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This article is about anti-corrosion treatment of road vehicles. For more general coverage, see Corrosion.

Rustproofing is the prevention or delay of rusting of iron and steel objects, or the permanent protection against corrosion. Typically, the protection is achieved by a process of surface finishing or treatment. Depending on mechanical wear or environmental conditions, the degradation may not be stopped completely, unless the process is periodically repeated. The term is particularly used in the automobile industry.[citation needed]

Vehicle rustproofing[edit]


In the factory, car bodies are protected with special chemical formulations, typically phosphate conversion coatings. Some firms galvanize part or all of their car bodies before the primer coat of paint is applied.[citation needed] If a car is body-on-frame, then the frame (chassis) and its attachments must also be rustproofed. Paint is the final part of the rustproofing barrier between the body shell (apart from on the underside) and the atmosphere. On the underside, an underseal rubberized or PVC-based coating is sprayed on. These products will be breached eventually and can lead to unseen corrosion that spreads underneath the underseal. Old 1960s and 1970s rubberized underseal can become brittle on older cars and is particularly liable to this.[citation needed]


Aftermarket kits are available to apply rustproofing compounds both to external surfaces and inside enclosed sections, for example sills/rocker panels (see monocoque), through either existing or specially drilled holes. The compounds are usually wax-based and can be applied by aerosol can, brush, low pressure pump up spray (which has a reputation for mixed results),[citation needed] and Shutz compressor fed spray gun which gives best results but is the most messy[citation needed] - both the sprayers come with extension pipes for enclosed body sections. Shutz spray guns are much simpler and cheaper than top coat spray guns.[citation needed]

An alternative for sills/rocker panels, is to block drain holes and simply fill them up with wax and then drain most of it out (the excess can be stored and reused), leaving a complete coating inside. Anti-rust wax like phosphoric acid based rust killers/neutralizers can also be painted on already rusted areas. Loose or thick rust must be removed before anti-rust wax like Waxoyl or a similar product is used.

Structural rust (affecting structural components which must withstand considerable forces) should be cut back to good metal and new metal welded in, or the affected part should be completely replaced. Wax may not penetrate spot-welded seams or thick rust effectively. A penetrating anti-rust product like WD-40 followed by anti-rust wax can be more effective.[citation needed] Application is easier in hot weather rather than cold because even when pre-heated, the products are viscous and don't flow and penetrate well on cold metal.

Aftermarket "underseals" can also be applied. They are particularly useful in high-impact areas like wheel arches. There are two types - drying and non-drying. The hardening and drying products are also known as "Shutz" and "Anti Stone Chip" with similar potential problems to the original factory underseals.[citation needed] These are available in black, white, grey and red colors and can be overpainted. These are best used for the area below the bumpers on cars that have painted metal body work in that location, rather than modern plastic deep bumpers. The bitumen based products do not dry and harden, so they cannot become brittle, like the confusingly named "Underbody Seal with added Waxoyl" made by Hammerite, which can be supplied in a Shutz type cartridge labelled "Shutz" for use with a Shutz compressor fed gun.[1] Mercedes bodyshops use a similar product supplied by Mercedes-Benz.[2] There are many manufacturers of similar products at varying prices, these are regularly group tested and reviewed in the classic car magazine press.

The non drying types contain anti-rust chemicals similar to those in anti-rust waxes. Petroleum-based rust-inhibitors provide several benefits, including the ability to creep over metal, covering missed areas.[citation needed] Additionally, a petroleum, solvent-free rust inhibitor remains on the metal surface, sealing it from rust-accelerating water and oxygen. Other benefits of petroleum-based rust protection include the self-healing properties that come naturally to oils, which helps undercoatings to resist abrasion caused by road sand and other debris. The disadvantage of using a petroleum-based coating is the film left over on surfaces, rendering these products too messy for top side exterior application, and unsafe in areas where it can be slipped on. They also cannot be painted.

Electronic rustproofing technologies are improving every year. These systems work by pushing electrons into the car body, these electrons are slightly more or equivalent to the amount lost by normal weather conditions. This ensures oxygen can never combine with iron to form rust. The loss of electrons in paint is also the cause of “paint oxidisation” so electronic systems also protect your paint work as a bonus.[3]

Rate of corrosion[edit]

The rate at which vehicles corrode is dependent upon:

  • Local climate and use of ice-melting chemicals (salt) upon the roads
  • Atmospheric pollution, such as acid rain or salt spray, which can cause paint damage
  • Quality, thickness, and composition of metal used, often an alloy of mild steel
  • Improper use of some dissimilar metals, which can accelerate the rusting of steel bodywork through electrolytic corrosion
  • Design of "rust traps" (nooks and crannies that collect road dirt and water)
  • Particular process of rustproofing used
  • Plastic/under-seal protection on the car underside
  • Exposure to salt water, which strips off the protective paint and also causes rust much quicker than ordinary rain water would

Rustproof alloys[edit]

Stainless steel, also known as "inox steel" does not stain, corrode, or rust as easily as ordinary steel. Pierre Berthier, a Frenchman, was the first to notice the rust-resistant properties of mixing chromium with alloys in 1821, which led to new metal treating and metallurgy processes and eventually the creation of usable stainless steel. DeLorean cars had stainless steel bodies.

Some cars have been made from aluminum, which may be more corrosion resistant than steel when exposed to water, but not salt or certain other chemicals.[citation needed]


Kurt Ziebart, an immigrant of Germany, works out of a small mechanic shop in downtown Detroit and patents rustproofing in 1959. Car body corrosion was a particular problem from the 1950s to the 1980s when car designs gradually converted to monocoque or uni-body construction, replacing a traditional separate chassis frame of thick steel. This new technology relied on shaped body panels and the integrity of the body shell for strength. Unfortunately, the application of corrosion prevention did not keep pace with spread of this new technology. Responding to widespread customer complaints, vehicle manufacturers eventually produced products more resistant to corrosion.[citation needed]

See also[edit]