By on January 14, 2016

Photo courtesy OP

Mo writes:

Sir,

I’m hoping to get advice from you and/or the B&B regarding my new-to-me 2004 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (soon to be superleggera due to rust). Included is a link to pictures I took of the underside of my car and brakes with descriptions. [Thanks for those! – SM]

Questions:

– First and most important: Is it even worth fixing/preventing the rust from getting worse or should I just take it out back and put it down?

– If not euthanasia worthy, can I hack and scrape away the rust and use a rust neutralizer and sealer or should I physically replace as many parts as budget allows?

– Are said rust treatments liquid enough to get between seams or do they just reach areas that are visible?

– Regarding the brakes: I just changed the front rotors and pads (not shown). The pads removed from the vehicle still had maybe 3/4 life left and were wearing evenly (no tapering, gouging, etc.). Why was the rotor still rough?

– Should you feel a what I can describe as a grittiness when I move the front caliper sliding pins? (Dust covers are present and not torn.)

– Should you be able to move the caliper by hand once tightened? (With sliding and mounting bolts tightened, I can still move the caliper slightly at the sliding pin area in and out and side to side. I will say that I hadn’t pumped the brakes at the time I checked it.)

I had bought the car with the intention to use it as a winter car. That doesn’t mean if salvageable I won’t try and keep it running. So, should I walk away or roll up my sleeves?

Sajeev answers:

Maaaaan, forget all your questions! That thing is toast unless you want to strip it down to try the rust treatments in all the corners, crevices and sheetmetal folds. That much work for a winter beater? No thank you!

I’d rather buy one with a blown motor/theft recovery/insurance write off from a southern state and put all your Subie’s guts into that. And maybe put rust inhibitor on that southern car if you’re gonna go to the trouble. But again, not for a winter car!

Mo responds:

Ugh. I was worrying about that. I’d never seen axles flake before. I guess buyer beware and all that. As I said, I’d gotten it as a beater, and at least from a quick visual inspection at the lot (not on lift) it looked alright. But, I guess it being from VT didn’t do it any good.

At least from what I saw once I put it on the lift, it hasn’t fallen apart (yet). My plan was to scrape and poke and pound as much out as I could and spray that rust stuff — then cross my fingers.

Sigh. Honestly, besides that (and the diesel tractor engine knock), I’d fallen in love with the way it handles and rides.

Thanks for the advice. Now I just don’t know if I should try selling it, part it out or do the underbody on my nice car instead.

Sajeev concludes:

Engine knock?

Part it out and claw back some of your money! If the interior is clean and you work eBay, the Subie forums and Craigslist hard (from the comfort of your warm abode) you might make money on the deal. I’d much rather disassemble to cash out than make any attempt at rust repair.

What say you, Best and Brightest?

[Image courtesy of the reader]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.
Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

89 Comments on “Piston Slap: Beaten by a Winter Beater?...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Welcome to the salted hell that is the North. I didn’t even bat an eye when I saw the above photo. I’d take a screw driver and poke all over the subframes (front and rear). If it punches through, depending on severity I’d say drive it this winter and then ship it on down the line. If everything is solid, I’m still not sure that any sort of treatment would really make a difference at this point. Soaking with something like Fluid Film that creeps well might slow the process, but when you’re that far along I’d argue it’s just too late. I’d focus on checking all underbody fuel and brake lines, and focus my rustproofing efforts there. My guess is that they’re in bad shape.

    Lubricate the caliper pins for sure. In fact, those calipers look so crusty I’d consider just replacing them altogether. And in the North I think the number one reason for rotors being replaced isn’t wear, it’s rust the grows in from the edges to the middle of the wear surface. Especially common on rear disk brakes (#1 reason to choose rear drums IMO).

    • 0 avatar
      vtnoah

      As a Vermonter this is basically par for the course for most cars. Looking at the pic in the post, this looks like surface rust and as others have said, just poke around with a screwdriver on the frame to see if it punches through anywhere. I’ve seen far worse so you should be able to keep this thing rolling for a bit longer than you think.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I agree unless that engine is really bad. Subarus have pretty noisy engines, so without hearing the noise, I can’t tell you if it’s abnormal. Other than the potential engine issues, I would replace the pads and rotors. Make sure the pistons travel freely in the calipers, and make sure the guide pins are free. Service those as needed, and pay attention to the brake lines and hoses. Fix any safety issues like ball joints or tie rods that pop up, but otherwise I wouldn’t worry about about the suspension.

    • 0 avatar

      Have to agree as a New Englander that’s not bad. I say you should have a couple of years as daily beater use left. The last car I sold due to rust had a half rotted strut tower and the seat would flex the rotted floor when you pressed the clutch. I sold it for parts to a local mechanic but I actually saw him driving it around for 3 more years. Rust is a funny thing that way. The rear strut towers etc are notorious for rusting on legacys and outback not sure about the imprezzas.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        My experience with Winter Cars, is that ownership is a short-term commitment. You buy one in the fall or when a candidate presents itself. You run the snot out of it all winter, and come spring, it’s Craigslist. Or Broken Wheel Auto Wrecking. Or if so inclined, take it out in the back forty with five gallons of gas, and make an end-of-winter pyre out of it.

        I have only once owned a winter-beater more than one season. The reason it would sell cheap in the first place is, maintenance was going to cost more than the PO would invest. And the margin of safety and comfort was getting beyond his comfort level.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Used to work at a dealer on old Cape Cod. This is nothing. Factor in being a stone’s throw from ocean salt spray no matter where you are, on top of winters that are generally in a state of constant slush … I was too young to twist wrenches when the Vega was out, but I’d bet you could both see and hear them dissolve back in the day.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Word to the wise- if you’re going to change the oil in that differential case, remove the filler plug before you try to remove the drain plug.

    Those who know why will smile.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    I honestly don’t see any significant or worrisome rust on structural components.

    Sajeev, you’ve been living in the south too long!

    Keep it and drive it until the exhaust falls off. That will be your sign to take it in and re-inspect structural components: mainly strut towers and the subframe.

    Edit: POR-15. Put it on components you’re worried about. Knock off as much rust as possible and brush it on. For sheet metal, it will literally stop rust in it’s tracks.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      I agree. The thing needs a new tailpipe (already rusted through) and that is about it. To me, this is a case of spending a few bucks at an actual dealer to see if it’s really bad or not. Random internet negative opinions from people who know nothing about Subarus are not trustworthy.

      I’m on my third Subaru in 20 years, and the current one is 8 years old. In the same 20 years before that, I owned five Audis. No prizes for guessing which are more robust in the real world.

      Just like Audis, however, you need to keep those caliper pins operating freely and lubed with high-temp grease. Fact of life here in the frozen salty north.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Agree here too. Let’s keep this in context. It is a self-described “beater”.

      And to the OP, welcome to the north. Where salt is plentify (apparently) and “more is better” seems to be the motto.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        There may be a liability issue here for Sajeev. As an automotive expert, he could face a lawsuit if he told a poster that everything was fine, and then the guy hits a schoolbus full of pregnant ladies because his car’s frame cracked from rust.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          And that’s the kicker. If the frame is rusted like this, then you cut your loses. If not, go to Wally World, buy some black, rubberized Rust-o-leum, remove what rusty bits you can with tools, wire brush, grinder and prayer and spray the lot of it down prodigiously to let the Rust-o soak through. Should hold it through a winter or two.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “buy some black, rubberized Rust-o-leum,”

            I’d only do this if I was planning on flipping the car immediately and just wanted the underside to look better than it really is. I’ve found that the only thing rubberized undercoating is good at is trapping moisture and rust underneath itself, which manifests when the undercoating peels off a few short years later and uncovers a gruesome truth.

            I’m solidly in the camp of oil or lanolin based undercoating products. I may as well be a Fluid Film rep at this point, judging by the way I shill the stuff. $60 got me a six pack of aerosol cans this year, I only used three to do most of the frame rails, crossmembers, bumpers, spare tire, and some nooks and crannies. Most of the stuff I applied last year through a garden sprayer (not recommended) was still there. Using aerosol cans was a much neater process, let me tell you. Totally worth the extra $20 over the gallon can (plus cost of sprayer and old pot to heat it in).

            However, my ultimate solution this year has so far been to keep my beloved 4Runner out of the salt entirely. My poor little Civic with its undersized battery and all season tires has been performing admirably. I will gladly sacrifice it to the salt gods if it means a longer rust free life for the ‘Yota.

        • 0 avatar
          VW16v

          Vogo, good point. We see you are a Republican.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I agree with Tres.

      Sajeev, you’re a wimp when it comes to rust

      However, POR-15 has a “flaky” track record, Tres.

      It doesn’t necessarily work, but hides further rusting even on properly prepped areas, and the just falls off in giant sheets in subsequent years, revealing further damage (lots of people have noticed that it traps moisture and oxidation between it and metal).

      Use Fluid Film, CRC Heavy Duty Marine and/or Amsoil HD Metal Protector on that undercarriage (cover brake pads with plastic bags).

      Hit it once or twice angers, especially in late fall.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        Good to know. Thank you for the info.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/rust-prevention-treatment-consolidation-thread.355928/

          Based on reading & personal experience, my 4 favorite, effective products are not encapsulators such as POR-15, but creeping oils such as 1) Known, 2) Fluid Film, 3) CRC Marine Heavy Duty Rust Inhibitor (works in marine environments including salt water), 4) Amsoil HD Metal Protector (great in high wash areas like wheel wells).

          Farmers spray used diesel on their equipment then run it down a dirt road, which has worked for them for ages.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            My grandfather (farmer) did the diesel method out in NE and it’s mummified his trucks. My truck just saw it’s first KY winter and I didn’t pretreat it any. Oh well, your advice will help next winter. Thanks again.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Just for you, Tres (because I know you dig Ford F Series; real world tests done using FF, Amsoil HD, encapsulators, etc., on Raptor and F Series):

            http://www.fordraptorforum.com/f36/clear-undercoat-1622/

            http://www.f150forum.com/f38/fluid-film-undercoating-172499/

            In that Raptor thread, Amsoil HD worked better in rear wheel wells as far as staying power, but Fluid Film has an “AR” product that is allegedly thicker for high wash areas now.

            I use Amsoil HD in rear wheel wells and FF and CRC everywhere else since I don’t spray with a compressor and wand.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I’ll have to check out that Amsoil stuff, the one area I’ve struggled with FF is the rear axle housing, it gets washed/knocked off by snow and whatnot. To its credit the original Ziebart coating that was applied 20 years ago is still mostly present (except for said axle), unfortunately it was never sprayed on the backsides of the bumpers, an egregious omission.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Amsoil HD Metal Protector would work great for that purpose.

            I buy it for $8.60 a can at a construction equipment supply place called AIS Construction Equipment Corporation.

            They sell Fluid Film, too, and both are popular with construction equipment maintenance crews and farmers.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I love AIS Construction Equipment! I even have an AIS hat and t-shirt.

            I used to rent stuff from them all the time. I don’t want to own that heavy equipment. Better to just figure the rental into the estimate/bill.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            AIS rules.

            I feel like a kid in a candy store in there.

            Their employees are actually truly competent AND genuinely friendly, too.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    With how bad these northern older cars look, I’m surprised there aren’t one-way used-car-buying trips scheduled on buses periodically from the salty northern wastelands to the South, where the cars simply don’t rust. NC/TN/etc. is far enough…

    Here, it’s not at all unusual to see 20-yr-old cars with nothing obviously “old” about their exteriors other than foggy headlights and faded paint.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      It seems to vary. I live on the north shore of Chicago and there’s salt everywhere. American cars seems to take it worst (just my observation).

      I’m also very anal (or umm, thorough) and have a regimine to clean salt and I’ve never had any issues. I also have a third car (SUV) and my nice car sits in the garage most of the winter. I typically equate it to most things as related to cars. People don’t seem to care that much or are lazy. Funny how the nice cars don’t seem to have the rust issues that the cheaper cars have.

      I sold a used BMW X5 after owning it 7+ years. It was in great condition and I never had issues with it. I brought it with me from the west coast (no salt) and advertised it that way. I had a guy fly up from Atlanta to buy it at top dollar. He told me that was why he bought it.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Depending on local tastes and norms, they sort of are.

      Used to be, when I lived in Western New York, some independent used-car dealers would advertise **SOUTHERN CARS** The allure of those is diminished somewhat now, when the price of high-tech repairs often is more than the price of replacement…even when the carbody is sound.

      I did an essay a decade ago on The Winter Car, on a blog I wrote for at the time. It’s still up, amazingly.

      http://www.capitolhillcoffeehouse.com/archives/chch_news_213.htm

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      After living in the PNW I will never buy a used car anywhere else. My 15 year old 210 wagon is 100% rust free after a very hard life. Now that I live in Michigan again, I will fly out there for my next purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      What would work is to buy Southern cars that are mechanically sound, but hit end of life because air conditioning repair exceeds the value of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    RyleyinSTL

    Perhaps my time in STL has made me soft but I’d pitch this nightmare. There are plenty of used winter beaters out there you could source from outside of the rust belt. Parting it out on weekends sounds like a great idea so long as the neighborhood doesn’t mind the shell hanging around for a while.

    Always poke your head under the car before buying, always.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    It looks like a normal 10+ year old Northern car to me.

    Don’t make a project out of this thing.

    Make sure the brake lines and suspension mounting points are solid and then just drive the car as-is.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      I wouldn’t be to quick to knock the rust off this thing (rust is probably holding it together). Leave it the way it is and drive it for the winter. What another 90-120 days at worst. Don’t put a penny more into it though, just start looking for another vehicle now and maybe you find something you like. If the vehicle you are interested in hasn’t been sold by the time the snow is gone offer half of what the asking price is. Go in person, with cash and explain there isn’t a line up to buy the car and that they should accept your offer.

      Don’t waste your time putting working on this cars rust issues

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Ah, the Winter Car. I’m in the West now, where road salt is lighter (it’s ubiquitous now; Interstates are seawater-to-seawater, the better to allow our road-barges and the dammed souls who drive them, to keep to fantasy delivery times) but I learned car ownership in the Great Lakes area. The worst of both worlds – in the dead of winter the temperature would bounce in and out of the Freeze Zone. Slush was ever-present; and always, briny.

    Like another poster, I don’t see structural issues. Yet. That is just part of the decomposition one finds on a longtime Rust-Belt ride. It makes a car-lover sick, but there is no getting away from it.

    But of course for the Winter Car.

    Parting out, IMHO, is a losing route. First major part to come off, and that thing becomes nothing but liability and burden. Immobile and eventually requiring a tow. And with scrap prices in the dumpster, the price paid won’t even pay the cost.

    Unless you have a particular valuable part, AND A CUSTOMER for it…I’d not do it. Not yet.

    That thing looks to be gray-area. I wouldn’t take that on a trip across country; no WAY. But a daily worker on city streets, to the workplace; to the butcher, the baker, the credit-card maker…it’d be fine.

    You bought it as a Sacrificial Lamb. USE it that way.

    Short hops in the never-drying slush? That’s what it’s for.

    A long trip, family or business needs, at higher speed? Take your better car. When you’re done, wash it throughly. A few salt baths a winter…won’t do it any good, but by themselves won’t immediately destroy it.

    I take exception with Sajeev on buying a mechanically-challenged car down South. Do this…ONLY if you have a PLAN. A shop and gearhead who you have reasonable assurance he can get the job done.

    I fell into this trap a couple of times. Although in the Rust Belt, I was a day’s drive from Atlanta. And I had gone beater-shopping down there several times.

    One specimen…I won’t forget. A 20-year-old Chevy Van…the old flat-front one. NICE body. And customized inside. Didn’t smell too funky inside, either…previous owner was an older guy.

    It had a on-again/off-again miss. Chevy six…can’t be too bad, can it?

    Yes, it can. Kingpins on the front axle were shot. And the miss was a blown head gasket. Engine had to come out, also.

    ENGINE…had to come out UNDERNEATH the van. No independent shop wanted to touch it. The Chevy dealer didn’t even have the books; and their preliminary estimate was approaching new-car territory. Had I had a garage, I’d have tried…since there was no way I’d recover my money. But I didn’t.

    I learned, and have since had reinforced: A lot of things can kill a car or truck besides road-salt corrosion.

  • avatar

    All: I see your points and now I fully understand how much of a Southerner I am.

    The only thing I want to add, to clarify, is that the OP should drive it with minimal reconditioning, leave the body as-is until the wheels fall off. Or until it fails an inspection.

    This winter beater isn’t worth putting effort into the metalwork.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      THAT, above…is the perfect plan and how Winter Beaters are to be used.

      WATCH for decomposition to reach critical levels. Remember you’re driving a junk-pile…no car-pooling to the daycare center. And, come summer…if you have a buyer for a part, peel it off, scrap the rest. Or keep it in case you find a related Beater next year.

      I’m not going to recommend driving something unsafe; but the reality is, MOST failures are just inconveniences. I’ve had frames fail twice, on city streets…one time it was just a WTF experience as the car, a Metro, suddenly went pigeon-toed. The other was with a Ford van, where the Twin-I-Beam control rod mounting broke off the frame. Nice…n’ easy…all the way to the garage.

      I don’t deny the risks, but a majority of failures are just very inconvenient. We all have to choose our acceptable level of risk.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      “leave the body as-is until the wheels fall off”

      The wheels won’t fall off, quite the opposite. Every fastener will seize, making any maintenance impossible. Pretty soon you won’t be able to find anybody to work on it: too many stripped-out, seized and rusted bolts, and a non-negligible risk of having it collapse on the hoist.

      I do appreciate Mo’s attitude. He is concerned about his safety. I know too many people who literally wait for the car to collapse before scrapping it, which puts everyone around them at risk.

      My advice: if you like the product, look for a new(er) one, and treat it right.

      • 0 avatar

        As a funny aside my fathers Maxima finally died at 250k+ miles when the lower subframe rotted and he went over some RR tracks and the lower control arm ripped out and yes he literally drove until the wheel fell off then had it flat bedded to a scrap dealer.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    If you think the frame is badly rusted enough to pose a safety hazard, dump the Subie, now! Take Sajeev’s advice and part it out, or just drive it to the junk yard and cut your losses, if any. If not, just drive it ’til it falls apart if you can stand driving a rusted-out bomb! I couldn’t…

    A friend finally got rid of his 1996 Pontiac dustbuster van due to sub-frame rust. It finally dawned on him that when he noticed the right front wheel scraping the body that something was dreadfully wrong! I warned him for quite some time about hidden rust issues even though the body and interior was in great shape, as well as the drivetrain.

    I think he cried when he put it to rest, and I almost cried when he told me he bought a used Dodge Caravan to replace it! I’m still holding my breath when something very expensive fails on it!

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    OMG, destroy that thing and ship the rust to Neil Young.

    Exhaust, brake lines, fuel line, mounting brackets/flanges, floor pan etc. etc. etc. are just waiting to ruin your day and possibly much more.

  • avatar
    triangles95

    I’m gonna disagree with Sajeev here. He must not be from the rust belt and not familiar with rust belt vehicles. As long as the motor doesn’t fail that thing has several winters left in it. My only concern would be brake lines. I know they are 2x as expensive but I’d replace them with the copper-nickel lines that you never have to worry about rust again. I did this on my winter beater after noticing how bad my brake lines were. The worst spots on the OP’s pictures look like the best spots on my winter beater 2000 Ford ZX2. The motor will out last my car. I’m just now getting to the point where I’m not certain it will survive this winter. I think I may get 2-3 more winters out of it if I’m lucky. Just drive that beater till the wheels come off or the engine dies. Then when that happens send it out to pasture….

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I didn’t know TTAC was going to start running pics of the wreckage of the Titanic…

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Look the folks who live up north say your fine esp for a winter beater, parting out is a PITA so get the brakes up to speed, do your screw driver test on the frame and drive it, go over a few RR tracks and the rust will fall off, it is a winter beater after all, German cars are great for their lack of rust , Asian cars not so much but they run much better esp if not maintained to specs, enjoy the beater for that is why you bought it.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    That’s one of the few advantages to living in Oklahoma; you just don’t see cars like that here.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Someone must have done the CV joints not long ago, as they look fine. No torn boot. Your bushings are bad though (pic 3, I think that’s what I see).

    On something this old and cheap, I’d just drive it this winter since we’re already into it, get it cleaned up a little, and sell it in the spring. Used cheap Subarus are an easy sell. It’ll be gone in a week. It’s already got zip ties holding bits on, it’s just too late.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      That bushing sure is dry rotted around the edges, but if it’s still tight when prodded with a prybar, I’d just leave it alone. In fact, that’d be my whole approach with this car. Unless it is an immediate safety concern, leave it alone. With this much corrosion, any kind of work could lead to disaster.

      Corey is right, Subarus even in this rusty state have extraordinary resale. Spray bomb the bottom with rubberized undercoating and find some fool.

      My friend bought an ’04 Legacy Wagon here in Indiana last year (obsessed with getting a 5spd wagon, and Subarus especially because he’s a hip guy). I wasn’t there to help look it over before the purchase and when he showed it to me I quickly identified the bondo-filled rear quarter panels and a pretty decently paint-matched respray. Likewise, the wheel wells were coated in black paint. The car originally came from MA. headgaskets are a bit of a ticking time bomb as well with light oil seepage. Oh well.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’ve lived in the heart of “rust country” my whole life. With 46 years of vehicle ownership I’ve battled rust on more vehicles than I could count.

    My advice ? As others have mentioned, check for safety items, brakes, structural integrity of the frame, shock towers etc. See what NEEDS to be done. Next make a quick calculation of the repair cost. Ask your self , “is it worth it ?”

    Do not make the mistake of pumping money into it, with the hope that it may buy you a little more time. The scrap yard buys by the pound.

    My opinion , from a glance a the photo. 14 years in the brine/salt, with zero rust proofing…? The Subie is borderline.

    At my age,and where I am in life…? I’d send it to the crusher.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Growing up in Ontario it baffles me that salt prone states in the U.S. don’t have places that do oil-spray treatments like Krown or Rust-Check. Seems like they could cash in on that if they existed.

      I stock up on Rust Check when I’m in Canada and use it on my cars when I do snow tire change overs. VWs are generally pretty good for not rusting out prematurely but every little bit helps in terms of prevention.

      To reference the original post, that Subaru looks pretty normal for Maine. Got yourahself a good wintah beatah theyah, Bub.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        We have Ziebart in the States, although it seems more business has shifted towards spray in bed liners rather than undercoating. However I could drive right down and get my 4Runner a fresh re-spray if I so chose (original owner got it done in 1996). Cars are generally holding up better than they ever used to, at least in terms of total perforation and visible rust-through on body panels. The fact that there are singular examples of known rust-offenders (mid 2000s Mazdas), and these are nearly 10 year old cars at that, speaks to the progress that’s been made in corrosion protection. By the time that rust becomes a big enough problem to take the car off the road, enough other issues are cropping up.

  • avatar
    derekson

    Buying any car used that’s more than 1-2 years old without putting it on a lift and seeing what the state of things is seems insane to me, no matter how cheap it is.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Not necessarily true, depending on region and the car involved. However, you should at least lie down and have a look see underneath. That’s always an option and doesn’t cost anything.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        Sorry, should have qualified that with “in the North”. If you’re in FL or CA obviously rust is a non-issue.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          True…except for the fact that cars do migrate sometimes. When I was buying my first car as a California teenager, I was checking out a lovely colonnade Grand Am. Looked great, until I peeked underneath and saw the chamber of horrors that several years of salty winters had rendered.

          Always check the undercarriage, no matter where you are.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      New GM vehicles from Chevy Silverados to Cruzes to Equinoxes are getting surface rust on frame rails and exhaust mounting contact mounting points, etc., while sitting new on dealer lots, and many of these are in Florida and other southern states.

      New GM must be using a lot of New Chinese steel.

      There are class action lawsuits re this.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Shoot it.

    This is why I spray off my cars (in the garage) after every single salt exposure. There is no point in going to a car wash, only to recoat the bottom with salt during the drive home.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Salt is only one factor. Heat and humidity – say from washing your car indoors – can be almost as bad.

      In freezing temps you’re just as well to leave the car dirty and parked outside.

  • avatar
    mikey

    My 08 Mustang had 3 winters on when I bought it. The previous owner had sprayed with either Krown or Rust Check. I parked it from Nov – April, during the four winters I owned it.

    When I traded it last fall, the Ford used car manager, brought I guy out of the shop to have a peek underneath. When I questioned the manager ? His reply “we have been burned in the past”

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Ahhhh, the legendary quality of the 2004 Subaru Impreza – it is just that – pure legend.

    You’ve been had son.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    If it were me, I’d get it up in the air and buy a few cans of POR-15 and spend the day on it. Just make sure you wear rubber gloves and don’t get any on your skin, that stuff will stain your skin and take a long time to go away.

    I would just make sure the basics were sound (Definitely check your brake lines for rust) but other wise keep it as a winter beater. I don’t think it’s ready to be scrapped yet, that’s pretty common in the Northeast.

    But if a major repair were to surface like needing a new head gasket and it’s not something you can do yourself, I would probably scrap it.

  • avatar
    don1967

    This is typical of most Asian & American cars after a decade or so in the salt belt.

    Rustproofing might not be necessary for the upper body anymore, in fact most of the one-time spray-on treatments were never very good in the first place. But for the undercarriage, an oil spray ever couple of years remains an excellent (if messy) idea.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Yuck. An ex-gf of mine bought a Volvo XC70 that can’t have been more than four years old at the time. She bought it in Virginia, but it had a north-eastern past. It looked fine, and I think she bought it off a new Volvo dealer’s used car lot. It wasn’t cheap. After she’d had it for several months, I rode in it. It was making a noise I feared was the angle/bevel gear failure common to AWD Volvos. They cost well over a grand to fix and were still made out of glass last time I had to care. When the Volvo dealer put the car up on the lift, they found so much undercarriage, suspension and axle rust that they condemned the car. I’d have thought that it would be worth investigating Volvo’s rust-through warranty, but I wasn’t there and they were happy to tell my sometimes-too-blond ex-gf that her car was her total loss. She stopped buying Volvo wagons, which should have been a good thing. Last time I saw her she was driving a convertible Saab, which indicates it isn’t.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    Top tip: do not park a wet salty car in a heated garage – ambient temperature accelerates corrosion.

    Question: why do so many late model pick-ups still develop rust perforation on the rear wheel arches? I am starting to see 2007+ GMs with this..

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “do not park a wet salty car in a heated garage – ambient temperature accelerates corrosion.”

      A million times this!!

      When it’s just caked on and dry in sub zero temperatures, that salt isn’t doing much at all. The chemical reaction happens most rapidly when water is present and there is heat to catalyze it.

      I have likewise seen surprisingly new Dodge Rams (before they became the RAM brand) with rotted bed fenders. I like how the Tacoma went to a composite bed entirely, I just hope the frames on the second gen trucks are better than the DANA crap on the 95-04s.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    It is too far gone to stop the rust or even slow it down in the critical areas. Do not spend money on it to try and fix the rust it is futile at this point. Drive it until it needs something significant and send it to the scrap yard.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Every time there’s a thread like this it makes me so glad to be in the Pacific Northwest, where there is almost no salt and cars pretty much don’t rust. There’s not a speck of rust on or under either my ’95 Legend (WA/ID lifetime car) or my ’08 LS460 (started life in CA).

    The great part is that we also don’t have the paint and rubber oxidation issues that you get in the South or the desert Southwest. It’s the ideal climate for car longevity.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I was going to recommend moving to the PNW. Our cars get green with a mix of pollen and moss, but don’t rust unless the ground or pine needle mat gets as high as the car’s metal. The pollen will plug the heck out of a sunroof’s drain lines, so we avoid them. Who want’s to let the liquid sunshine in anyway?

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Seriously, the folks on this site from the North East, Mid-West rust belt areas need to do better. Period.
    The horror show of an airline, Frontier, currently has $29 flights from Des Moines IA to Denver as an example. When you need a winter beater or older used car with miles get on C.L or Auto trader, wait for it, NOT in your local zip code. Put in CO, AZ, NV, NM, WY (if you really want some miles) you get my point. Find a hoopty, make a deal, hop on a cheap flight and drive your sled home. It’s just not that hard to figure out.

    I can’t believe a car from 2004 looks like that underneath, that is appalling.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      It’s even appalling to me, a 2004 Mazda3 owner in the Canadian prairies. I wouldn’t expect my undercarriage to look that bad for another 20 years!

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Just for reference I live in Upstate, NY and not one of my Impalas or W-body cars ever looked like this underneath after 10 years. Neither do most any of the GM’s, Fords or Chrysler’s we sell. My moms 2008 Impala, which is now going on 8 years old has zero rust on any body panel and zero rust underneath. And she seldom ever runs it through a car wash. There 2000 Bonneville that they sold last year was only just starting to show signs of rust by the gas cap but once again the underneath was mostly rust free.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Yeah, the MY08 Grand Prix liked to rust around the wheel wells every year until being Krowned in 2014. Your ares either isn’t as salty as you think or the hot/cold outside cycle is a bit more forgiving than here (where we routinely get hot/cold… I think it was 48 today and will be 19 by Sunday, again)

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          It’s pretty much always cold and dry here, so the salt doesn’t do nearly as much harm as out east. I suppose you could simulate typical eastern conditions by parking it in a warm, wet garage all winter. I suspect that’s what happened to this car, in addition to the eastern conditions.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I remember the Navy Chief Petty Officer I worked with years ago. He had a big Ford station wagon that he loved – looked great and he had had it since new. One day while driving through downtown traffic, with one of his kids jumping up and down while hanging on the back of the front seat, his child disappeared from view. He looked in the rear view mirror to see what had happened. The kid was spotted behind his Ford sitting in the middle of the road behind his car, just sitting up from his fall through the rusted rear floor. Traded his Ford in the next day for a new Jeep Cherokee.

  • avatar
    EAF

    Every Subaru I’ve encountered looks like this underneath. I’m with Scout; just beat on it and top off fluids with whatever is on sale that week. Replace parts as they fail or fall off.

    Don’t go crazy using POR-15 on the subframes today if the engine is going to spin a bearing tomorrow.

    Next time buy a Honda!!!! ;-P

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Just out of curiosity, what kind of shape is the body in?

    Clean sheet metal with an underside like that in the photos seems inadvertently pernicious. Or deliberate on the OEM’s part?

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    How does a manufacturer that makes its living off customers in the snow belt not do a better job with rust resistance? I guess this is how they sell AWD cars for about the same price that everyone else sells 2WD.

    I had a BMW that spent 13 years in NY/MA and didn’t look anything like that when I sold it, and that’s a car that most potential buyers think will fly off the road ass first if there is even snow in the forecast.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Most Subaru’s that look like this underneath in Upstate, NY harsh Winters are generally ready for the scrap yards. We get them in all the time at our repair shop and the frames, brake lines, gas tank etc plus just about every bushing are usually toast. We just sent a 20 year old college student away with his 2004 Forrester that not only had all the above issues but also a rotted out exhaust manifold to catalytic converter pipe that would have cost over $700 bucks to replace plus around 400 bucks for new brake lines, a new gas tank and the frame had holes in it. Also bad were the rear sway bar bushings causing a racket every time a bump was hit and the smell of raw gas. It would have cost over $2000 bucks to fix a 1500 car that not only had rusted out underpinnings but rusted rear quarters and door bottoms to go along with it. I would run away from any Subarus from the salt belt that are 10 years old or more, especially ones that haven’t clearly been taken care of. Then there are the usual Subaru issues that we see all the time. Head gasket leaks, power steering issues, wheel bearings, suspension parts failing and noisy loud leaky engines. These cars seem to have a mythical reputation as being so rugged and long lasting. Well in some cases they may very well be. But older rust belt examples with average to little care are best avoided unless you like pouring money into a constant money pit.

  • avatar
    SOneThreeCoupe

    Rust creates pits. Pits become stress risers. Stress risers lead to part failure.

    We have 356s at the shop with less rust. Some of them are 60 years old now.

    We have 911s at the shop with less rust. Some of them are 50 years old now.

    We have a tow truck bought from the East Coast at the shop with similar rust. It’s a 1999 or 2000.

    California may have ridiculous smog laws and no safety testing, but it doesn’t have much rust. The worst cars I’ve seen by the ocean were still much, much better than this deathtrap. The comments I’m reading just reinforce my notion that the East Coast in winter is not a place I’ll ever go willingly.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • el scotto: @ Principal Dan There are former sorority women of a certain age group who would commit immoral physical...
  • Arthur Dailey: True but through the 60’s and until this downsized, cheapened version the T-Bird was considered...
  • Arthur Dailey: @Inside: your sign in name is correct as you are looking in the wrong direction. Since 2002 the vast...
  • el scotto: For all the acquisitions talk; the extended Ford family, related to Crazy Henry still controls Ford. Next...
  • Garrett: Ford knocked it out of the park with the Bronco, to the point where I would rather have the new one.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber