This is the Sixth Revision-Edition, with information about the Fiat 130, and Craig Tulka's excellent advice from the rust capitol of the World, St. Johns, Newfoundland.
What is Rust? Technically, its oxidized metal. Realistically, its a pain in the a**, and can be very dangerous if it weakens a structural part of your Fiat automobile. It generally occurs where water is allowed to stay next to unprotected steel for a period of time
What are my qualifications? Twofold. First, I own Fiats and other Italian cars and I want to keep them running forever. Second, I spent a part of my formative years as a deck hand in the US Navy. You remember the Navy the people that make ships out of welded steel and then soak them in salt water? I know what rust can do and how to keep it from happening.
Why do Fiats rust so badly? Lots of reasons, principally:
Fiat is the GM of Europe, and they make a wide range of cars. The 206 Dinos and the V-6 130s dont rust as badly as the 850s because they are very expensive and made more carefully. The same can be said for Cadillacs not rusting as much as Geo Prisms.
Italian carmakers of the 60s and 70s didnt pay much attention to parts of the car that werent going to be seen by the customer, such as the inside of rocker panels. I have seen inside a 1963 Ferraris rocker panels, and they were built of raw, unpainted, unprotected sheet metal. And of course, they rusted to bits just like our Fiats. Often, Fiat never painted parts of the body hidden from view. An example for you 850 Spider folks: there is a panel that can be unbolted that is right in front of the windshield. Its the piece that has the wiper arm drives and the windshield washer nozzle coming through it. You concours people spend a lot of time carefully waxing the paint around all these protrusions to make it bright and beautiful and protected from the elements. Bad news the underside of this panel isnt painted at the factory and is rusting like mad if you havent painted it yourself. Eventually, there will be bubbles of rust coming through all that beautiful finish on top.
Also, Italian cars are stylish and have lots of sexy curves and other hiding places for dirt and mud to build up, then hold moisture against the body and cause the metal to rust. In addition, many Fiats do not have fender liners to keep the road dirt, water and mud from plastering the insides from the back of the headlights to the footwells.
Where to look for Rust
Floors The floors in most Fiats are lower than the door-sills and are shaped like little rectangular bowls. If water [and this is the major enemy] gets in, it will have trouble getting drained away. Fiat glues a linoleum-type of insulation to the painted floor, and this promptly plugs up the floor drain if its not installed properly. Most of the time, it was not installed properly, and the drain never has a chance to work. When this material gets old, it cracks and the adhesive lets go in spots. Water is then able to get under the insulation and rust the metal floor. There was also a horsehair-type of padding used that absorbs and holds moisture.
Door Bottoms Frequently the drain holes in the bottom of the doors are plugged up or missing. If theyre plugged, unplug them with a piece of coat hanger wire or a screwdriver. If theyre missing, drill new ones as close to the outside door skin as possible. Remember that you want the water that enters the door by slithering along the glass past the rubber wiper or fuzzy chatter molding to drain outside of the car, not inside on the floor.
The Trunk If the trunk gasket is broken or doesnt fit correctly, then your trunk will get water on the floor. If the drains are plugged, it will sit there until you dry it out or it evaporates, taking part of your trunk floor with it.
The Engine Compartment Not much of a problem because the heat of the engine tends to evaporate any moisture that gets there. Plus, there is the added protection of the oil fumes on the metal parts. [BTW, thats supposed to be funny]
The Windshield Fiat assembles windshields and rear windows on their older models with rubber gaskets and no sealant, believing that the gasket is sufficient to keep water from seeping past into the passenger compartment. I do not share their enthusiasm. I think that the edge of the gasket should be gently peeled back and a bead of flexible Silicone sealant squirted all around the gasket-to-windshield-frame area. You do this on a windshield that has no rust on the frame, naturally. If its already rusted, the windshield has to come out, the rust killed, the metal repainted, a new gasket obtained, and everything reassembled. Dont try to do this the cheap way. Cut the old gasket out, remove the windshield, fix the damage, then reinstall the windshield with a new gasket. Twenty years ago, before I sent an 850 Coupe to the crusher, I tried to save the 10-year-old windshield gasket against the advice of my mechanic friends. I broke the windshield trying to remove it. I still have the gasket [which is an oversprayed, cracked piece of crap] to remind me of how idiots are frequently made, not born.
The Rocker Panels These closed box-sections are below the doors and extend the length of the car between the fenders. Theoretically, if they are sealed and welded tight against outside air and moisture, then no rust can form in the inside. However, lots of things work against that things like imperfect welds, poorly repaired collision damage, and screw holes for mounting the threshold plate [the aluminum or stainless steel decorative strip beneath the door when its closed. The screw holes are both a blessing and a curse they let air and moisture into the interior of the panels BUT they also offer an opening for a rust preventative spray to be injected.
The Fenders - usually the back fenders, are closed box sections on cars like the 850 Coupe and 850 Sedan [other cars - help me out here people]. They have those horseshoe-shaped Fiat factory drains in the bottoms so that the moisture that gets in can drain back out. When my 850-Coupe-based Abarth came back from the painters, I hosed off the insides of the rear fenders thoroughly through the tail light openings to wash off the grit and grime from the shop prior to applying a coating of Solution 2. Its 104 degrees outside, so Im not particularly worried about the water causing additional rust. But I am curious as to whether any of the water might leak into the passenger compartment. [The answer was NO]. Next morning, I reach down inside the right rear fender to make sure that the bottom is dry and clear of debris, and everything is clean and dry. I reach down inside the left rear fender and theres 10 inches of water in it because THE PAINTER HAD SEALED THE DRAIN HOLE SHUT WITH PAINT. I used a pocketknife and a small screwdriver and opened it back up so the water could drain out. You have to check these things out. Remember, nobody cares but you.
How To Find Where The Water Is Coming From
This is so easy that its like taking candy from a baby. First, you have to dry the car out. Thats not an easy task if you live somewhere that it rains every day, I know. In cases like that, put it under cover like in a garage, and dry everything off. If the carpets are wet, remove them. I know, I know, thats a lot of work, but you have to dry them out anyway to keep them from rusting the floor into a Flintstone-mobile, right? OK, maybe you just put plastic, like a drop-cloth over them for now.
Now lay dry newspapers over where the water shows up, put the car out in the rain [or hose it off] and look for where the paper changes color to indicate moisture. The water is coming in directly above the wet spot on the paper. Simple.
What if the paper doesnt get wet, but the floor of your trunk still does? Then the water is being splashed inside from the force of the hose or from driving the car either the tires are squirting it inside or its bouncing off the pavement to get in. Dry the floor, then wad up newspaper and stuff them in all the crannies and crevices. The leak is there somewhere. I once newspapered the entire floor of an 850 Sedan to find a leak, only to discover that it was a loose heater connection. Why didnt I notice that the floor got wet even though it was not raining? Because it rained every day for two weeks while I was trying to solve the problem, thats why. Why didnt I notice that the water on the floor had antifreeze in it? Because I had just bought the car and the PO ran it on pure water. Life is clearly not fair at times.
A 124 Spider-specific rain-leak area is: On each end of the windshield frame is a strip of [usually black] metal with a piece of vinyl or rubber along its outside edge. It is held in place by three pop-rivets. The doorframe that surrounds the forward edge of the triangular vent window sits against this piece when the door is closed. The water enters the car by sliding down behind this piece of metal. It was installed at the factory with a kind of black tar sealant behind it, but aging causes the sealant to dry and crack and allow the water in. To fix this you need to drill out the three pop rivets, clean off the old dried sealer, and re-install the strip with new silicone sealer behind it.
How To Kill Rust
Move to the desert it will die of starvation. If that is not possible or desirable, then maybe the following hints can help.
Grind It All Away Rust contains moisture. If you just cover it up with a nice coat of paint or some Bondo, it just keeps on working behind the scenes. You have to grind and sand away all the rust, then kill whats left on the surface.
Kill The Rust Phosphoric Acid compounds convert the ferrous oxide [rust] to ferrous phosphate, which is harder than the taxmans heart. Cover the metal with a compound like Naval Jelly, wash it off and dry it well, then paint it.
Paint Over The Dead Rust This prevents recurrence of the problem, because now the moisture cant get to the metal.
Products That Have Been Used Successfully To Prevent Rust
Read Lead pronounced red led, is a lead-sulfate, oil based paint highly recommended by the US Navys Bureau of Ships to keep iron hulls from rusting excessively in salt water [and it continual application also keeps teen-age sailors occupied and out of trouble]. Not recommended for thin sheet metal as found on cars, because Im not sure how compatible it is with automobile paints.
POR-15 rust protectant paint It spreads well and produces a hard, yet flexible finish. Perfect for sealing out the elements. The rumors say that POR stands for "Paint Over Rust" and that you dont actually have to remove all the rust first. The directions that I read spoke about killing the rust first with a phosphoric acid solution.
Ziebart a commercial, asphalt-type of sealer that is applied hot to the surfaces to keep moisture from being able to penetrate and sealing off the old rust. Has a warranty that involves yearly re-treatments, I believe.
Waxoyl a wax-based product from the UK that is marketed both for commercial and do-it-yourself application. The container is placed in a tub of hot water to liquefy the contents, which are then sprayed with a trigger type of pump. You might want to take a look at http://www.jagnet.demon.co.uk/landy/waxoyl.html for a testimonial.
Solution 1 and Solution 2 are aerosol sprays that drive moisture out of seams and coat the moisture-free surface against the elements [Solution 1] and a thicker aerosol that coats a clean or prepared surface with a non-drying coating to prevent rust
Solution 2]. Its at www.topher.net/~orobinson/rust .
Fish Oil a product widely used in Australia as a rust inhibitor. It is highly recommended by the people that use it as being effective and economical.
Motor Oil sprayer application of heated motor oil to the undersides of fenders and the under-body panels is used in many northern climates. Some time ago, it was common for motorists in the UK to pour their used motor oil into the rocker panel sections of their cars.
Model-Specific Information On Places To Look For Rust
Lancia Fulvia Sports - The Zagato version.
Fiat 850 all models.
From David Klopfenstein, specifically about 850 Spiders:
1972 was a year for painting the whole car, even parts that didn't show and sometimes even undercoating it. The strikes were over and all was happy again. But, just in case, a quick and simple wander around the car will tell you volumes. Take the time to see every bit of her exterior -- even the bottom. Feel for blisters and rot. Then, pop open the luggage compartment and engine lid and peek with a flashlight behind the three access panels and the overflow bottle. Look and feel for rust, the backside of wrinkles that have been filled in and most importantly: dirt. The fenders -- even in the best of circumstances -- are prone to filling with crud that festers. Feel inside all the fenderwells, but especially behind the front wheels for a piece of rubber seal that runs across the top at the very back. It should be fairly smooth and clean. If it's crumbly and dirty, rot could be waiting on the other side.
All the drainholes on this bugger should be clean and clear. There are two types: 1. Nice round holes that can rot out from dime size to quarter size. 2. Punched out triangular flaps that are bent shut easily by rocks. Grab a quick peek under the floormats, especially around the seat rails, the foot wells and the very lowest point on each side -- under the seat. Take a gander at the wall behind the pedals for brake leaks or rust around the washer pump. Pick up the spare tire and battery for what may lurk below. Look at the top of the front strut towers for splits or rust. Finally, remember that bubbles are never, ever, "just in the paint." Lessee...make sure the top hasn't shrunk by trying to hook those two little catches behind the windows -- if they don't fit, well, you know. (My original top was perfect otherwise.) Of course, it goes without saying that everything should work well in addition to looking immaculate. She should have a song that you can't stop humming, all the lines and belts should be top notch, with no rust in the fuel tank, etceterini...
Fiat 128 all models.
Fiat 124 Spider
Common rustpoint on the outside:
rear wheelarches, fender behind rear wheel, rocker panel, front fender
behind wheel, doors.
Rustpoint in floors:
bottom of seat towers, area between rocker and seat towers, floor behind
front seats, floor by driver's foot.
The black tar that the floor is covered with ages and cracks, and traps
water between it and the floor.
Fiat 130 Rust Points from Daniel Floriani of Australia
[A] Isolated Rust, Spare Tire Well (Left Side)- Fix Pending.
[B] Behind the wheel is a panel that is tacked on with a rubber seal, this is useless and causes many problems, I have welded in a full panel and
covered it with rust paint, and plenty of bitumen paint.....
[C] and [D] The water form the rear window doesn't always get to the ground ( see E) and gets trapped in these areas causing rust. Basically I have made it easier for this water to get out.
Daniel stresses that this drain needs to be checked carefully, as it causes multiple problems!
[E] The water catching area below the window gets debris caught in it, trapping water and blocking the drain pipe. I have cleaned this, replaced it with a fibreglass liner, and will replace the brush window seals with rubber ones.
[F] The water from the upper half of the body drains into this channel. the drains from this channel to the outside world get blocked and because of the defects in B get full of dirt (I mean full) this dirt must be removed. I cut holes into the channel from the inside and made an attachment to a vacuum cleaner to get right down the channel. Then I applied heaps of fish oil to get into the metal....
[G] Caused by water gathering in the tail light area, the drain must be cleaned and the seals improved.
These comments come directly from Daniel. If you have 130 questions, then he is your authority. Mail him at email@example.com and I'm certain that he can get your issues resolved. Remember, here at the Fiat Page we have never even seen a 130 in the flesh!
Fantastic Input From Craig Tulk in Newfoundland, Canada
I live in about the worst climate for rust - very moist air, lots of fog, a high salt content in that air from the Atlantic Ocean, lots of fog from that cold Atlantic ocean as the Gulf Stream intersects with the Arctic currents and a mild snowy winter where they love to kill the icy roads with salt!
It's so bad, I have a double pane window in the house with a broken seal for about 9 months now and it steams up real bad - now after the summer and it's had time to dry out, there is actually salt building up between the window panes!
This is a long message but you guys have helped me so much I owe something back. And unfortunately we know a lot about Auto Rust on the coast of Newfoundland in St. John's - the oldest city and most easterly point in North America - (well actually it's a place called Cape Spear which is a blast of a drive, 15 min outside of our beautiful city)!
Anyway, a product called Rust Check is most popular in Canada (there are many similar products around) for rust proofing. Once metal has rusted on the surface there are also special paints (and I don't mean the Tremclad type of stuff) that will penetrate surface rust and reverse the rusting process by chemically turning the rust into a harmless oxide (brands I have seen in auto stores are called POR - think Bruce sells it, and Rust Destroyer).
Products like Rust Check for rust proofing generally have three components:
- a thin oil base that thickens as it evaporates to coat the metal (it starts thin so it can really get in and around the really tight areas) - chemicals to disperse and evaporate water, salt and acids (water itself in its pure form will not cause metal to rust quickly, it needs a catalyst like salt, and acid to get it going faster which your environment [he was writing to James Seabolt in Tennessee] sounds like it has) - and finally it has special chemicals like the paint mentioned above to oxidize existing rust to prevent it from rusting further.
The trouble with Fiat's, and Japanese cars as well, in general is the quality of the metal used - its thinness and lack of any galvanizing on the non painted surfaces of the metal (many NA built cars and trucks like the Chevys use double wall metal and/or galvanized metal to preven the rusties) really. The metal has impurities in it (guy who lived next door to me said that it's probably that in the late 70's to early 80's they - Japenese and Italians - used recycled steel which may have bad spots built in from poor smelting processes - that damn profit motive and enviro stuff! Gotta love it, gotta hate it! - In fact I am told that older, say pre 78 cars, do not rust as fast as the newer models) and that there are areas which will not disperse or drain water very well(in the Fiat such as the unibody frame especially up front by the shock towers or because the drain holes get plugged as you pointed out, the doors as they lack any real drain holes and of course the damn floor pans as carpet loves to store water, salt and acids for you).
Hats off for trying to do it yourself, but I would not create the rust proofing myself, nothing wrong with applying it yourself but let the chemists create that kind of stuff.
Now that you got new paint and this is not your regular ride, and I believe you have indoor storage (wish the hell I did!), this is what I would do which should save you a lot of $ over the years in body work and preserve the car.
1. Avoid driving in rain or misty weather
2. If you do, put the car in the garage afterward to dry out or when the sun comes out get the car out side take advantage of the heat to dry it out
3. Keep the car clean and don't forget to wash under the wheel wells, q-panels etc. but make sure the car dries out after. If you do store the car for extended periods make sure it's super clean, dry it our first before it is stored (one MG owner I know puts an industrial heater in his garage for a week before storage to dry it out). However if you do store it for a long time make sure it is parked on a dry surface (like concrete, asphalt or painted or oiled wood. - avoid grass at all costs or damp ground) - ensure the storage area has good ventilation or you will get dry rot in your interior which is no good either!
4. Buy some POR or Rust Destroyer type of pain and paint any visible surface rust you can see on the car. Check the car over once each year and reapply anywhere it's needed. if having body work done - get all badly rusted metal cut out and new metal welded in and then coat with a good oxide based paint like red oxide - if its a non outer body part make sure you do both sides of the metal - avoid a body man who can do wonders with filler and fiber glass if you want long term rust solutions. Filler should only be used to level out a worked on surface like when new wheel arches are welded in to even out the welded and ground areas or a repaired hole in the surface. Check the outer painted surface of the car once or twice a year for paint cracks, chips or scratches that reach the metal of the car - waxing the car yourself is a great process for discovering these and sealing any that you can't see or miss.
5 buy a good rustproofing like RustCheck and apply it all over the under body, trunk and engine area of the car especially in rust creeping areas like the frame, fenders, doors etc.
6 reapply the RustCheck at least once every two years (the Fiat owners manual actually recommends this), or in harsher environments like mine, once a year before storage for the winter. If you tend to have a rainy or misty season in your area (generally fall or winter for most of us) apply your rust proofing just before that season begins)
7 NEVER DRIVE ON A SALTED ROAD - SALT + WATER WILL ROT THE CAR!
Does Rust Check type of stuff work? YES - they will actually guarantee a newly purchased car treated by a Rust Check shop each year that it will not rust for as long as you own your car. I have seen early to mid 80's Toyota pickups around here without a speck or rust that have been regularly treated while most have been in the crusher for quite some time. And let's face it, early 80's Toyota's did not just rust, they rotted from the inside out!
Hope this helps and pass it on and we will be driving super Pininfarina
bodies for quite some time!