For as much of an annoyance as rust represents to the average car collector—especially those of us north of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi—we sure don’t spend much time talking about the actual mechanics or chemistry of it. Sure, it seems simple on the surface; it’s just a chemical reaction that any high-schooler could understand, after all. However, as I discovered when explaining the process by which salt on winter roads makes rust so much worse, rust is a topic that can get complicated fast. In fact, it’s a topic that some engineers, chemists, and scientists devote their entire careers to, meaning there’s a wealth of information out there about how to prevent, mitigate, and ultimately live with rust.
Though Practical Engineering’s recent video series on corrosion doesn’t really address rust in the terms we gearheads typically do, it does lean on that wealth of information to explore just how much damage corrosion really does and the value of a good coating (along with correct application of that coating) to prevent rust. None of this will stop municipalities and states from salting the roads with the vigor of a man who’s angling for a heart attack salting his steak, but at least it gives us a better understanding of rust, its processes, and what we can do about it.