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Avoiding Rust in Autumn: How to Protect Your Car’s Exterior

BY: Dario DiGiuseppe
Man sitting and woman standing by the back of their car with an autumn backdrop

With crisp air and changing leaves, autumn is many peoples’ favorite time of year. This is especially true after the hot summer months, and the cooler temperatures of fall can be a welcome change. And, when it comes to your vehicle, as a car owner, autumn can present many different hazards that should be avoided whenever possible. Rust is one of these potentially disastrous byproducts of fall weather, and knowing how to keep it off your vehicle is essential.

Rust can accumulate on your vehicle in many different ways, but all of them can be a big issue. While rust is a possibility all year long, autumn is when it is especially common for cars to develop it. Fortunately, there are ways you can avoid rust in autumn and protect your car’s exterior.

With a little bit of preparation, you can enjoy the fall months without worrying about your vehicle’s finish or its structural integrity.

Main Causes of Rust During Fall

During the fall months, the changing weather and wet conditions create the perfect environment for rust to develop on your vehicle. Rust is the result of oxidation on iron or steel, and it has a reddish-brown color that is easily identifiable. Corrosion of metal means that its structural integrity is not as good as it once was and that the metal is getting thinner in the affected area. This can turn into holes in the surface fairly quickly, especially if the rust is allowed to sit untreated.

One of the biggest issues with rust is the fact that once it starts, it will spread to other parts of the metal surface. This can be a big problem with cars since the exposed parts of the vehicle are often connected to other components that can be very expensive to replace if they are damaged. If you want to prevent rust during the autumn months, knowing what causes it in the first place can be helpful. This way, you can take steps to prevent it and keep your vehicle in the best possible condition.


Perhaps the biggest cause of rust, especially on vehicles, is moisture. Moisture in the air or on the road will react with the oxygen and electrons that are on a metal surface and cause corrosion. While this won’t happen right away, areas that are consistently exposed to moisture will eventually start to corrode and develop rusty spots, which can spread to other areas of the vehicle. The best way to keep this from happening is to make sure you are drying off the areas of your vehicle that are exposed to moisture the most and prevent water from staying on the area for too long.

Moisture is a big problem in the fall because of the debris that is on the road. While water by itself won’t usually cause rust due to its fast evaporation, wet debris like mud, twigs, and leaves can stick to the wheel wells, underside, or outside surface of your car and stay there for an extended period of time. This moisture won’t evaporate as quickly, which means rust is more likely to develop there. Getting rid of this debris and keeping your car as clean as possible in the fall will help you keep your vehicle in good condition for a lot longer.

Road Salt

If you live in an area that gets snow or ice on the roads in the fall, you may have to start worrying about rust and corrosion sooner than other people. This is because the salt that is used to de-ice roads can be incredibly corrosive on your vehicle, especially on the car’s undercarriage. This is why you see so many instances of grime, rust, and decomposition on cars in the midwest and northeast of the United States, where cold weather starts relatively early in the year.

Road salt is especially hazardous to your car because it carries moisture but also speeds up the corrosion process. Salt is an incredibly powerful electrolyte, especially when it mixes with water that accumulates when the ice on the road melts. This causes the metal on your car to lose electrons very quickly and deteriorate much faster than if your vehicle was exposed to moisture on its own. Because of this accelerated process, you have to be vigilant about washing road salt off your vehicle as soon as it sticks to the underside or outside of your vehicle.

The Importance of Preventing Rust

With the prevalence of moisture and debris on the roads during autumn, it is essential to prevent rust whenever possible with proper car care. Your vehicle should last you for many years, but if rust starts to develop on the underside or the exterior, it can spread quickly and start to eat into other important components like the exhaust or suspension. It may seem like rust is a purely cosmetic issue, but if it is allowed to spread throughout the vehicle, you could be looking at some much more serious problems down the line.

Cosmetic Rust

One of the big reasons why it is important to prevent rust whenever possible is the cosmetic issues it can cause. If you love your vehicle, you most likely want it to look its best at all times. Rust and deterioration can take away from its look and take a car that once had excellent curb appeal and turn it into a junker. Holes and rust can be incredibly detrimental to the aesthetics of a vehicle, and if you want to stay in love with your car, it is best to prevent them whenever you can.

Structural Rust

The other important reason to keep rust off your vehicle is the fact that it can cause structural damage to the frame. Whenever rust appears, you can be sure that the metal is not as strong or structurally sound as it should be. This can be a serious problem on the undercarriage of the vehicle or even the car’s body panels. Any small weakness in the metal of your car can lower its structural integrity and make it less safe on the road.

Mechanical Rust

Car rust can also cause serious mechanical issues if it is allowed to spread from the underside or the exterior panels. If rust gets into your suspension, exhaust, or transmission, you could be looking at some incredibly costly repairs or replacements that could have been prevented. Taking steps to eliminate the possibility of rust will do more than just preserve the look of your car; it will also keep it running smoothly and save you a lot of money in the long run.

How to Protect Your Car’s Exterior from Rust in the Fall

Yellow autumn leaves on a blue carWhile the causes of rust can be mostly unavoidable in the autumn, there are things you can do to prevent its spread and keep your vehicle in good working order. If you want to protect your vehicle from rust and deterioration, it is very important that you stay on top of maintenance and keep an eye out for buildups of salt or road debris, especially in the autumn. Knowing how to protect your car’s exterior can keep it in good shape for many years, even when the conditions are less than ideal.

Underbody Coating

The underside of your vehicle is one of its most susceptible areas to rust and deterioration. Because of this, it is important to protect it whenever possible. Undercoatings are rubberized, asphalt, or polyurethane protective coating compounds that can be applied to your vehicle when you buy it or as an aftermarket product. These coatings are almost always available in rust belt states and may be offered as an add-on at the dealership. While these rust-proofing underbody coating treatments can be expensive, they could be well worth the extra cost if it means you won’t be dealing with deterioration down the line.

Regular Pressure Washing

Keeping your car clean is important all year, especially in the fall and winter months. Pressure washing the underside of your vehicle will help keep road salt and other road debris from building up in the nooks and crannies of your vehicle’s undercarriage. Doing this once every couple of weeks is your best bet if you want to prevent rust. This, plus regular car washes, will help keep your vehicle’s exterior rust-free for as long as possible.

Paint Touch Ups

Most new vehicles come with paint finishes that are specifically designed to prevent rust and protect from deterioration and degradation. If your car’s paint job gets chipped, though, this opens up the possibility of rust in the chipped areas, which can then spread throughout the vehicle. Touch up paint or clear coat as soon as you notice it will help keep rust from forming on the surface. It will also keep your vehicle looking its best and protect the overall structural integrity as your car ages.

Rubber Floor Mats

Believe it or not, moisture can get into the frame of your vehicle from the interior floor. Every time you get in your car after walking through the rainy streets, the water from your shoes can soak into the floor and get into the underside of the vehicle. Investing in some rubber floor mats that you can put under your stock carpeted mats will help keep this water from making its way into the vehicle’s underside. This is a relatively low-cost way to prevent rust and keep your car in good shape throughout the autumn months.

5 Maintenance Tips for Autumn

On top of rust prevention, it can be incredibly important to keep your car well-maintained for fall. With a lack of sunlight, bad road conditions, and rain, you want to be certain that your car is operating at its highest potential when it comes to safety. Knowing some car maintenance tips for autumn will help you stay safe during these months and keep your vehicle in good condition.

1. Check Fluids Regularly

You always want to be certain that the fluids in your vehicle are at the proper level and that they are not breaking down. This is especially true in the colder months since cool weather can cause fluids to become thicker and more viscous. Run regular checks of your oil, coolant, brake fluid, and washer fluid throughout the fall months and top them up or change them when necessary. This will ensure that your car runs smoothly in bad weather and that you can rest easy whenever you get behind the wheel.

2. Inspect Tires

Run tire pressure inspections throughout the fall and make sure that your tires have enough tread on them, especially as the weather gets cooler. For every ten degrees that the temperature goes down, your tires will lose one PSI of pressure. Topping up air when your tires need it will ensure that they keep a good grip on the road, even in wet conditions.

3. Check All Lights

Since fall is when the sun starts to go down earlier, you may find yourself driving in low-light or rainy conditions much more frequently. Because of this, you should regularly check your headlights and taillights and make sure you don’t have any bulbs that are burned out or fading. Visibility is crucial in autumn, and if you notice that any of your lights aren’t as bright as they should be, you should replace the bulb as soon as possible.

4. Run the Heater

Before the temperatures in your area start to drop, it is a good idea to run your heater for a while and make sure it is in good working order. Odds are, you didn’t use the heater through the summer months, so you may not be sure how well it is working or if it has developed any problems. Run your heater for 15 to 20 minutes and check for any unusual sounds or strange smells. This will ensure that it will work well for you when you need it most and that you can get it repaired if it has any problems before the weather starts to get cold.

5. Protect Your Car With Endurance

While autumn is a favorite season for many people, it can be very hard on your car, especially when it comes to developing rust and deterioration. When heading into fall or winter weather, know how to prevent rust and protect your vehicle. This knowledge will help you keep your car in great shape for many years and hold its resale value, no matter how much moisture and debris gets attached to it.

If you want extra protection for your vehicle and all its most important components, an extended warranty is a great option. An extended warranty, more accurately called a vehicle service contract (VSC), can give you the protection you need so you can have confidence whenever you head out on the road. Endurance has plans for every budget and situation, with coverage starting at just $99 per month.

Whether you want the most basic powertrain protection for your high-mileage vehicle or a comprehensive plan for your luxury or exotic car, there is something available for you. Plus, Endurance offers plans for vehicles that other providers won’t cover, such as Canadian Gray Market vehicles, cars with a rebuilt or salvage title, and cars used for commercial purposes like delivery and rideshare.

Endurance’s comprehensive standard benefits and Elite Benefits also give you the extra protection you need to feel completely safe on the road with things like trip interruption coverage, key fob replacement, and total loss coverage.

To experience the award-winning customer service offered by Endurance, give our dedicated team a call at (800) 253-8203 or request a FREE quote. Alternatively, take the time to explore our online store to get an instant price review so that you can shop with confidence.

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