We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how cars straight from the manufacturer are built to withstand corrosion. Whether it’s the case for galvanized steel, or using more aluminum throughout production, people are under the impression that they don’t need to take precautionary measures in protecting the structural integrity of their vehicle. We don’t know where this rumor started, but we’re here to put an end to it.
Let's begin with some shock and awe. This truck has less than 200 miles on it.
You may be asking, how is this possible? You may also be thinking that the truck pictured had to have sat on the lot for years, was left to rot, and then was finally purchased. Unfortunately, this is a 2018 model. Those of us who live where the roads are salted and the snow comes down in droves can understand how this is possible. We see it in our cars and trucks throughout our lifetime. We see it in the cars and trucks that drive down the same roads as we do. It’s an all too familiar sight. The pictures included above are centered around the frame of the vehicle, which is cold rolled steel. Galvanized steel is used for the majority of the other parts of your vehicle, including the body panels.
Let’s do a quick breakdown of what galvanized steel is and how it’s possible for it to be corrupted.
Galvanization is the process in which steel (which consists mostly of iron) is lowered into a kettle consisting of 815-850 F Zinc, resulting in a metallurgical bound, forming three zinc-iron intermetallic layers and one pure zinc layer.1
Depending on the situation the metal is being used for, galvanized steel can last up to 70 years without corrosion occurring. Original Equipment Manufacturers, or OEMs, use galvanized steel for various components in vehicles. During manufacturing, galvanized steel is bent, reshaped, cut, drilled and heated for welding, ultimately compromising the integrity of the galvanized layer of zinc. The areas most susceptible to rust are where the steel has been bent or welded, such as doors and body panels. This isn’t to say that there is no added benefit from using galvanized steel for vehicle manufacturing. If that were the case, OEM’s wouldn’t bother with the additional costs. However, galvanized steel coated with a thick, flexible, abrasion resistant sealant
is where the true protection lies.
Along with rust protection, Undercoating is necessary for full structural protection. Check out the following two pictures for a good example of what undercoating is and what it looks like.
Obviously, in the first picture, rust has already begun damaging the structural integrity of the vehicle’s frame. While there is a rust eliminator service available, which is designed to work with the rust already on your vehicle, we always recommend having undercoating applied before rust has a chance to wreak havoc. Once the steel is rusted, there is no getting it back. The process of rusting is the natural chemical reaction in which iron becomes iron oxide. Again, once the iron in steel becomes iron oxide, there is no getting it back.
The aluminum debate is a short one. Aluminum is more expensive and more prone to contamination than steel. OEMs are starting to come over to the aluminum side of manufacturing more and more because aluminum is a lighter metal. The lighter the vehicle, the better the gas mileage, and in today’s market, gas mileage is a huge selling point. Consumer Reports has found premature corrosion to be a problem with aluminum.2 Looking at the added cost, as well as the reported issue with premature corrosion, it’s safe to say that aluminum frames are not the solution to preventing rust from occurring.
Just to fuel the flames a little more, the following pictures are of models 2011 or newer.
To put things into perspective, the following images included below are of vehicles 25+ years old with rust protection and undercoating.
Don't wait for the damage to be done
1 – American Galvanizers Association - https://www.galvanizeit.org/hot-dip-galvanizing/what-is-hot-dip-galvanizing-hdg/hdg-process
2 – Consumer Reports – 2/4/2015 - https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/02/pros-and-cons-of-aluminum-cars-and-trucks/index.htm