How to Avoid Buying a Rusty Mercedes-Benz

Benz Dreirad Modell I: Foto vor verschneiter Winterlandschaft für Werbezwecke.

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The transmission may need rebuilding, suspension bushings worn out, headliner adhesive failing and a laundry list of deferred general maintenance items but if there is rust, the entire game changes.

Rust and body repair is something that many of us have difficulty mastering. The art of cutting out bad metal, massaging new pieces to fit, welding everything together, and being able to get a consistent paint color match is like brain surgery compared to replacing brakes or a timing chain for most of us. The other problem with rust is unlike brakes where it is generally easy to quickly assess just what needs doing and the costs and time involved, rust is deceiving.

What looks like just a little bubbling around a headlight or a dime sized rust spot where a piece of trim attaches on the belt line is almost certainly more..a lot more. If you notice just one spot of rust that isn’t the result of paint being scratched off or other physical damage to a panel you can be almost certain there is going to be more lurking behind other panels, inside jack points, behind plastic bumper covers and underneath. In general if any rust beyond the most minimal amount is present it is better just to walk away from a potential purchase and find a better example.

Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 E Limousine 4MATIC (W 124).

Buying a Rust Free Mercedes-Benz searching for that premium, rust free car, the search can be made more successful if you look in the right places. The biggest factor that affects a vehicle rusting in the U.S. is its exposure to salt or sodium chloride. The other most common road treatment in winter to increase the melting point of ice and snow is calcium chloride. Around the mid-1990s a corrosion inhibited calcium chloride was been introduced though the higher cost has limited most cities and counties from adopting it. There are other agents used as well including magnesium chloride as well as a salt brine solution. These can be as damaging to metal as sodium chloride. Their benefit however is the ability to perform better at lower temperatures than sodium chloride.

Corrosion values of sodium chloride are very high at 41-46 mils/year with calcium chloride high as well at 18-21 mils/year and the newer corrosion-inhibited calcium chloride at only 4-7 mils/year. While the introduction of lower corrosion road treatment is promising its lack of use and low cost of sodium chloride means salt is still the primary go to product for keeping roads free of icy conditions, especially in high need locations.

The best course of action to handle the uncertainty of what products are used in which areas is of course to simply acquire cars that have had limited exposure to all of these products.

Mercedes Magazine has researched which states are the highest users of snow and ice mitigating products on roads. From highest to lowest they include:

State Average Annual Loading (tons per lane-mile)
Massachusetts 19.4
Vermont 17.1
New York 16.6
New Hampshire 16.4
Michigan 12.9
Wisconsin 9.2
Ohio 9.1
Delaware 9.0
Indiana 9.0
Maine 8.0
Maryland 7.1
New Jersey 6.7
Illinois 6.6
West Virginia 6.3
Minnesota 5.0
Iowa 3.8
Virginia 3.0
California 3.0
Nevada 1.9
Nebraska 1.5
Oklahoma 1.5
Alaska 1.2
Missouri 1.0
South Dakota 1.0
New Mexico 0.5
Idaho 0.3

Some states, like California, may seem like a surprise. The thing to keep in mind here is that California has mountainous areas that need heavy snow and ice removal nearly year-round in areas. These concentrated areas can skew statistics since the percentage of cars in this state regularly exposed to the harsher environment is very low. Analogous to this would be Florida, a state that does not use salt on roads however vehicles that spend great amounts of time near the coast can have high salt exposure from ocean air.

Mercedes Magazine has also compiled another assessment of states that use any product to control road surfaces in freezing conditions. Since the compilation is by state, any counties or cities that employ the use of a product that has sodium in it is labeled as a state that uses salt though the state may not use salt across the entire state with some areas choosing to use products less damaging.

Use the information wisely. By beginning your search for the perfect rust free car in areas that use low amounts of damaging products you will limit your risk of buying a potential rust bucket. The other important thing to remember is cars are mobile. A car for sale in Alabama, a state that does not use salt, today, may have been in New York for much of its life and exposed to high amounts of salt. Using CarFax or AutoCheck can show you where the car was registered previously and help you prevent buying a car with a past life in a heavily salted state.

Images: Copyright Daimler AG and Mercedes Magazine

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