It Got My Dad’s Datsun Z – Don’t Let It Get You!

long term maintenance

Back in his formidable years after college, my Dad managed to scrape together enough money to buy a Datsun Z. It was terrific looking. It was silver and fast – an absolutely beautiful car. Unfortunately for him, he happened to live in Michigan, where they salt the roads in the winter time – a lot.  Four years later the car’s undercarriage had rusted so much that I remember seeing asphalt through the floorboard in the back seat – YIKES!

Fast forward to today:  Car manufacturers are still using iron in the design of their vehicles and, yes –  car rust is still an issue.  We still to have to contend with our rusted out mufflers, struts, shocks and doors. This is especially true for those that live near the ocean, or those, like my Dad, who live in a municipalities that salt the roads.

Luckily for us, it’s possible with some preventative strategies to protect your car from the scourge of rust. In this post we’ll learn how rust spreads on cars and follow our tips on how to stop car rust in its tracks.

Where Does Rust Come From?

Before we get into how to prevent rust, we’ve got to understand the mechanics of it. For Iron, rust is an oxidation process that occurs when water, iron, and oxygen interact producing Iron Oxide. Unlike Iron, Iron Oxide is brittle compound that weakens the integrity of the iron bonds around it at the molecular level.

Regrettably, vehicles are always interacting with both water and oxygen, and most have plenty of iron parts to corrode. In addition, an already rusted piece of iron works a lot like cancer, producing chain reactions that corrodes the good iron that surrounds it. This is the reason why a small rust spot on your car can spread rather quickly.

How to Prevent Car Rust

Fortunately with today’s technology in touch-up kits, rust inhibitors, paint and waxes, ugly rust spots do not necessarily spell doom for your car’s longevity. You can be proactive to prevent the spread of rust to other parts of the vehicle by taking the following measures:

Treat Rust Spot Immediately

It’s important that you treat any surface of dings or scratches that break through the paint as soon as possible.Periodically look over the entire surface of your vehicle, not just obvious area like the hood or rear panel and have touch up paint handy in case you do find an issue. I prefer to spend a little more money to get a small bottle of manufactured-approved touch-up paint from a dealership of your car’s manufacturer. They may be more expensive, but they should be able to get you a color that matches that your car’s.

If you do find a small nick in need of attention, check to see if rust has begun to form. If not, first remove any wax by washing the area with dish soap, next go ahead and apply your paint to the affected area with a small brush. We recommend using micro brushes for these smaller dings. Apply enough so it covers the entire area and it should “bubble” above the surrounding paint surface – don’t worry, we will address buffing that out later.

If rust has set in, again clean the area with dish soap, but you’ll need to remove the rust from the ding before you apply any paint. We recommend buying a sanding pen to get to bare metal. If the scratch is small, you can trim the edges of the sanding pen to the desired radius. Apply the paint as described above.

After allowing the paint cure for at least ½ hour (longer for wetter days), we’ll need use the Paint Blob to even the newly applied paint to the car’s paint surface level. This is where we use a product called the “Blob Eliminator” from LANGKA. The compounds in the Blob Eliminator will soften the paint and the straight edge and cloth provided with level the newly applied paint without damaging the surrounding area.

Regular Washing and Waxing Of Your Car

The paint on your vehicle not only looks pretty, but also forms a barrier between the metal and the external environment. However, over time, small scratches do appear and gaps will develop in the protective paint layer. This is when rust becomes a problem and is the reason why you need to clean and wax your vehicle regularly.

Once you clean your car, ensure that you mop off any excess water using a chamois. It is also important to pay close attention to the wheel arches while cleaning and drying. This is the area where dirty water usually lurks and can cause serious damage in the long run. You must always ensure that you keep the water drainage point on your vehicle free from dirt.

For winter drivers where they salt the road for snow or if you live by the sea, make sure that you keep close watch on every inch of the body of your vehicle.

Cleaning Up Any Spills within Your Car

Contrary to popular belief, rust does not just occur on the outside – it can also originate from within the vehicle and work its way out. Common causes of rust inside the car are liquid spillages that seep into the carpets and remain unnoticed. Acidic soft drinks like Pepsi and Coca-Cola are especially corrosive to iron.

How about that slightly leaky sunroof or a soft-top rooftop? Get it fixed. While it may not seem like a water, small leaks into the cabin can cause serious damage over time.

Rust-Proofing Your Vehicle Especially the Underside

While rust can form from dent or dings anywhere on the car body, wheel wells and undercarriages are where rust can directly damage the structural integrity of your vehicle, With this in mind, you should seriously consider rust-proofing the underside of your vehicle. Fluids such as POR-15, Dinitrol, or Waxoyl are widely available and offer long-lasting protection to the car’s floor and chassis rails.

The best way rust-proof your undercarriage is with the help of an expert. Professional rust-proofers use superior rust inhibitors and lubricants that ensure that rust never spreads on your car for years to come. They will rust-proof engine parts, the underside of your car, electrical components, body panel undersides, as well as the frame.

Of course, if you are a die-hard DIYer, you can do this yourself; just make sure you prepare yourself mentally. Unless you have the equipment, getting every little part of the vehicle underside is time consuming since these tar-like, sticky fluids can be difficult to apply.


As a mechanic rust does help to keep me employed, but truthfully-speaking, nothing gets under my skin more than an ugly rust spot on an otherwise fine automobile. Do your part and be proactive in preventing and treating any signs of rust to help keep those highways and byways full of nice, shiny automobiles.

Terry Wade

Terry Wade is a traveling Car Mechanic in Southfield Michigan. He's been repairing cars for nearly 20 years.
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TerrysArticles is brought to you by ME!, traveling Mechanic Terry Wade, I’m do my darndest to update the site with the best quality articles and news available on the internet and elsewhere to help you diagnose and fix your vehicle yourself.

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