QOTD: Did You Leave It Too Late?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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qotd did you leave it too late

Good morning, all. Your author here just awoke from a nightmare, one whose subject matter should strike fear into the hearts of all vehicle owners. Allow me to describe the dream.

In a rainy and somewhat threatening near future, yours truly noticed something on the rearmost part of his driver’s side rocker panel. A blemish. Maybe dirt or asphalt, I thought, walking over to flick the speck away. Drawing nearer, I realized, to my horror, that this speck wasn’t a foreign object clinging to my vehicle’s blue (why blue?) ⁠paint — it was a hole. Around said hole wasn’t dirt, but a heat rash-like spread of surface corrosion. With mounting dread, I fell to the ground, anticipating worse to come underneath.

Sure enough, my fears were realized. Acres of rust and widespread perforation beneath my relatively new vehicle! I had let a silent killer sneak up on me.

The dream ended as I was dashing to the store ⁠— literally running, not driving (for some reason) ⁠— in search of a few cans of dripless undercoating, and perhaps some body filler, too. I knew, though, that I had already lost the battle and was merely trying to buy myself some time.

Around this salty locale, rust will come for your car just as surely as the executioner’s footsteps will one day echo down the halls of Death Row, stopping outside your cell. The only way to prevent this fate is to get ahead of it ⁠— something many people put off until it’s too late.

You’ve probably noticed by now that yours truly is something of a cheapskate. I look at the services offered at my local undercoating place and scoff at their elevated prices, preferring instead to take a haphazard, “this’ll do” approach to rust prevention. My last car (Cruze No. 1) went without it for its first three winters (what lessee is going to pay to undercoat a car they plan on ditching after 36 months?), something that should have ensured an early death. For the next four winters, I merely discharged two or three cans of Coat n’ Protect ($14-$21) at its vulnerable bits, hoping all the while that this skimpy protection was man enough to do its job. Imagine my surprise when, after jacking up the thing for a tire change, I saw damn little corrosion underneath. And after seven salty winters; three of them completely unprotected!

It’s truly not the ’70s anymore. Naturally, I took the same level of precaution with Cruze No. 2, and plan to give the undercarriage another go sometime later this month or early next. Say what you will about GM, but they’ve vastly improved their anti-corrosion efforts in the past decade.

Other owners are not so lucky.

Speaking from experience, many people see in real life what I just experienced in my dream ⁠— and by that point, you’re just trying to stave off the inevitable. The corrosion appeared and proliferated in those few years after purchase where you didn’t give much thought to undercoating. Now, your rockers look like the hull of a beached freighter, and your child’s pinky finger could probably poke a hole through the oil pan. You’re boned.

Have you ever ignored rust prevention until it was too late? How quickly did it crop up, and what became of the vehicle?

[Image: Murilee Martin/TTAC]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Ol Shel Ol Shel on Oct 18, 2019

    If you want your sheetmetal to last, you need to learn about how your car is put together, and you need to treat the INTERIOR of the areas prone to accumulating moisture: Rockers, doglegs, door bottoms,inner fender tops, etc. Cars can rust from condensation, not just salty water. Buy a large quantity of a good rust preventative like Kano Labs' WeatherPruf. Spray the stuff anywhere water can collect, and even places you don't expect it, but all surfaces near moisture-prone areas. Repeat every 2-3 years, making sure that you don't inadvertently close off any drain holes. Do this, and your car's body will last a long time.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Oct 21, 2019

    B&B input solicited, please. The interior floor of my 1995 GMT400 has very limited corrosion in two spots: - Directly over the catalytic converter (looks like heat caused the paint to bubble slightly and then moisture went to work) - Where the driver's heel wore through the original vinyl floor/cotton shoddy Current plan is to hit these areas lightly with a 3M Roloc Bristle Disc and then apply Dupli-Color Self-Etching Primer before continuing with the installation of the new sound deadening mat. Any thoughts? Thank you.

    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Oct 22, 2019

      Those little 2 inch "Surface Reconditioning Discs" on a die grinder are incredibly helpful. Solicitation over... :-)

  • Clay Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 had manual choke through 1987.Also, just started daily driving my 1992 Volvo 240 that I picked up in September and brought back to the road. Some fresh studded tires + RWD, bring on the snow!! Old Volvos make me smile
  • Lou_BC My son already has a Scout EV. Well, okay, RC....
  • The Oracle I was in WNY when this went down and it is likely a medical issue and/or some type of rolling domestic. That car was flat out with air bags deployed before it even left the ground. It was a spectacular wreck. The couple made a 7-minute stop at the Seneca Niagara Casino before the fiery launch, and something went terribly wrong in those 7 minutes.
  • Lorenzo A union in itself doesn't mean failure, collective bargaining would mean failure.
  • Ajla Why did pedestrian fatalities hit their nadir in 2009 and overall road fatalities hit their lowest since 1949 in 2011? Sedans were more popular back then but a lot of 300hp trucks and SUVs were on the road starting around 2000. And the sedans weren't getting smaller and slower either. The correlation between the the size and power of the fleet with more road deaths seems to be a more recent occurrence.