Corrosion is real. The chemical recipe for corrosion is steel, water, salt, and oxygen.
All of these ingredients are present in the operation of an automobile. As the vehicle is manufactured, the cold-rolled steel is treated with a zinc coating to mitigate corrosion during the manufacturing process. In essence, this is admission by the manufacturers that corrosion is an issue.
The use of automotive chemical rust protection began around 1939. Many steel manufactures shipped their items coated in rust-retarding solutions as well. The spray-on chemical rust retardants proved worthy and effective.
In the early days of chemical rust retardants, high levels of silicone, tar, and oils were used. The tar bonded to the steel, while silicone created an impenetrable coating that crept into the nooks and crannies of parts constructed with steel. This bonding, creeping, and coating eliminated the exposure to oxygen. Without oxygen’s direct access to the steel, corrosion could not take place.
Vehicles are driven in every environment, from the high temperatures of Arizona to the subzero frost of northern New York, to the rainy climate in Seattle. These different climates cause different consequences for the appearance of the vehicle. Rain causes water spotting. Subzero temperatures cause snow, which requires de-icing agents to be used for safety. Road salt is the most effective and also the most corrosive. Therefore, when you drive your vehicle on a road cleared by a snowplow dropping salt, your vehicle is going to kick up that salt into the wheel wells, the undercarriage, and the inner compartments of the engine area. This direct contact will eventually cause rust. The chemical recipe is complete: steel, salt, water, and oxygen, all of which are needed for corrosion to occur. Protecting the vehicle with a spray-on rust protectant can insulate your vehicle from corrosion and add value to it at time of trade.
Used-car managers, nationwide, admit that the first thing that they look at upon appraising a trade is the appearance of the vehicle. A vehicle with corrosion will often get wholesaled, reducing its value by 30%.
The skepticism surrounding the need for rust protection (snake oil) has fueled a few comic strips and standup routines over the years. However, for those who live in the Rust Belts of the USA, the only funny thing about protecting your vehicle with rust protection is watching those who did not protect their cars getting mad when they’re told that their car is worth less!