Add to that the fact that many structural underbody components aren't painted or coated, and you can see why the vehicle's construction is going to play a key part in the development of corrosion.
THE COST OF RUST
According to Williams, a study done by Battelle Memorial Institute puts the average annual cost of corrosion to the automotive industry at about $23.4 billion dollars per year.
"While this study was first conducted in the mid 1970's, the figure appears to still hold true due to the increased electronic components in today's vehicles," he explains. "There was also a study conducted by CC Technologies for the Federal Highway Administration in 2001 that put the figure closer to 29.7 billion, although that figure estimated corrosion costs for the whole transportation industry."
Against those numbers, what can one fleet maintenance manager do?
"The best strategy for corrosion prevention is awareness," says Williams. "Being at the forefront of this battle has taught us one thing: preventive maintenance is the key to avoiding serious corrosion issues. I've never understood why people will spend thousands of dollars on expensive equipment, and then avoid spending ten minutes ensuring it will not lose its value.
"Foreign materials such as salts, tree sap, and bird droppings can damage painted surfaces," he says. "One should clean these types of materials off a vehicle as soon as possible. Care should also be taken when nicks from rocks or debris chip away at the paint. It's an invitation for rust to take root."
"The challenge is to understand a little about corrosion and a little about coatings, so you know what to ask for, and you know how to audit the vehicles, to make sure that what you're sending back out on the road is going to meet your end-use requirements," says Lewis. "PPG does have authorized shops, and they have to be audited, the technicians have to be trained and retraining, and we go in and perform audits. Those kinds of options are available for customers who want to make sure they're getting the right type of paint maintenance on the vehicles that they're sending out."
Until the day that we have self-repairing paint finishes that can erase their own scratches (and, yes, they are being researched today, according to Williams), fleet maintenance managers and their technicians will have to ever vigilant.
Have you washed your fleet vehicles today?