After purchasing a new vehicle, your main concern should be getting the most for your investment, and keeping your automobile in peak condition well past the date of purchase. Perhaps the greatest threat to your investment, however, is the gradual and debilitating onset of rust.
Of course, youíve undoubtedly seen it before: the unsightly brown crust around a wheel well, or that horrific orange hole on the innocent fender of a once pristine vehicle. Nothing short of a dent or structural damage ruins a carís appearance more than rust does. But as usual, there are very simple steps you can take to prevent rust before it begins, and for a lot less than it would cost to fix it.
Rust usually begins on the nicks, scrapes and chips that occur during regular driving. Whether theyíre due to rocks, dirt or other drivers, imperfections in the finish of your car are difficult to avoid, but can become a breeding ground for corrosion.
Think of your carís paint and finish as a protective coat of armor. Any chink in that armor exposes the metal beneath, and becomes a vulnerable spot for chemical reactions. When the metal of your vehicle comes in contact with oxygen and water, oxidation occurs, resulting in the formation of rust. In colder climates and during the winter months, heavy amounts of road salt speed up this corrosive chemical process.
In short, bare metal oxidizes while protected and painted surfaces won't, so the goal should be to keep your carís exterior as sound as possible; maintain it just as you would the engine.
Start by periodically checking the areas of your car where nicks, scrapes and chips are most likely to occur (wheel wells, doors, the front fenders). If you happen to find a chip where surface rust has already begun to appear, just use a piece of very fine sandpaper and very carefully sand it down to the metal. For extremely small nicks and chips, wrap the sandpaper around a screw or something narrow that can work its way into the gap.
Next, clean the dirt away with a damp, clean rag, and allow the area to dry. With a small touch-up brush, fill in the area with your carís particular color of touch-up paint. Donít use too much or the freshly painted area will look much different from the rest of the finish. Use just enough to cover the spot, and keep in mind that you can always just clean the area with a damp rag and start over. Ideally, the spot should appear good as new, and more importantly, resist corrosion.
If youíre not up for doing it yourself, or want to make sure itís done right, the best course of action is to bring your vehicle to your dealerís service and body shop. Nobody is better equipped to repair and restore nicks, scrapes and chips than the people that know your vehicle best.
The best way to prevent rust, however, is to keep your car clean. The sand and salt coating the roads in the winter can wreak havoc on your carís finish and promote oxidation. Periodic thorough cleanings will help prevent that and give you a better view of any imperfections.
And as always, take your car to be thoroughly serviced and inspected. Even if you keep your vehicle clean, there are pivotal locations youíre likely to miss. Nothing beats the keen eye of a trained professional.