What is rust?
For rust to develop, metal must be exposed to oxygen and water. Off the factory floor, every metal surface is painted and protected, which is just another reason why keeping the paint on your panels with Rhinohide is so important. But even a tiny stone chip can promote the beginning of rust. You can’t keep on top of every little scrape and chip, so what can you do?
Tip 1: Avoid Moisture Buildup
Well, you can’t avoid oxygen that’s a given. So you’ll just have to try and get moisture out of the mix. The odd bit of muddy water, crystal clear river crossings, a bit of a splash on the beach (cringe!) or just washing it after a trip is fine. What you need to avoid, is water collecting and sitting there for months. On some vehicles, there’s inherent water traps; such as the rain gutters on a 60 series Landcruiser – or the front body mounts on a GU patrol. On newer vehicles, most such spots have been eliminated – but it’s worth checking that any accessories you’ve added aren’t creating these problem spots.
Tip 2: Avoiding Salt
Salt in the water will speed up oxidisation. That’s why you’ll see so many rusted out beach bunkies at coastal towns. Never ever drive your vehicle through the surf if you can avoid it, and if you do – be prepared to spend hours doing a thorough cleaning job. But it’s not just seawater you have to worry about. You might be surprised to know that mud can be just as bad as seawater – worse if you consider that mud will stick to everything! This is one of the reasons I avoid plugging through mud just for fun. The consequences for not cleaning up are too real.
Tip 3: Clean Thoroughly
As I said in tip 1, trapped moisture will cause problems very quick – especially when that moisture is trapped in salty mud or beach sand! Getting right under the vehicle and tackling mud and sand in every nook and cranny is a must. I’ve personally dug out layered chunks of mud that looked like an archaeological cross cut! Found of course, in a place you wouldn’t often look. When cleaning your vehicle, a standard car wash will do fine on the body work. For underneath; mix half a cup of white vinegar, and a few drops of dish washing detergent into a trigger spray bottle. Top it up with water, and soak everything with this mixture. Vinegar acts to neutralise salt, and the detergent helps it to adhere to the surfaces and do its work. Just rinse this off after 10 minutes or so.
Tip 4: Prevention
Yes, prevention is possible to an extent! But it doesn’t mean you can forgo the previous tips. Spray on products are the cheapest, and most commonly accepted method. I’m talking lanolin oil products and fish oil. Just soak absolutely everything underneath in this stuff, and give it a couple of weeks to dry before you go off road; or all the dirt sticks to it. If you have extensive stone chipping or scrapes underneath, you might like to spray a rust neutralising paint over these areas too – just for some extra protection. Finally, and worth a mention is electronic rust prevention devices. It’s hotly debated whether they work or not, but it’s worth a search online to decide for yourself.