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Rust, A Risk Raiser When Road Accidents Occur

The climate that we live with in Canada means that we also live with rust issues in our vehicles, at least more so than motorists in more temperate regions. Certainly all agree that it’s a bothersome issue and one that reduces resale value, but have you thought of what corrosion might do to your vehicle’s ability to keep you safe in a collision?

Well, a non-profit company and an insurance company did. In fact they commissioned a series of crash tests to determine if a rust-afflicted vehicle involved in an accident posed a greater risk for its occupants. The results were unequivocal: in the event of an impact, the risk of death increased by 20%.

The tests were carried on 10- to 15-year old Mazda6 cars that had evident corrosion issues, which went beyond surface rust. British firm Thatcham Research carried out frontal and side impact-simulation tests. When new, these 2003 to 2008 model-year Mazda6 models had received 4 stars and 26 total points in crash tests based on the EuroNCAP system. The used models, put through the same series of tests, received only 3 stars and 18 points.

The difference in the scores translated into a 20% greater risk of death, according to the company that commissioned the tests.
The frontal collision test saw the car be so badly deformed that the driver’s seat ended up leaning against the car’s interior; the mannequin’s head had smashed into the B pillar.

Testing was also conducted on rusty 2004 to 2008 model-year Volkswagen Golfs. Their scores in the crash tests also suffered, but the drop was not as drastic as with the Mazda6 cars.

In some cases, the differences were minimal between a new and used model, but overall, the verdict was clear: rust weakens a vehicle's structure sufficiently to increase the risk of injury or death in the event of a collision.

The moral of this story? If you expect to keep your car for a long time, do what you can to protect it from corrosion, even if the car you buy is pre-owned. How you care for it may affect how safe it keeps you.