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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm sick of my cars rusting away in central NYS. They use oodles of salt here and we're often literally the snowiest city (of over 100k population). I kept my last two cars 14 years (they were very rusty after 9 or 10). I only drive 9k per year.

I'm about to use GE silicone caulk to fill the gap where Ford skipped welding the bottom lip of the doors.

I plan to also caulk the top edge of rocker panel covers - I've seen water get above them when I wash the car, and the rear end of the rearmost cover gets water running down onto it from the C pillar / fender...

I might also caulk/seal where the lip of each fender meets the wheel well liner in order to keep saltwater from sitting between those two surfaces.

Next, I plan to spread "Fluid Film" (bought 1gal from amazon) everywhere cars tend to rust (especially the springs) via a paintbrush. They sell it in spray cans too. It's wool wax / lanolin. Shouldn't peel like undercoating, but how long will it resist washing off from water and saltwater...

Any ideas for springs and struts? Ford springs are notorious for rusting apart. Our 2005 Caravan has better springs than any Ford I've owned!
A cover like a CV joint has would be ideal, but I couldn't find any such thing online. I found dust covers for racing, but they are not sealed at the top.
A ******* idea would be to wrap the strut and springs in plastic sheeting, holding (and sealing) the top (and the seam) with duct tape. I'd leave the bottom open so the spring can expand/contract, and in case moisture gets in there.

For under the car, the SFE model's undercover might help, but I heard the cover does not cover very much? Way back when I got my first car in 1987, I thought of that idea - protect the bottom of the car with fiberglass or plastic cover. Such a cover might pay for itself - they could use cheaper metals for various parts (fuel lines being one).
 

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Sealing stuff is very problematic. First off the seal has to be perfect. If it is not, then the moisture finding it's way inside can't get out, and causes way more problems than the same part not sealed.

On the other hand coating surfaces is a good idea. As long as the coating is self sealing. So not a paint, which can lift and form areas where the paint is not sealed, but just allowing damage to occur in a hidden space under the paint..

Generally just flushing with water is the best protection for damage from salt.

Though I agree cars have areas where folds and such are that the bad stuff can hide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks and I agree. That lip at the bottom of the doors will have saltwater sitting there all winter so I think it's worth the risk. Silicone caulking is good stuff - it's rated to expand 50%.

The rocker panel covers are notorious for letting water/salt behind them. Our 95 Taurus's covers rusted off, revealing a ton of rust under them. My 99 contour's design was (very) slightly better, but still awful. Focus is a lot better - the covers go up much farther, but I've seen water getting into them too. Ford ought to make them even larger - all the way to the top of the door sill (run them all the way to the rubber seal).
 

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I had a 1999 Contour SVT i kept for 13 years. Only years after I realized there was a large deep gap in the frame just in front of the front door. Mine got filled with a combo of salt and dirt and water and stayed that way until at maybe 7 years I realized too late it was there. I cleaned it out and put some grease into it. But i could see the paint bubbling on the outside of where it had been. the passenger side never did have any stuff in it. I guess the cause was parking all day on city streets in Winter while I was at work. So the drivers side would get splashed with slush etc, but the passenger side stayed safe.

Also i remember seeing one Contour, a 1995 first year (it was that rose color paint which was only available on 1995s) with horrible rust through on the bottom of the drivers door. The other three were fine.. Like the factory failed to galvanize just that sheetmetal on that one door.
 

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Generally just flushing with water is the best protection for damage from salt.
Only once in the spring wash the car because water activate the corrosion.

Salt during cold winter is harmless because its dry.

Same thing with storing the car in the garage during winter. Ice melt and creating a corrosive mixture with the road salt.

It's better leave it outside!
 

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Big fan of fluid film. Lanolin bases, safe. I use it on my 2001 Ranger, which I bought used and starting to rust underneath. The Rangers are know for shackles, fuel lines, cross members, everything rusting. And at 80k mine had it. I put FF on 2x a year, spring and fall. Just paint it on underneath with a paintbrush. Sticks well and kills rust. My wife hates the smell of it, I like it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Salt is dry in winter - that's good one! Only true if you live where it basically doesn't snow. Salt melts snow and you get salty slush on everything day after day after day. It snows here for days on end and NYS (and most towns) loves to pour salt on the roads - even when it's not snowing. When it's not snowing, I agree it dries up quickly. But if it's not going to snow for more than a day, I wash the car so it's clean during that "lull" in the weather. I try to be not lazy and dry under the doors - prime rust spot.

My Contour's (nice torredore red SE with V6 and 5 speed) downfall was that there were little two brackets which were part of the rear subframe that runs between the back wheels.
The bracket (which was way too thin to last in salty areas) held a suspension part (swaybar or stabilizer?) up against the bottom of the car (the bar ran from the wheel forwards). The bracket rusted away, causing the swaybar/stabilizer bar to bang against the bottom of the car on every bump. It would have failed the NYS inspection, so my mechanic told me to go to a clueless shop down the road, and sure enough they did not notice.
Everything was so rusty, my mechanic said it was too risky to try replacing the subframe. There was a rubber bushing/spacer around the swaybar/stabilizer which was held in the bracket. I glued the rubber bushing to the car (to serve the same function as the bracket). I think it held the final 2 years I had the car.

Never had much rust towards the center or front of the car.

The last 5 years of its life, the rear jacking points were totally gone. The rear wheel wells were poorly designed - there was a gap where water would enter the rocker panels from water flinging forwards off the rear wheels (one side of my focus has the same issue - arg! See next post). All Contours around here had huge holes under the rocker panels after 8-10 years.

I collected on a 10 year rust-through undercoating warrantee - got over $600 versus the undercoating cost me only around $300!
 

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For the folks claiming a heated garage sucks.. I had my Contour SVT 13 years. the ONLY rust was in that pocket near the door. (and was really only a problem because i never noticed the pocket and never cleaned it out, ever, for at least 6 or 7 years) The underside was perfect. My SVT had no rust at all. In Wisconsin with big city salt all the time on the roads all Winter.
My SVT had 106,000 miles on it and was over 13 years old when I sold it.

naturally the other party in the heated garage debate will argue about it. Who cares. [sleeping] Your results may vary.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I did the dirty deed (caulking - no fluid film today)...hopefully it helps the car more than harm. The gap along the front doors' "lip" was wider than I hoped. Took quite a bit of caulk and time. Can't believe Ford only put 2 drain holes in the doors (I assume there is nothing in the door directing the water to the holes). And on one door, the holes are cut slightly too high - a small amount of water will get trapped in that door.

I also caulked the top of the rocker panel cover. hopefully that won't show, but it'll only show when the door is open anyhow. I used a small to moderate amount of clear silicone.

Ever notice the weird gap above the rocker panel cover, just behind the rear doors? I guess you'd call it the bottom of the C pillar? Or front of the quarter panel? I stuck caulk in there too, so water doesn't get inside/under the rocker cover. I did not fill in the whole area though.

On the passenger rear side, the wheel well liner is not enclosed all the way. They put the liner on crooked or cut it too small. There's a gap where the liner meets the edge of the fender, where the rocker panel ends. The rocker cover hides the rocker panel, but I assume it ends there. I globbed a nickel sized area of caulk to fill the hole/gap.
 

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Sealing stuff is very problematic. First off the seal has to be perfect. If it is not, then the moisture finding it's way inside can't get out, and causes way more problems than the same part not sealed.

On the other hand coating surfaces is a good idea. As long as the coating is self sealing. So not a paint, which can lift and form areas where the paint is not sealed, but just allowing damage to occur in a hidden space under the paint..

Generally just flushing with water is the best protection for damage from salt.

Though I agree cars have areas where folds and such are that the bad stuff can hide.
^ This is sage advice. I would be very reluctant to seal with silicone because try as you might, the salt will find its way in and will never have a way to drain out.

The owner's manual specifically tells you to keep those holes open:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
So, when I was globbing caulk onto the fender liner, I wondered where the water goes which surely gets behind the liner (because nothing seals the liner where it meets the fender). It seems to me a lot of salty water will fling forwards off the tire, get behind the liner, and get into the area just in front of the rear wheel which meets the back end of the rocker panel. There is a small square drain hole in the rocker panel cover under the car, but I'd rather water didn't get in there. Our cars will have holes there (those in CNY anyhow!).
Sealing the liner against the fender would be tricky, but I see no other solution other than crossing my fingers for the next 7 or 8 years (that's when the holes will appear - I'll keep the car longer most likely).
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
They used purple beat (beet?) juice one year as a test, but never heard anything about it since. Salt damage is very expensive (and a PITA). So sick of my cars being damaged.

We have a long raised expressway (rt 81) that runs through the city which needs replacing. What an expensive mess that will be. Snow tires should be required around here just like Europe does so they don't need to salt seemingly non-stop for months on end.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
the salt will find its way in and will never have a way to drain out.
The water will get out - once there's a rust hole! :[spank]

That "channel" would be wet (saltwater, not water) for months on end around here - not exaggerating. It evaporates slowly when it's not much above freezing in the garage and well below freezing outside in January and February.

And the gap is narrow = not much surface area is exposed in order to evaporate...it's as though they wanted to create a "rust chamber".[rant]

It would likely rust through w/in 7 (maybe 5) years here, so it can't be any worse than doing nothing and guaranteeing a rusty door bottom.

GM (definitely on grand ams) put something on that "lip" and painted over it (there was a lump along the lip). It looked reassuring anyhow.

As for the top of the rocker panel covers, if they do their job, no water should get in/under them, so sealing them (at the top edge only) won't harm anything anyhow. I think the covers were pretty good "stock" except the rear area has two issues as explained earlier.

I wish manufacturers would cover the springs and struts - not cheap to replace. Or use better springs - our 2005 Caravan looked pretty good the last I checked, and Toyota doesn't seem to have these issues, even around here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·


Passenger rear wheel well. Can see where I globbed extra caulk - there was a circular gap in the liner there.

Won't water get between the liner and fender and fall behind the blue area?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Lots of people think that...I think it makes sense when it's very cold (under 20F).

Cars (especially Contours) rust badly here regardless of whether they are kept in garages...if yours was 13 years old w/o rust, then you luckily don't have nearly as much salt in your area. Mine had visible rust after 7 or 8 years and holes after 10 years, yet mine looked good compared to the average Contour in this area! After just 5 or 7 years, my (fairly nice) garage floor had rust stains. I thought our nanny was parking her old wreck in our garage, but realized it was my Contour's rust (rear subframe and areas near it) - arg!!!

As a comparison (to your area), our 2005 Grand Caravan has quite a bit of visible rust and a hole - all Caravans have rust after 7 or 8 years here. :-(
 
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