Depending on the climate that you live in, it's possible that rust is only a minor or even nonexistent issue for you. In warm, dry regions that rarely, if ever, receive snow, rust is just a boogieman you use to scare little gearheads before bed. Everywhere else, rust is a very real nightmare and something that most car owners will eventually have to live with. Modern galvanized steel body cars are significantly more resistant to rust than the cars of the past, but rust will still begin its inevitable assault sooner or later. Read on to discover how you can keep your car rust-free for as long as possible using rust inhibitors.
The How: What Are Rust Inhibitors and How Do They Work?
While there are a few different types of rust inhibitors now available on the market, the most common form is spray-on inhibitors. These work by spraying the inhibitor (which is generally suspended in solution) onto a surface directly. Since rust is the result of iron or steel oxidizing, rust inhibitors work by preventing or slowing this chemical process. The specifics of how they work will vary from brand to brand, but in general they form a shield around the metal to prevent oxygen from reaching the metal's surface.
The Why: Does Rust Really Matter?
Rust can range from fairly innocuous cosmetic blemishes to major structural issues that threaten the safety and driveability of a vehicle. Rust will also attack steel and iron on your car indiscriminately, which means the body is not the only part of the vehicle that's at risk. In fact, it's rare for exposed metal mechanical components of a car to stay rust-free for long in parts of the country with heavy snows and frequent use of salt. So, just how concerned should you be about rust?
Unfortunately, there's no simple answer. It is a myth that rust "spreads" across a car, so long as areas around the rusty spot can be adequately protected and kept dry. This means that minor surface rust isn't necessarily a reason to scrap a car. On the other hand, rust does tend to get worse over time, and untreated surface rust can very easily become something much worse.
The When: How Often Do You Need to Apply Rust Protection?
When you choose to apply rust proofing to your vehicle will depend on the type of rust protection you are using and your goals for the application. Are you simply performing this as routine maintenance or are you trying to prevent an existing rust condition from getting worse? If you are doing a regular, preventative underbody coating, then you can expect it to last anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Applying this form of protection once every year or even every other year is generally perfectly fine.
On the other hand, targeted rust protection should be done on an as-needed basis. If you discover rust on your car, it is likely a good idea to use rust inhibitor on any nearby exposed metal areas. Additionally, if the rust is minor and you are able to repair the surface yourself, then apply rust protection will prevent the rust from coming back. If a section of your car is rusting, it means the galvanized zinc coating on that area has already failed and so it will likely rust again without treatment.
When it comes to dealing with rust, the important thing is to remain proactive and not to panic. Rust on modern cars is rarely a major issue, and with proper prevention and care, it can often be stopped in its tracks.