of scaling and further penetration. Spot rust repair is very similar to general paint repair. Begin by working away as much rust as possible with a wire brush. Next, knock down any remaining roughness with an abrasive grinding wheel. Cut through any paint and corrosion until bright, fresh metal is visible. Use a final round of sandpaper to achieve as smooth a surface as possible. Next, apply a primary layer of rust arrestor to your newly primed surface. Rust arrestor chemically converts rust to inhibit continued corrosion and help form the tightest chemical bond to previously damaged surfaces.
Next, apply a thorough coat of primer on your newly prepared exposed metal surfaces. Follow this with a layer of paint, and lastly a clear coat to seal and protect everything. Finally, buff the surface to evenly blend with your vehicle’s original finish.
If you’re unable to catch oxidization while it’s limited to the truck’s surface, bubbles can develop beneath visible layers of finish. Eventually, the base metal will flake apart, leaving large holes in your truck’s metal. At this point, your best option to protect your truck is to replace the affected panel. If the damage exists on the frame of the truck, it could mean the structural integrity is in serious jeopardy. Repairs of this type should only be carried out by a knowledgeable professional at a reliable, quality repair facility
In the short term, a rusting vehicle means unsightly cosmetic damage. But given enough time it can also mean a host of structural issues down the line. Remember to be vigilant to spot early signs of rust, and repair promptly. These simple steps will help ensure you get the best out of every day you and your truck have together.
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