Falling to Pieces Part II

It’s eating away at everything.” Those words opened the first meeting of the Technology & Maintenance Council’s (TMC) new Corrosion Control Action Committee, this past September in Nashville, TN. Committee Chair Roy Gambrell, director of maintenance for Franklin, KY-based Truck It, Inc., started things out with a critical look at what has been done to address the problem of corrosion:

“We’re used to equipment lasting 10 years,” Gambrell said. “Now we’re lucky if we get seven. The Recommended Practices (RPs) that have been written by TMC Task Forces are not being adhered to.”


Over the past several years, TMC has had various Task Forces and Study Groups working on the corrosion problem, with a reasonably impressive tally of results.

The problem is that Recommended Practices are just that: “recommended.” Despite the fact that these reports and RPs are composed and ratified by fleets, OEMs and component suppliers, TMC has no way of compelling anyone to follow them. Meanwhile, the problem gets worse. Or, as Committee Co-Chair Jerry Thrift says, “We have a more accelerated rate of corrosion.”

What’s different about the new Action Committee (a first of its kind for TMC) is that it is composed of delegates who already belong to existing Study Groups, such as S.1—Electrical and Instruments, S.2—Tire & Wheel, or S.7—Trailers, Bodies and Material Handling. These delegates will, in theory, take information and strategies away from the Action Committee back to their individual Study Groups, where they will actively promote the use of this information among their groups.

It’s a “less talk, more action” approach that might just turn the tide in the fleet industry’s fight against corrosion.


Perhaps the most newsworthy item of the meeting was a presentation by Brad Van Riper, VP of research and development for Truck-Lite, Inc., on the new corrosion test being developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The new test, dubbed SAE J2721, promises to be a big improvement over the current industry standard, the ASTM B117 Salt Spray Test, because it includes wet and dry cycles, to simulate the life of a vehicle that is sprayed with wet corrosive agents, then is allowed to dry off, then gets wet again.

According to Van Riper, the ASTM test, that exposes a component to a constant salt mist, has a significant flaw: “The problem is, test results do not correspond to field results,” he explained.

Not only does the SAE test subject the part to realistic wet and dry cycles, it also groups corrosion into different levels: cosmetic corrosion, functional corrosion, and structural corrosion. “We can live with” cosmetic corrosion, Van Riper said, but structural corrosion is “catastrophic.”

Van Riper reported that fleets are already volunteering for field correlation studies to help get the standard established, but he raised a caution flag: “The question is, will the OEMs, component suppliers and fleets use the standards?” he asked.

In a related presentation, Bob Gaylen, president of Tawas, Inc., Noblesville, IN, announced a new testing procedure that could help determine industry standards for corrosion abatement. Called Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS), this nondestructive procedure allows the user to measure corrosion and screen corrosion coating products, and is already in use in the aviation industry.

With EIS, a small electrical charge is “injected” into the electrochemical process (i.e., the corrosion), and the impedance of that charge is then measured. “The resulting spectrum,” Gaylen said, “is like a fingerprint that tells you what is happening in the electrochemical system.”

Gaylen stressed the importance of the accurate measurement of the corrosion that is eating away at a truck’s chassis and components, saying that, “Corrosion is a self-perpetuating process. Corrosion makes material porous, which increases rust development.”


Other presenters painted an equally grim picture. Mac Whittemore, Midwest regional manager of customer service for ArvinMeritor, echoed the warning of Bob Gaylen, saying, “The more rust you have, the more you get.”

Whittemore said that the newer chemicals used to prevent the buildup of snow and ice on roads and highways form a finer mist than that formed by rock salt. Because of this, corrosive agents can penetrate deeper into porous metal surfaces than ever before. Furthermore, some states mix the de-icing products with adhesives so they stick to the roads better, so of course they stick to your trucks better as well. And if you think high-pressure washing is the answer, Whittemore points out that that pressure spray can just blast the bad chemicals even deeper into components.

Whittemore described one new aftermarket solution for brake shoes, a patented process of applying a membrane between a new shoe table and the lining material. “Obviously, a higher cost per shoe is charged,” he explained. “However, once the membrane sets up from being in service it becomes nearly impossible to remove the block from the shoe table for remanufacturing. The shoes can be heated in a furnace and melted off but the costs are all over the map. Is it worth the cost? What will fleets accept?”

Finally, Dale Overton, field engineer for Henderson, KY-based Accuride Corporation, warned that steel wheels will always be at risk because of the ever-present danger of rock chips. Currently, the best corrosion protection for steel wheels, he said, is powder coating. The truck’s application, and the environment in which it operates, play a significant role in determining the effectiveness of powder coating, however. Overton also warned against inferior aftermarket coatings, and improper refinishing, but held out hope that the S.2 Study Group will be targeting improvements in steel wheel coatings in its quest for “The Eight Year Wheel.”


In closing, chair Roy Gambrell offered a list of questions that the Action Committee should consider:

• Are chemicals the whole problem?
• Where is our metal coming from?
• What is the quality of our steel?
• Is the steel recycled?
• Who’s checking the raw materials?
• Are impurities being removed before metal is recycled?
• Is damage occurring from the inside out?

Ultimately, Gambrell said, more fleets must sound off before any real progress is made. “Do we need to go on fighting this?” he asked, “Or do we need to accept it as a fact of life?”

The Corrosion Control Action Force will meet next at the TMC 2008 Annual Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition, February 4-7, 2008, in Orlando, FL. For more information, contact Roy Gambrell at (270) 586-8845, or visit the Technology & Maintenance Council’s Web site at http://www.truckline.com/aboutata/councils/tmc


Not content to wait until TMC’s new committee meets in February, we took a look at some corrosion-prevention products on the market now.

Will one of these products prove to be the silver bullet the industry is hoping for? We’ll let you decide.

Rust Block

“The moment vehicles get out into the real world and start to work, the metal starts to work,” says Mark Pearson, General Manager, Lear Chemical. “You have expansion and contraction, temperature changes, all sorts of nicks and scratches happen in the coatings, and as soon as the base metals are exposed to the combination of moisture and de-icing salts, corrosion is going to happen.”

Lear’s corrosion protection product, Rust Block, effectively keeps moisture off the surface, according to Pearson. It can be applied to a vehicle that already has active corrosion on it, and the product penetrates into the microscopic corrosion cells and displaces the moisture that’s keeping those cells active. Rust Block will push the moisture to the surface where it’s allowed to evaporate, and then leave a hydrophobic foam behind, protecting that area from further moisture intrusion.

“The difference with our material is that it has to be applied on an annual or semi-annual basis,” Pearson explains. “If you can apply the product to the vehicle at the same time that that vehicle is in for servicing, you haven’t interrupted anything, and you haven’t added to the cost of the maintenance, except in a minimal way. And the payback, the ROI, is going to be huge.”


“One thing that makes our product different from other corrosion coatings is that we combine insulating ability with corrosion control,” says Francesca Crolley, VP operations and marketing, Industrial Nanotech. The company’s product, Nansulate, is being used by refrigerated produce fleets, both underneath the truck and on the box, to keep heat from the road from penetrating the truck while protecting against corrosion.

“The product was first designed to fight corrosion and help insulation on pipelines,” Crolley says. “In that application, they have to insulate their pipelines with fiberglass, and that causes corrosion at the interface of the pipe and the insulation. Our coating combining the two elements eliminates that.”

Nansulate is a product of nanotechnology. As Crolley explains, the product is made up of small particles that are highly moisture-resistant—even though they are in a water-based resin—which allows them to stick to surfaces when applied with a brush or a paint spray gun. Once Nansulate cures, it’s corrosion-resistant and mold-resistant.

Fluid Film

Eureka Chemical Company manufactures Fluid Film, a wool-wax based product line of rust preventives and lubricants.

According to Dan Williams, sales and marketing representative for Eureka Chemical Company, Fluid Film was developed in the 1940’s to help combat salt-water corrosion for US Navy vessels. “Because it’s not solvent-based, Fluid Film will not evaporate, meaning significantly more usable product with a much higher flash point of 405º,” Williams says. “Fluid Film’s all-natural lanolin base actually imbeds into the pores of metal, where it sets up an unyielding barrier against moisture and corrosion, resisting fly off and water wash off.

“The product will also protect battery terminals and vehicle undersides for at least a year, and is used by International Truck in their manufacturing process, as well as sold throughout their dealer network,” he says.


ECK, a product of Vannay LLC, has been distributed to the truck and trailer industry by Powerbrace Corporation for several years now. Paul Meixensperger, director of sales and marketing for Powerbrace, sees the biggest potential for ECK in the emergency response vehicle, ambulance, and fire truck market.

“ECK is used on all the joints, anywhere you have dissimilar metals, where you can find rust and corrosion, “Meixensperger explains. “We offer it to anyone who buys from us, as an ancillary product, to complement the other products that we sell.

“A perfect place to use it is where the hinges are mounted on the door skin,” says Meixensperger. “The old method of segregating that hinge is to cut mylar tape and put it between the hinge and the door skin. The only problem is that the mylar tape absorbs moisture, whereas ECK dispels moisture and eliminates it.”

The product is also well-suited for waterproofing electrical connections. It can be sprayed directly into the connector, where it forms a watertight connection when male and female ands are joined.

ECK comes in an aerosol spray, and in quart cans. Small parts, such as fasteners, can be dipped in the quart cans, or it can be rolled on or brushed onto surfaces, for a one-time application.