If you visit the southern USA, you will see all kinds of late model vehicles on the streets that look like they were just driven off the lot. Unless you garage your vehicle in the winter and only drive it during the summer months, you won’t see that here - snow, salt, and rust make sure of that!
Using good rust protection can prevent thousands of dollars in costly repairs and stop the metal body from wearing out long before the engine and other parts are ready to call it quits.
Want the best rust proofing there is? Download the PDF version of this comparison article.
That’s not just my own anecdotal evidence talking either, of which I have plenty. The Canadian Army has actually commissioned several studies on the benefits of rust proofing their vehicles and equipment. They’ve concluded that rust proofing definitely inhibits rust but the real kicker is that not all rust protection products are created equal, far from it.
My Personal Experience With Rust
My first experience with rust was when I was still a young lad and I was standing next to my grandmother’s new-looking first generation Ford Escort hatchback that was more than a decade old. My father carefully explained to me that the reason the car was in such good shape was because it had been Rust Checked every year since it was new. He pointed out all the Rust Check stickers lined up side by side on the back hatch window that proved it.
That lesson stuck with me and I’ve used Rust Check on my vehicles ever since I was a teenager in an uncharacteristic example of brand loyalty on my part.
My First Car (Used)
My very first car was a used 1996 Pontiac Sunfire GT that was a gorgeous metallic blue. Even though it was just a Sunfire, I really loved that car! The lines were pretty, the stock wheels were sharp, and the interiour glowed a very cool looking red in the dark. I took really good care of my new baby and Rust Checked her every year religiously.
I never had much in the way of problems with rust up until I sold it in 2005. I did have one big rust spot form around the opening to the gas tank because I was a bit sloppy when gassing up and let little bits of gas spill on to the nearby paint. Over time the gas ate away at the paint and allowed it to rust. That kind of thing can’t be prevented with Rust Check because it’s the paint’s job to protect all painted surfaces. I shouldn’t have been so careless.
I had that one rust spot fixed and the car still looked practically new when I sold it at almost 10 years old.
My Second Car (New)
Having just scored my dream job at a local software company working for peanuts, I made the classic mistake of feeling like I “deserved” my first brand new car to celebrate. Looking back, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do at the time but I graduated without debt and had some savings, so there you have it!
My choice? A brand new 2005 Mazda 3 GS in Carbon Gray Mica with a manual transmission. That car drove like a dream and is the easiest shifting manual I’ve had the pleasure of driving. Zoom zoom!
Rust Check? You betcha!
Rust problems? Actually yes…
The year was 2010, my 3 year bumper to bumper warranty had expired but I happened to notice the car also had a 5 year corrosion warranty. Just before my 5 years was up, I spotted what looked like a barely noticeable paint chip along the wheel well and that’s just what I thought it was, a paint chip. Paint chips obviously aren’t covered by the warranty, but I took it to the dealer anyway knowing my warranty would expire soon.
To my great surprise, they offered to get it professionally repaired free of charge lickity split, which I later found out was because the rust was due to a known manufacturer’s defect. The wheel well was actually completely rusted out but it was all hidden underneath the paint. That may not seem like a win for Rust Check, but now that I was aware of the problem I saw many other 2005 Mazda 3s that had massive rust spots in several places including much bigger problems with the wheel wells, so mine was clearly rusting significantly slower even given the defect.
When I finally sold the Mazda 3 in 2013, the buyers had their mechanic inspect it and he said it was one of the best looking 2005 vehicles he’d ever seen. I think that is proof enough that the car held up comparatively well over time.
What Rust Protection Is Best?
These are the typical choices you have for brand name rust proofing:
- Rust Check
- Corrosion Free
- Plus, a few other products that you can only apply yourself (not recommended).
There have been several tests run by the Canadian Army on which rust proofing product provides the best protection. You can read the 2006 report here and this post at RedFlagDeals summarizes the results nicely.
The Best Protection
The clear winner in the army tests is Corrosion Free! They found that Corrosion Free was more than 90% effective at inhibiting rust even in the harshest climates. The next closest product was only 70% effective and to my great horror Rust Check was rated at under 40% effective.
That’s what I get for being brand loyal all these years without doing my research! Rust Check definitely works, but I could have been doing so much better all along had I known.
The Best Warranty
The warranty by Rust Check and Krown only covers rust originating from the inside of metal panels and excludes floorboards and sometimes roof panels. They also require an actual hole in the vehicle before they will honour the warranty. Corrosion Free is the only one to cover all body panels and have no restrictions on where the rust originates from. They also don’t necessarily require a full hole before getting it fixed for you. You can read their full warranty sheet here.
Rust Check and Krown require reapplication every 12 months to keep your warranty valid, whereas it is 18 months with Corrosion Free. Less appointments and less hassle, sounds good to me.
Related: Cheapest Products By Month
It typically costs between $100 and $150 per year to get an oil based rust prevention product applied, which is expensive, but if it keeps your vehicle on the road for 5 to 10 years longer, it’s definitely worth it.
Krown and Rust Check have similar pricing that starts at $120 for the smallest vehicles and moves up to a high of $150 with Rust Check and $140 for Krown. Krown is, however, more generous in their vehicle size pricing as well ultimately making Krown the cheaper option.
Corrosion Free doesn’t publish their prices on their website so I called my local dealer to inquire. The price for most vehicles is $150 and it’s $20 more for larger vehicles and SUVs. That is for the Complete Protection Package, which is definitely the one you want and the most comparable to Krown and Rust Check’s service. On an annualized basis, it’s actually cheaper than the other guys too costing $100 every 12 months averaged out.
Related: How Much Should Car Repairs Cost?
Does It Damage My Vehicle?
It is possible for these oil based solutions to slightly damage the rubber seals on your vehicle, but other than that they are completely safe. Krown’s product is known to cause the most damage to seals so they will usually apply a protective coating to prevent any damage. If one of your seals does become damaged, they will typically replace it free of charge if you bring it to their attention.
On my Sunfire and my Mazda 3, my hood seals did become extremely floppy from the Rust Check. Those seals are pretty much non-essential so I never thought much of it. I only found out I could have requested they be replaced while doing research for this article. Again, Corrosion Free scores points for the least damage to seals. I read multiple reports of people using it without any noticeable damage.
The only slightly annoying thing you will notice, is the oily residue that is left behind by the rust treatment. It is particularly noticeable in the engine compartment which tends to eventually look quite black and dirty as grime clings to the oily substance over time.
Do They Drill Holes In My Car?
When I first learned that they sometimes drill holes in cars to gain access to the inner panels for a better application, I was quite concerned. However, after having it done myself and having read about it extensively in forums online, I no longer believe it to be a concern.
If necessary, they drill very small holes in very inconspicuous locations that nobody will ever see. Once the application is complete, they plug the holes with small rubber stoppers to prevent the oil from leaking out and water from getting in. Nothing to worry about.
A Warning About Canadian Tire
Unfortunately, the most common dealer for Corrosion Free is Canadian Tire and many areas have no other dealers to choose from. After reading multiple horror stories about terrible car service at Canadian Tire over the years, I am loathe to ever take my car there for service. If you can find a Corrosion Free dealer in your area that isn’t Canadian Tire, then that would be my recommendation, otherwise you might want to consider Krown as a good-enough second bet.
I’m honestly still on the fence about what I am going to do for rust protection in future years. It seems obvious that I should ditch Rust Check and I would love to move to Corrosion Free, but rust protection is only as good as the person applying it. Taking my cars to Canadian Tire just gives me the quivers. Although, I’m thinking I might just cave, close my eyes, and hope for the best.
What To Avoid
There are other types of rust protection on the market other than oil based products. Many dealers will offer a one-time undercoating for a fee of $500 or more. There are also some electricity based products that keep a live current going through the metal in your car that is supposed to prevent rust.
Everything I’ve read indicates that these types of rust protection are inferiour and should be avoided. Undercoatings in particular can actually cause rust if they crack or are applied incorrectly allowing water and salt to get trapped between the coating and the metal causing it to rust faster.
What Type Of Rust Proofing Do You Use?
Many Canadians use some form of rust protection on their vehicles. I’d be interested to know when you’ve used in the past and how effective you found it to be.