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Why do pickup trucks rust so much?

old rusty green pickup truck. - pickup trucks rust
Don’t let rust eat your pickup truck like this.

Rust never sleeps. The good news is it is not unstoppable. But why do pickup trucks rust so much?

Got a rust problem in your pickup truck? You’re not the only one. Pickup trucks are notorious for having the dreaded rust disease. 

What could be the reason for that, though? 

In this post, we answered that question. We also listed some tips on how you can stop your pickup truck from rusting!

Why do pickup trucks rust so much

In general, pickup trucks rust more frequently than cars. Most of the time, it’s not even your fault—but you can do so much to make matters less bad. Check out these eight reasons why pickup trucks rust excessively.

1. They are simply older models. 

Vintage pickup truck with fading paint and rust - pickup trucks rust
NELSON, USA – JUNE 10: Old rusty truck and old caravan in Nelson Nevada ghost town

It may be a simple explanation, but it’s still true. Older trucks are more prone to rust since they don’t have the current technology that prevents rusting. Today, many industries have since developed effective rust prevention systems, especially the logistics industry. 

Additionally, older pickup truck models were more unfortunate because of poor and outdated manufacturing practices. For example, trucks in the 60s rusted faster because the automotive producers weren’t too keen on spray-painting all the steel parts of trucks. That was a bad idea because rust consumes steel fast. 

And, to make matters worse, a handful of pickup truck owners back then (and maybe until today) stick to bad car brands because of brand loyalty.

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2. Pickup trucks are more likely driven to tough environments.

This is why pickup trucks rust quickly compared to smaller cars. Would you drive a sports car on a farm? Not really, right? 

Several environments cause rust to develop quickly on your pickup truck. 

For instance, if you live in an area with high humidity—where the humidity level in the air reaches 80%—then your pickup truck will rust in no time. 

Other places that allow pickup trucks to rust easily are… 

  1. Towns where it snows a lot.
  2. Communities near oceans, seasides, or beaches. 
  3. Farms where pickup trucks gather a lot of mud or manure. 
  4. Construction sites
  5. Places with plenty of road salt. 
  6. Towns where people use road brine.

3. They weren’t properly maintained.

The tailgate of a blue battered eighties pickup truck in the rear. - pickup trucks rust
The tailgate of a blue battered eighties pickup truck in the rear.

Of course, laziness and neglect can harm trucks significantly. Since pickup trucks are not your lightweight, small sports car, some owners might procrastinate in following their required service schedule.

If you’re guilty of doing that, stop it right now! It’s dangerous not to mind spots of rust in a pickup truck. That’s because rust easily spreads—the more you prolong your truck’s condition, the faster it damages its body frame. 

Therefore, don’t hesitate to repair the small signs of rust on your pickup truck. 

RELATED: How to stop truck doors from rattling

4. Some brands just have poorer quality than others. 

Did you know that some trucks are just plainly vulnerable to rust, while others resist it gracefully? Some drivers and mechanics swear that brands such as Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford, and Nissan rust easily. 

Ford even recalled a handful of its pickup trucks because the corrosion grew so worse that the fuel tanks disengaged from the truck’s bodies. Talk about humiliating!

If you’re shopping for pickup trucks, it’s best if you read up about those brands or models that are known for being professional rust magnets. 

5. They are frequently exposed to salt. 

Pickup truck on the beach of Padre Island, Texas. - pickup trucks rust
PADRE ISLAND, USA – OCT 18: Pickup truck on the beach of Padre Island, Texas.

Salt to rust is just like gasoline to fire. The metals in your pickup truck will rust even faster with constant exposure to saltwater. 

The evil salt quickens rust, also known as a redox reaction because it helps in transferring electrons. With salt, water becomes even more conductive, causing the ions to grow in number and increasing the oxidation rate.

That explains why homes or offices located near beaches are more likely to rust. Also, if you constantly drive by roads or areas where the air has high moisture, your pickup truck will rust faster.

6. Road salt accumulated on the pickup truck. 

Road salt is a double-edged sword. It may help in lessening the roads’ slipperiness, but it also allows rust to develop quickly.

In areas where it snows a lot, road salt helps vehicles’ wheels gain traction by lowering the freezing point of water. As a result, the ice melts, letting the wheels move again when stuck. 

The sad news is that it also assists in developing rusts in vehicles. Road salt has free-radical ions, which is the special ingredient in forming iron oxide. And you know well the iron oxide is diabolical, right? 

So, when pickup trucks drive by surfaces with a lot of road salt, they tend to rust in a jiffy. 

Now, you can’t always control the situation all the time. Therefore, the best action against the ugly effect of road salt is preventative maintenance.

7. They’re not “winter-proofed” enough. 

Old pickup truck painted red white and blue sitting in the forest abandoned and covered in fresh snow - pickup trucks rust
An old pickup truck painted red white and blue sitting in the forest abandoned and covered in fresh snow

Winters can be cruel to pickup trucks. Considering people use them for demanding tasks, failing to prepare them for the winter is basically a first-class ticket to rust wonderland. 

Not only can snow “trap” road salt but bits of it can also manage to creep in your pickup truck. Eventually, they will melt—if they get trapped, they will collect and then corrode the metal parts. 

Therefore, don’t be too complacent in winter. Take extra steps to winter-proof your car. It’s not enough to keep it in your garage. 

For example, invest in a couple of bedliners for your pickup truck’s bed. Not only will these products protect your car from rust, but they will also help in minimizing chips, paint peeling, and scratches.

8. Debris was trapped and accumulated over time. 

If different types of debris were trapped inside the crevices of your pickup truck, it’s likely that they blocked the water from draining. As a result, rust formed. 

Debris is not only the culprit when it comes to trapping water. It’s also a hindrance to effective rust-proofing. However, once you get rid of that nasty buildup of grime, debris, or dirt, you should have a good area for rust-proofing. 

Additionally, you should get rid of debris buildup because of the lack of oxygen activates dirt buildup’s spores, producing tetanospasmin, which causes tetanus, muscle spasms, lockjaw, among other harms. While it’s rare, unvaccinated people can potentially get tetanus if they get scrapes or cuts from rusty metallic objects.

RELATED: This is why trucks have air brakes

How to stop pickup truck rust

These trucks won’t clean themselves, so you better move and start being proactive. Here’s how to stop your pickup truck from rusting: 

1. Develop a cleaning habit. 

People cleaning and washing car with high pressure washer
Be habitual with cleaning your pickup truck and it will reward you.

We mentioned that trapped debris would easily allow rust to accumulate. Consequently, clean your pickup truck every month. If you don’t have the time, hire someone to detail your truck. 

2. Apply a protective layer of anti-rust coating. 

Be proactive and start preventing rust from developing on your pickup truck. You can actually find environment-friendly but high-performing sprays online. They also waterproof your car and protect the metal parts with a thin layer of wax. You can even use some sprays on the electrical connections and the engine.

3. Drain the water. 

Drain the water from the drain holes in your pickup truck’s rocker panels and rear quarter panels. Also, take out debris such as pebbles and leaves if you find some. In this way, water won’t collect inside and corrode the rust-vulnerable parts. If you neglect this, water might get to the windows, get trapped, and then cause corrosion.

4. Don’t forget the area underneath your truck. 

Undercoating your pickup truck is also crucial. This will keep the seals sturdy, protecting it from road debris that typically punctures the area underneath a car. As a result, you can prevent leakage. To undercoat your car, you can find paint products that protect your car from chips and road salt. 

5. Utilize rust inhibitors. 

Old Rusty Pickup Truck
Rust inhibitors will stop rust from spreading to the rest of your pickup truck.

Rust inhibitors are liquids that you can add to your truck’s fluids, gas, or oil to prevent oxidation inside the truck, which causes corrosion. In areas where winters are harsh, rust inhibitors are in demand since they prevent road brine from causing rust. 

You can find spray-on or paint rust inhibitors online. Several of them won’t even require you to remove the rust on your pickup truck before the application.

6. Know your materials.

Study the metals with the strongest resistance to rust, so you can make an informed buying choice if ever you need to replace a part in your truck. Aluminized mild steel is considered to be a metal with a great rust-resistance. 

Other metals, such as unalloyed aluminum and carbon steel are good ones as well. Nevertheless, you must consider their mechanical strength as well.

7. Try using passivation. 

Passivation is the technique of applying a light coating of metal oxide, a primer, and a barrier, which reduces the area’s chemical reactivity. This also creates a shell that will protect the metal from corrosion. However, only a couple of metals allow for passivation. If your pickup truck has stainless steel parts, then you can use passivation to secure it. 

8. Use a salt remover. 

Got a road salt problem? You can nip the bud and prevent corrosion by neutralizing the salt with a rust remover. Additionally, if ever you’re going to apply anti-rust coatings, you can also apply the rust remover before you spray on the coating. This will boost the effectiveness of the latter. 

9. Take care of the underside and wheel wells. 

If you’re frequently driving on dirt roads, you should watch out for the wheel wells and underside. Dirt and mud can easily accumulate on those parts, letting the rust-causing minerals to collect as well. As a result, be thorough when cleaning those parts when you’re washing your truck. 

10. Buy rust converters.

rust converter applied with a big paint brush.
Apply rust converters to stop an ugly rust disease.

If you see small spots of corrosion already forming on your truck, you can prevent them from spreading with rust converters. These primers will penetrate the rust and convert the iron oxide to iron tannate, which is harmless. The rust converter will also eliminate the rust and prevent future rust from forming.  

Other related questions

Which trucks rust the least?

Any pickup truck will withstand corrosion as long as you take care of it. However, seasoned motorists particularly commend the Honda Ridgeline for its rust-resisting capabilities. 

The Honda Ridgeline is a revered compact truck, which is revered for its good-looking interior, good acceleration, and rust resistance. Apparently, the only problems you’ll encounter with this model are tailgate issues and its paint deteriorating over time. 

Besides the Ridgeline, you can also check out these models if rust is a major no-no for you: 

  • 2013 – 2018 Dodge Ram 3500
  • 2012 Mazda BT-50
  • 2014 Isuzu D-Max
  • 2012 Chevrolet Colorado
  • 2016 – 2018 Fiat Toro
  • 2015 Ford F150 

Why do Chevy trucks rust so badly?

Almost everyone puts the blame on their manufacturing. Apparently, General Motors (GM) recycles the steel for Chevrolet trucks. 

Reusing steel parts will not be favorable for the pickup truck since the quality has diminished by the time it’s being recycled. That means its ability to rust will be faster as well. 

Add that to poor maintenance habits and the demanding tasks you do with these trucks—voila, your black Chevy will turn orange in no less than three years.  

Is it safe to drive a car with a rusted frame?

It is not safe to drive with a corroding car frame. Besides looking ugly, you’ll also have a frail car that will probably fail to protect you in an accident. 

Additionally, rust may not totally harm your skin, but removing it might. Some commercial anti-rust products contain chemicals that irritate the skin. You might even get Allergic Contact Dermatitis from those cleaning products.

Therefore, if your pickup truck has a worsening case of rust, you better move fast and leave it to the automotive experts for a quick treatment. 

Conclusion

Wear and tear will inevitably come upon pickup trucks. Considering their primary function, it shouldn’t be a surprise. 

Therefore, by keeping this in mind, you should be able to perform the necessary preventive steps against rust. Not only will this prolong your pickup truck’s life, but it might even save your life. 

What other reasons might cause rust in pickup trucks? Let us know in the comments!

The Auto Sunday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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The Auto Sunday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.