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Galvanization sensation: How automakers fought off the scourge of rust

Exposing older cars to winter’s unfavorable elements—specifically, the dual-pronged attack of moisture and road salt—is a quick way to end up facing off with metal’s age-old nemesis: rust. Any classic car fan calling the Northeastern or Midwestern half of the country home has felt more than a passing twinge of envy for their compatriots in many southern and western states, who enjoy a drier climate that allows for year-round enjoyment of their rides without living in constant fear of the tin worm.


Corrosion, however, tends to attack vehicles of a certain vintage far more aggressively than their modern counterparts. It’s not just a question of being “old,” either. In certain eras, brand-new cars could shed their metallic skins while still sitting in the showroom.


The answer as to why today’s vehicles are more resistant to such a sudden fate is somewhat complex. Automotive industry’s long, slow march toward more durable materials is the result of advancements in design, engineering, and manufacturing, as well as the corporate buy-in required to implement an actual anti-corrosion plan.


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Good article. My family is in the steel business, galvanizing is pricey and adds weight. In the basic form (hot dip) it also warps thinner metal and even (too automotive hobbyists) thicker metal if spans are longer. Zinc coatings have filled that gap. Many auto companies struggled with getting their finish paint to stick long-term to these early coating attempts though (i.e., 90s GM trucks with not rusting hoods shedding paint).


The pickled salt brine used in many jurisdictions in increasing intensity the past decade plus doesn't help. Ontario, Canada insists on this while other parts of the country get just as much snow (or more) but don't use the salt. We bring cars from those provinces into Ontario and from southern states for a reason.