Automobile manufacturers always seek new and improved ways to protect their products from relentless corrosive forces. Most people who own an automobile will have experienced rust at some point. Rust can spread like wildfire, damaging an automobile paint job in almost no time at all, while also causing unsightly holes due to eating away bit by bit through the car’s body. Rust can be caused by many factors such as acid rain, bird droppings, tree sap, dirt and even dead insects on certain occasions. As the clear outer paint coat gradually gets “eaten away” by these contaminants, the metal body below the paint becomes even more prone to corrosion. Exposure to sea-salt or road are just some factors that can hasten corrosion, along with small scratches, dents or nicks on the vehicle. Corrosion can cause a great deal more damage than simply tarnishing the vehicle’s fit and finish. It can affect critical operating systems such as the vehicle brake, fuel, electronic and electrical systems, endangering the lives of both the driver and the occupants. Unlike external body rust that is instantaneously apparent, internal system corrosion may not even be evident until there is a massive amount of damage, further compounding the problem.
Initially, the primary cause of automotive corrosion used to be sea-salt that was limited to coastal areas worldwide. However, since the 1970’s, the de-icing material used on American highways led to serious corrosion in the Snowbelt region of the country. Corrosion Cost estimates that rust-related damage costs consumers around $23 billion every year. From the 1970s, automobile manufacturers began to place a greater emphasis on corrosive protection. This led to the advent of the metal finishing technique now called electroplating. In simple terms, metal plating enables metal ions to be deposited on a metal part, called the substrate. The metal ions are a single component used to create an electrolyte solution, called a plating bath. A DC current is then used to start a reaction that causes the metal ions to be deposited in the plating bath onto the surface substrate, forming a sleek, protective metal coating.