Is rust-proofing worthwhile?
Car experts disagree…
By: John Symon
Many Montreal car owners wonder about the usefulness of rust-proofing their vehicles. Quebec’s long, cold, but humid winters and the abundant use of abrasives (sand, gravel) can cause damage to car paint of while use of road salt (calcium chloride) causes car bodies to rust out quickly. Numerous car body shops and garages offer various kinds of rust-proofing services, often claiming that this will prolong vehicle life and maintain resale value.
The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) deals at length with the question in the winter 2012 edition of its Touring magazine. The Globe and Mail discussed the question in 2011. The West End Times also talked to Jim Ring of Auto Magik in Dorval. But as with many discussions, the experts do not agree.
While The Globe and Mail’s Rob MacGregor recommends against rust-proofing, pointing out that modern vehicles do not need the service as much as vehicles did a few years ago. But the CAA describes the practice as “absolutely” useful. The Touring article further claims that today’s cars—provided they are properly maintained—can drive 300,000 km. Touring also claims it can be useful to apply rust-proofing to a vehicle that already shows signs of corrosion; such treatment may slow down the rust process.
But there are cases where it does not make sense to rust-proof a car, as with short-term leases or vehicles that are still under warranty. Today, most manufacturers offer three to five years warranty against perforation and/or surface rust; Volkswagen offers up to a 12-year warranty against perforations. Rust-proofing of electric vehicles or hybrid electric-gas vehicles can be especially problematic with potential damage to the car’s electrical system.
The three types of rust-proofing include wax-based, grease-based, and oil-based. While wax treatments are sometimes called “permanent,” this is a misnomer. A single treatment will commonly last for a few years, but not forever. Consequently, touch-ups are sometimes required. These treatments have the advantage of drying quickly. Greased-based treatments dry more slowly but are otherwise similar to wax treatments.
Oil-based treatments are the most commonly offered and prices seem to start around $60. These treatments have the advantage of permeating well into cavities and of not cracking in very cold weather. But the oil-based treatment can also damage rubber seals around doors and windows. And, depending on the quality of the product used, expect oil to drip for a few days afterward and leave stains on driveways or streets. This oil can find its way into streams where it is bad for fish and other aquatic life. The treatment needs to be reapplied regularly; perhaps annually.
“We do not really advertize rust-proofing and perhaps it is a best-kept secret,” says Jim Ring of Dorval’s Auto Magik. He says that rust-proofing is a sideline of the body work done at his shop and a natural complement to other services offered.
“November and December are the busy months for us with rust-proofing; we reserve Saturdays for this work. We find that putting the vehicle up on a hoist is a good chance to inspect it; doing bodywork helps us to understand rust. We use a premium, non-drip, oil-based rust-proofing product and it tends to be fairly durable. And unlike a major competitor, we don’t think it’s necessary to do rust proofing every year. I recommend an annual inspection but the rust-proofing can sometimes wait for a year or so. I put my own 2002 Altima up on the lift recently and decided not to apply rust-proofing this year.”
Ring suggests that car washes which spray the underside of vehicles are also useful in minimizing car rust. Auto Magik’s prices start at $90 for rust-proofing and the company can be reached at 514-684-6393.