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    July 31, 2023

    Can You Apply ZRC Corrosion Protection to Vehicles?

    When you think about threats to the integrity of a vehicle, your mind probably goes to potholes in the road, uneven pavement, or even less-than-careful other drivers out there. But what about rust?

    Cars and trucks are susceptible to rusting primarily due to their exposure to environmental elements and the materials used in their construction. In this way, a car is no different than a commercial fishing boat or a bridge. Rust is a natural process of corrosion that occurs when iron and steel react with oxygen and moisture in the air.

    As vehicles are constantly exposed to varying weather conditions, road salts, rain, and humidity, the protective paint and coatings on their surfaces can be compromised, allowing water and oxygen to reach the metal underneath. This leads to the corrosive formation of iron oxide, which we commonly call rust. It weakens the structural integrity of the vehicle over time.

    Regular maintenance, such as washing and waxing, and protective measures, like applying a paint specifically made for the prevention of corrosion, can help slow down the rusting process and extend the lifespan of cars and trucks.

    Can You Apply ZRC to Cars and Trucks for Corrosion Protection?

    Yes, you can  — but there’s a lot more to it than that. Our corrosion protection product is not designed for vehicles, but there are areas you can use it on. 

    You can apply ZRC to individual components of the vehicle, such as protective skid plates, exhaust parts located downstream from the catalytic converter, bolts, and fasteners. Applying ZRC to components that can be removed and reinstalled with relative ease is ideal. By doing so, you’re able to maximize the benefits of ZRC and enhance the longevity of individual automotive parts. 

    For exhaust components, ZRC can be a valuable asset in extending their service life, particularly with mufflers that are prone to rusting out. However, it is crucial to ensure that the exhaust is downstream from the catalytic converter to avoid excessive heat, which could deteriorate the ZRC coating.

    ZRC Used in Auto Restoration

    We’re proud to say our corrosion protection product is successfully used in auto restoration cases. One example is Rich Wiltberger, an auto restoration expert, who knew that ZRC is the equivalent of hot dip galvanizing, and would provide the best protection against corrosion for his Chevy. First, he stripped the car down to bare metal. He then applied two coats of ZRC Cold Galvanizing Compound on all metal surfaces, including body panels, floorboards and supporting structures. He did his application by spray gun. Over the ZRC primer, he applied black epoxy paint on the frame and undercarriage with red enamel paint on the body. The results were stunning and Rich was able to feel confident in a long-lasting finish.

    You can read more about what Rich did to restore a 1957 Chevrolet and see photographs, here in our case study.

    A Word of Caution for Non Experts

    Yet, certain factors need to be taken into account. ZRC must be applied directly to the metal in order to act as a “sacrificial anode.” This means the zinc in the coating corrodes sacrificially, protecting the underlying metal from rust and additional corrosion. To achieve this, it is essential to remove the area's existing paint and prepare it properly before applying the ZRC coating. Caution should be exercised when applying ZRC to frames and chassis, as it requires direct contact with the steel and necessitates the removal of the factory-set rust coating. The substantial effort required for this process may not be practical for the average person, due to limited access to all the areas requiring coverage without disassembly. As you’ll see in the photos of Rich’s car above, the Chevrolet was already very rusty and didn’t have its original paint.

    Download: Guide to Surface Preparation

    Keep in mind that while ZRC can act as a primer in many use cases, it is not easy to use it for automobiles. Many automotive top coat paints incorporate lacquers that are incompatible with using ZRC as a primer. Lacquers are potent solvents and can corrode the ZRC, making it unsuitable for use as an undercoat for automotive paint. Rich painted a layer of black epoxy paint over the ZRC layer for his restoration project.

    Additionally, when you’re using ZRC, you must avoid applying it on the exhaust manifold. The primary purpose of the exhaust manifold is to guide the hot, leftover combustion gasses away from the engine's cylinders and direct them toward the exhaust system for further processing and expulsion from the vehicle. This is not a part that should be painted; if it’s rusted out, it’s best to replace it altogether.

    In fact, it is often more realistic to purchase new parts with factory coatings intact for most of the components of your car or truck. The process of removing the original coating, applying ZRC, and then installing the part on the vehicle can take quite a bit of time and effort. For Rich, the process was worth it, but it isn’t a use case we would recommend to just anyone.

    Contact Our Expert Team With Any Additional Questions

    If you have additional questions related to using ZRC on a car or truck, call our Customer Service Department 1-800-831-3275 or contact us directly. Our experts are ready to support you on a variety of topics, including technical questions, ordering the right product, product fit, and more.