Watch: Just how badly does rust effect your car's safety?
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One of the best things about being a car fanatic in New Zealand is that the rest of the world is your oyster for imports. With relatively little local industry to protect (unlike our mates over the ditch), Kiwis are generally free to import whatever they want from other markets ... so long as they meet age restrictions and the like.
The problem with living in this dream world is that with more vehicles flowing in from a greater number of possible methods, there's added risk that today's car purchase might be tomorrow's headache via mystery issues not previously disclosed.
And rust is a big one, particularly through our Japanese import sector. Because they salt the snow in Japan (to make it melt quicker), cars from colder areas quite often land in Aotearoa with varying degrees of rust problems underneath their pretty, shiny skin.
As horrible a problem as it is, some people chose to ignore rust and let it fester. Perhaps it's a bit of a "if I can't see it, it can't exist!" delusion. But apart from ruining any resale value chances, and perhaps completely gutting its structural integrity from the inside out ... are there any other ramifications to dailying a rusty car?
Well — and this won't come as too much of a surprise hopefully — new tests have shown that they're much more unsafe.
Testing was done by Villaagarnas Riksforbund in Sweden. The nonprofit group took a two rusted first-generation Mazda 6s and two fifth-generation Volkswagen Golfs — relatively modern cars — and crashed them according to guidelines similar to what these same cars went through when they were new.
The Mazda, particularly in its 64km/h frontal test, performed poorly — lower than its original standards when it was new. “When the Mazda 6 was tested in the frontal test, the car was deformed so that the driver’s seat ended up leaning against the interior of the car and the crash test dummy hit its head in the B-pillar,” Villaagarnas Riksforbund said.
As it strikes you can see the force of the crash reverberate up the doorline as orange dust bursts from the front wheel-well. New, the 6 scored 26 points and four stars on EuroNCAP's rating scale (keep in mind that this is vastly different from today's more stringent scale) — but in this condition researchers knocked it down to 18 points and a 'weak three' starts. They concluded that occupants of the car would have a 20 per cent higher risk of death in a crash "because of the rust".
Perhaps to highlight the test's shortcomings and the natural variance that can come with how rust attacks a car, the Golfs actually held up well — losing only a single point on their original score from new (from 33 points and four stars to 32 points and four stars).
Nonetheless, if you drive a car swimming in brown death, it might be a good idea to trade up.