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Vehicle rusting and the missing column

May 16, 2012
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Okay, stop asking why the column didn't appear in the paper on May 2. I have a good excuse. The dog ate it. No, actually there wasn't enough room in the paper for my column because advertising shrank, which caused them to cut back on pages. Advertising shrank because snowbirds went home. Snowbirds went home because the weather is getting hot. Weather is getting hot because factories pollute, which is because they 're broke, which is because wages are too high, which is why jobs are going to China, which causes China to import most of the world's concrete, which raises our construction costs, which depletes our personal bank accounts, which means fewer car repair jobs, so I guess there wasn't much to write about anyway. Maybe we should advise the snowbirds that it really gets hotter in the Midwest than it does here. Nah, I like the empty roads. Wait till we're broke again, they'll be back.

Today's subject is rust, which is the tendency for iron to revert back to iron oxide, from whence it came. There has been a huge increase in rust damage to vehicles in the last 10 years, which is costing consumers a lot of money. A very common problem is rusted-out brake lines and fuel lines. These are the steel tubes that carry the fluids from the rear to the front of the car, usually located on the very bottom, along the framework of the car. The fact that they are made of steel makes them subject to rust and their location makes them subject to conditions, which causes rust. They are steel rather than non-rusting material like copper or rubber or aluminum because of the high pressure they are carrying.

In the old days, the fuel pumps were located on the engines and sucked fuel from the tanks through rubber hoses. Fuel pumps are now located inside the gas tanks, and pump out fuel at very high pressure, so the lines have to be strong. We can't change that because modern fuel injectors require high pressure, and also the higher pressure raises the boiling point of gasoline, which eliminates vapor lock, which was a problem in the old days. So you see there has been a little progress made. The problem with the location is that it subjects the steel lines to salt from the northern roads in winter, and from our beach sand here, and to water from both places all the time. Salt sticks to the steel when it dries out, but keeps absorbing water from the air, which keeps water in contact with the steel, which accelerates the rust. We have to clean the salt off if we intend to control the rust, and a good undercoating would go a long way once it was cleaned. Of course, the manufacturers could use galvanized or stainless tubing, but that would raise the cost of the cars a few bucks. Heaven forbid. Replacing those lines on a 10-year-old car could cost nearly $1,000 if it involves the antilock brake lines as well.

It used to be said that salt spray from the beach rusted car bodies, and salt from northern roads rusted undercarriages, so a car that saw both was doomed. Central Florida was a good place to find clean cars. No road salt or salt spray. Now the problems seems to be worse, possibly from increased use of thinner steel, less undercoating, more driving in both areas and who know what else? Our only recourse as owners is better cleaning under the cars, and aftermarket undercoating jobs, which most body shops offer. If the manufacturer only gave you a three-year warranty on rust, they knew something was going to happen. We don't have to wait for it. We can be proactive. Drive through fresh water mud puddles. (Watch your wake.)

 
 

 

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