OLD TOWN — To paraphrase a movie title, “What Lies Beneath” an older vehicle can be frightening — and dangerous.
After placing a 2005 Toyota RAV4 on a lift at Jackson’s Automotive at 546 Main St., a mechanic discovered a serious rust issue affecting rear-brake components, the rear support bracket, and other parts not readily visible when the SUV rested on its tires.
This was not surface rust; this was metal destroying rust, and some parts needing replacement.
Joe Emerson, manager at Jackson’s Automotive, has often found similar damage on other relatively new vehicles. “This is very typical of an ’05 now,” he said, tapping the RAV4’s corroded rear support bracket. “We see this day this in and day out.”
“In my opinion, it’s the new type of road-clearing chemicals they are using,” Emerson said, cumulatively referring to these chemicals as “salt brine.”
The chemicals spray underneath a moving vehicle. “It (chemicals) attacks the floorboards, the brake lines, the frames, unibodies,” even metal components of “gas tanks,” he said. “It (chemicals) eats away at all types metal. It corrodes the aluminum and rusts the steel.
“Aluminum gets brittle and oxidizes. The carmakers use aluminum to lighten their cars, because it’s lighter than steel,” Emerson said.
“Five or six years of getting this stuff on your car will take a toll. It’s nothing to find a car that’s several years old with serious rust on its underside,” he commented.
To help alleviate rust issues, Jackson’s Automotive introduced a “winter weatherization service” four years ago. This involves applying Fluid Film, which according to fluid-film.com “combines unrefined woolwax with selective polar agents and corrosion inhibitors, creating a unique, lanolin-based formulation that stops existing rust on contact.”
Fluid Film penetrates rust on contact and “creates a fluid, self-healing barrier that is always active and will not chip or crack” and will protect a vehicle’s undercoating “and exposed metals for extended periods of time,” the website states.
“Fluid Film is an environmentally friendly solution that has a penetrating characteristic and also a wax base that allows it to adhere to everything,” Emerson said. “It forms a barrier between your vehicle and the road chemicals.”
Fluid Film “locks in” existing corrosion and prevents it from spreading and also keeps corrosive chemicals and road salts from reaching metal, he indicated. On many vehicles to which Fluid Film has been applied, “I notice the spots that were starting to rust are holding their own. The rust hasn’t spread,” Emerson said.
“The people who applied it (Fluid Film) before rust” could start on their vehicles, “there has been no rust progression,” he said.
For maximum protection, Fluid Film should be applied “to the underside of the [car] body annually,” Emerson said. Jackson’s Automotive charges $150 for the initial application and $75 for an annual “reapplication,” he noted.
Emerson recommended applying Fluid Film in the fall. “That way it hasn’t had a chance to wear off before they start treating the roads,” he explained.
A customer drops off a vehicle overnight at Jackson’s Automotive, where Emerson cleans “the scale and the dirt” off the vehicle’s underside after hours. He covers the vehicle’s exhaust system to prevent Fluid Film from contacting it.
Early the next morning, Emerson applies Fluid Film with a wand that sprays the solution “into the hard-to-reach places,” such as brake backing plates, bumper reinforcement bars, and radiator car supports.
Fluid Film is sprayed on all underbody metal; Emerson removes rubber plugs and sprays the material inside the plug-protected parts. He then re-inserts the plugs.
According to Emerson, Fluid Film does not affect automotive paint or plastic; because the chemical penetrates metal components, “it does a good job of lubricating places that need lubrication. It stops a lot of squeaks,” he said.
A customer can pick up a vehicle soon after Fluid Film has been applied to it. “Your vehicle is tied up 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., but when you drive it out of our yard, it’s protected against all the damaging road chemicals,” Emerson said.
“It works real well. For the cost of it, it’s a cheap insurance,” he said. “Basically as along as it (Fluid Film) stays on there, it will prevent or slow down the rust.
“I cannot speak highly enough of it,” Emerson said.
To learn more about Fluid Film, log onto undercoatmycar.com or contact Jackson’s Automotive at 827-2676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.