No, we’re not talking about your college dalliance with the counterculture scene. But we could very well be talking about an event from your college years.

Higher education usually involves empty pockets, bloodshot eyes, and dry gas tanks — usually slung beneath a vehicle held together with Bondo and bought for a song. A vehicle that gets lighter as time goes on, even as your expanding midriff packs on the pounds.

Maybe college has nothing to do with the memory. Maybe, at one point in your life, you simply fought a losing battle with the scourge of autodom — corrosion — and lost.

Mechanical failure that isn’t worth the cost of repair usually dooms these types of rides to the scrap heap, but a good many vehicles keep running, even as their earthly body de-materializes before the driver’s eyes. It’s a sad thing. Increasingly rare, too, as car bodies tend to hold up better than in years past.

On a couple of occasions, yours truly lost out on what could have been a great automotive romance due to the presence of rust; enough of the stuff to kill the sale. No Volvo or Jeep for me.

Premature rust can also nip an existing romance in the bud (the Chevy Vega, Plymouth Volare, and Mazda 3s and Toyota Tacomas from the 2000s spring to mind), but corrosion alone rarely ends a vehicle’s life. It did in a friend’s case. The circa ’04 Nissan Altima had simply seen too many salt belt winters; the hole that appeared beneath the front seats even before he took ownership continued to spread thereafter. The carpet touched the ground. Eventually, despite the sedan’s still-beating heart, the rust spread from sill to sill, eating up the sides, weakening the floor to the point that the rocker trim began pulling apart, ominously, at the base of the B-pillar, indicating an alarming weakness amidships.

Eventually, it all became too much. Putting a dime into a car with that much corrosion would be foolish. Driving it was similarly unadvisable. When it became financially feasible, the old Altima was swapped for a slightly newer one — this one almost free of the reddish menace.

Have you (or someone you know) ever fought a losing battle against rust? How bad did it get before you threw in the towel?

[Image: Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]




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