There are a few vehicle care priorities that tend to become even more meaningful when you're caring for a classic car compared to a modern one, and one such area is that of rust and other corrosion. While rust can happen on any vehicle, there's no question it's more likely among older cars whose materials are not only of a prior generation, but have also been exposed to the elements for years or even decades longer than their modern counterparts.
At Andersen Restoration Parts, we're here to assist classic car owners with numerous restoration and upkeep needs, with products ranging from center links and torsion bar mounts to suspension kits, idler arms and more. Why is rust a common issue for some older cars, and how can you go about keeping it from becoming a problem for your classic vehicle? Here's everything you need to know.
Why Rust is More Common in Older Vehicles
To understand why rust and other corrosion is more common in older vehicles, it's necessary to first understand how metal rusts. When a piece of iron or steel comes into contact with oxygen and moisture, the bonds between atoms in the metal are weakened by an electrochemical reaction that creates what we call a "rust" compound.
Over time, this process can lead to a number of issues, including:
- Holes or cracks in body panels, which can cause mechanical and safety problems
- Damage to other components, from the aforementioned wheels all the way down to electrical systems.
- Loss of structural integrity, which becomes more likely as the metal continues to decay - even if those holes are just tiny pinpricks, they can make the metal far easier to bend or warp.
This is more common in older cars, simply because older cars are made of materials that are more vulnerable to rust. Many vehicles of the early 20th century were designed with iron and steel body panels, though there have been exceptions in some cases.
As time has gone on, however, newer cars have tended to incorporate less-corrosive components such as galvanized steel, aluminum and plastics. These elements are still susceptible to rust damage, but they're far less likely to fail over a period of several decades than older metals like iron and steel.
Our next several sections will go over how to prevent rust issues from forming on your classic car.
Keeping Moisture Out
One of the single most important tenets of any rust prevention plan is keeping moisture out of your vehicle. This is relatively easy to accomplish, at least in the case of most body panels that are exposed to the open air.
In these cases, you'll want to coat your car's metal with a product designed especially for rust prevention like WD-40 or Boeshield. These sprays work by forming a layer between the metal and moisture, preventing rust from taking hold as long as they are applied regularly. This can be done every six months or however often you feel is necessary - just make sure to check for reapplication about once a year, since environmental conditions like strong winds or heavy rain may wash away the coating and leave your vehicle vulnerable again.
Protect Wheels and Underside
A couple vehicle areas that can be particularly susceptible to rust among classic cars are the wheels and the undercarriage. This is because rotating parts like wheels tend to rub against one another a little bit over time, exposing portions of the metal surface to moisture and leading to oxidation. Car owners should make sure any hubs or other wheel-facing areas are coated with rust prevention spray, which can help keep them in good shape even when exposed to plenty of wear and tear.
The undercarriage is also a problem area for rust, as moisture gets trapped among the many crevices that can be found there. Be sure to inspect parts like brake lines for any signs of wear or damage, and if you notice any issues, consult a mechanic as soon as possible.
Start the Car Regularly
In many cases, inactivity can also be a source of rust. As your classic car sits over long periods, it's possible for rust to develop in areas that were not previously exposed simply due to being closed off from the air and moisture.
To prevent this sort of buildup, be sure to start your vehicle periodically - at least several times per year - no matter where you might keep it whether on a trailer or indoors in a garage. This will help ensure moisture stays out, and will also prevent any areas that were not previously exposed to rust from developing.
Proper Car Storage
Classic car storage is vital for several reasons, and one of these is that it can help to prevent rust buildup. If you're trying to store your vehicle while you don't need it, be sure to do so in a garage or other sheltered location where it will remain free from moisture and keep the underside protected.
If possible, invest in a rust prevention spray like WD-40 or Boeshield for the underside of your car, as well as any other areas that are exposed on a regular basis. This can help prevent rust from developing even when your car is not running and being driven around.
For more on how to ensure rust doesn't become a problem on your classic car, or to learn about any of our classic car restoration parts or services, speak to our team at Andersen Restoration Parts today.