FIR­ING OR­DER

Four Wheeler - - Contents - —KEN BRUBAKER [email protected] PHO­TOS: KEN BRUBAKER

Has rust ever been spo­ken of with fond af­fec­tion? When was the last time you heard a fel­low wheeler proudly toss rust into his or her list of 4x4 fea­tures?

I’ve spent most of my 55 years in the Mid­west, and over­all, it’s been a great place to live. There’s one Mid­west thing that I could do with­out though, and that’s road salt. Road salt causes rust, and that’s an­noy­ing. We all know that when rust saun­ters into the pic­ture, even the sim­plest re­pairs can be filled with drama. I’ve al­ways had older 4x4s that have seen lots of road salt, so I’ve bat­tled cor­ro­sion more times than I can re­mem­ber when com­plet­ing re­pairs (of­ten while ly­ing on snow-cov­ered, frozen ground).

Se­ri­ous Mid­west rust forces one to think out­side the box for even the sim­plest re­pair. I’ve worked with and spo­ken to sev­eral shop techs in the Mid­west who bat­tle cor­ro­sion daily, and they have adapted to work­ing with rusty parts. I re­call work­ing with At­ti­tude Per­for­mance in Ar­ling­ton Heights, Illi­nois, to in­stall a sus­pen­sion on a ’99 Su­per Duty plow truck that was never garaged. It was about -10 de­grees F out­side when we wheeled the truck into At­ti­tude’s shop, and the crew had to chisel through sev­eral inches of rock-hard ice and snow just to get to the sus­pen­sion, only to be met by the usual num­ber of rusted-in-place fas­ten­ers and parts. None­the­less, the ex­pe­ri­enced crew made short work of it, and the rig was soon lifted and on its way. “Pen­e­trat­ing oil and a torch are two items we use daily to coun­ter­act the ef­fects of cor­ro­sion. And we use an­ti­seize lib­er­ally dur­ing re­assem­bly,” owner Matt Dinelli says.

Rusty parts are one thing; a rusty-bod­ied 4x4 is an­other. In the Mid­west, an ex­pen­sive 4x4 can be re­duced to a rust bucket in just a few years of win­ter driv­ing. The ma­jor­ity of 4x4s I’ve owned were pur­chased used in the Mid­west, and as such had the Mid­west Gold Stan­dard of cor­ro­sion. The list in­cludes a ’77 In­ter­na­tional Scout that was cor­roded beyond belief; a ’99 Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tor with an in­cred­i­ble amount of un­der­body rot, in­clud­ing cor­roded brake lines and rear con­trol arms; and a ’90 Geo Tracker with holes in the floor.

I’ve fought back. A few years ago, my wife and I built a new house. She de­signed the main house, and I planned the garage. It was the first house we had with an at­tached garage, so to say I was ex­cited would be a gross un­der­state­ment. Among my garage wants: com­plete in­su­la­tion, an in­su­lated over­head door, a wa­ter source, a floor drain, a ton of light­ing, and heat. With these weapons I could bat­tle rust, and I did for years. Ev­ery win­ter day when my wife would ar­rive home from work in her salty 4x4 (a 4x4 that HAD to last), I’d get to work giv­ing the ma­chine a to­tal clean­ing. I spent as much time un­der­neath the ve­hi­cle rins­ing away salt as I did on the ex­te­rior. It wasn’t al­ways fun. It got mo­not­o­nous, and when it was be­low 0 de­grees F out­doors the con­crete floor would get so cold the wa­ter would freeze in spots (a heated garage floor wasn’t in the bud­get). But it was all worth it. Even after six bru­tal, salty win­ters that 4x4 still looked great, both un­der­neath and ev­ery­where else.

In my world, that 4x4 was an anom­aly. Most of the used 4x4s I’ve owned were so far gone that I didn’t care. And my bud­dies had 4x4s that were equally rot­ted (like the CJ-5 pic­tured here, which be­longed to a fam­ily mem­ber). They were un­de­ni­ably to­tal piles of junk, but the four-wheel drive worked and they were in­ex­pen­sive, so we were happy.

Do you live in an area that is sub­ject to win­ter road salt? How do you keep your 4x4 from rust­ing? Do you have a rusty rig that you’re proud of? Drop an email to the ad­dress be­low and tell us about it and in­clude a high-res photo of your rig!

|>This is what Mid­west road salt did to a fam­ily mem­ber’s CJ. On the up­side, ve­hi­cle weight was sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced.

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