How Volkswagen hopes to solve a rusty problem

Rusty Volkswagen by Puran Zhang.

Rust spots are seen by every car owner with great concern. In car washes, corrosion protection is always an important issue. German car manufacturer Volkswagen has been using various methods to prevent rust formation in the best possible way for more than 40 years. VW’s new e-cars feature a new development that could question chassis washing in the future.

There are many reasons for preventing rust: Value retention, safety and customer satisfaction. That’s why rust, also known as corrosion, is always an important topic in car washes. On the one hand, penetrating water or water residue in cracks and crevices should not be a trigger for rust. On the other hand though, small rust spots only appear when the car has been properly cleaned after a wash.

Volkswagen knows this meaning of rust. The German car manufacturer even goes so far as to put the company’s image on the line when it comes to rust prevention. Intensive efforts to bring corrosion-protected vehicles onto the market are therefore important for VW. For more than 40 years, various methods have been used to prevent rust. Long-term tests yield important findings for possible causes of rust formation.

12 years in 6 months

One example of the above is The “Dynamic Corrosion Test”. It simulates twelve years of intensive use by a customer in only six months. “All new developments are tested here and subjected to a wide variety of car test scenarios: from gravel to salt brine and potholes to climate chambers and hydro pulse systems.
The program lasts six months, during which 90 cycles are driven, and represents twelve car years in customer hands. Every year, quite a few Volkswagen models go through this tough test, which consumes an average of 68 kilos of salt per year per car,” according to a company release.

At Volkswagen, protection against corrosion is based on five pillars: from sealing seams, to cavity sealing, paint buildup, galvanizing, and stone chip and chasis protection. The wax exchange bath has also been part of the manufacturer’s preventive measures for over 40 years. This involves heating the finished body to 80 degrees Celsius and flooding it with liquid wax at 117 degrees. This is intended to permanently protect all cavities against corrosion with a thin layer of wax.

Plastic cladding

At VW, the all-electric ID.3 gets a novel chassis design. The large high-voltage battery is located under the passenger’s seat. An aluminum plate covers it at the bottom. In addition, plastic cladding is used. Which brings aerodynamic advantages but also protects the chassis from corrosion.

A chassis wash is of little use with the above mentioned modifications underneath the vehicle. So it remains to be seen how many customers will continue to add this in addition to the car wash. Will they still choose a higher-priced wash with added attention to the chassis? In the transition period, until e-cars with this different underbody become the majority, many customers may not be aware of the changes. This will be the time when wash programs should be adapted to the new conditions.

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Author: Rene Passet

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