Austin Vert on Water is Your Mustangs Enemy.

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Jul 27, 2012
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Brisbane - Australia
My Car
1973 Mustang Convertible
Hi to all,

I wanted to do a write up on the Topic of water is your '71 to '73's worst all 'round enemy for some time, as i believe it plays an important part of owning and maintaining your Mustangs. I hope you find it interesting and helpful. I have divided my talk into four major sections. 1. The car body.  2. The engine.  3. Refinishing and paintwork and 4. Care and Maintenance.

So why is water a bad deal for our cars? Lets start with the car body. It all starts when the cars were first manufactured. To the best of my knowledge, our 1 to 3 Mustangs were not factory primer body dipped when made back in those days. The complete bodies were primer spray painted with industrial spray guns, robot or man applied. This meant that all the inaccessible  inner body cavities and frame sections, double skin panels, cracks, seams, joins didn't get properly prime coated. This of course leaves the cars vunerable and open to body rust issues as the years roll on. These days, cars are fully dipped, and this has greatly improved the cars not getting rust issues at all. That being the case, it created a new aftermarket industry of rustproofing. Rustproofing procedures attempt to mimic the effect of full body factory primer dipping, by trying to spray rustproofing materials into all inaccessible body areas that were not factory primed. The public has had mixed feelings about how good or effective rustproofing really is over the years. In my opinion, rustproofing does help to keep rust issues at bay, but does not offer up up a complete bullet proof no rust deal ongoing. If you are doing a full blown rotisserie, or any resto, there are paint coatings that can be applied over any active rust that take care of on going issues as well. These coatings can be sprayed/ brushed normally or with dandelion spray jets to enter into box channel frames etc as well. Sandblasting residues not fully removed can lead to ongoing rust issues as well.  Back in the day, some car manufacturers offered up galvanized lower body panels such as rocker panels to help prevent lower body rust issues. That helped as well. The practice of salting roads in countries that snow in winter only acted as a bad accelerator of car bodies rusting out prematurely. Water, in its own right, is bad news for our Mustangs. Rainwater or snow and driving on salted roads doubles the trouble. Lets look at the water alone. Metals deteriorate quickly in damp environments because moist air provides an ideal medium in which rust forms. A water droplet, in effect, becomes a small battery, allowing ions to move freely between the iron and oxygen. Near the point where the water, iron and air meet, an electrochemical reaction pulls oxygen from the air, forming hydroxide ions in the water. Where metal is covered in water, iron atoms lose electrons, which causes the metal to slowly disintegrate; ionized iron dissolves into the water. In the water, the dissolved iron reacts with the hydroxide ions to form rust. Water on its own, in general terms, acts as a rust accelerator, and when combined with other chemicals, the rusting process is greatly accelerated. . The best purest, passive ph water is rain water, but sadly anyone living in a typical industrial city will be dealing with man made air pollution. This mixes with rain water to create an acidic chemical cocktail that eats or corrodes unprotected metals away faster. (Acid rain ) If you leave or drive your Mustang in the rain, then this water ends up permeating into your bodies inner cavities, and causing unwanted rust issues. Town/city  water is a problem as well. Town/city water is generally full of chemicals like Alum, Fluoride and Chlorine. Depending on where you live, town water can be very hard as well, full  of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Some cities go to the trouble of putting salt additives and chemicals into the water supply to soften up the water. This adds to the problem of rust acceleration. Country water supplies can contain natural earth salts and minerals as well, all acting to cause rust accelerating properties like town water does. The simple practice of washing your Mustang brings on atmospheric chemical and tap water chemical issues that act as body rust accelerators.

2. Engines. This one is a no brainer. Using town tap water in the old days before radiator additives were available, caused your cars water system to eventually brown rust up badly and fail. Thank goodness the additives today help solve this old problem. I mix purified distilled water only with my additive to help with any ongoing issues. We all know too, that when cleaning out your engine or engine bay, throwing around a lot of water can cause electrical issues you don't want to happen. Bagging or isolating off sensitive components helps, but does not guarantee trouble free outcomes.

3.When refinishing or respraying cars today, pro painters know that when wet sanding down any paintwork, you must dry off the wet panels with a rag or chamois before the water has a chance of drying on the panel naturally or in the sun.  If you don't, then you can expect respray issues after you have applied your new paint. The acids and chemicals in the water etch into the paint and create contamination issues. Also, washing a car with fresh paintwork, and leaving it in the sun to dry without  using a chamois first can cause paint issues as well. However, buffing the panels can remove these problems created.

4. Care and Maintenance. I have owned my '73 Convertible for 11 years, and in that time, i have never washed my car with a bucket and garden hose, or driven my car in the rain or on wet roads. Thank God we don't salt our roads where i live here in Australia. This practice works 100% for me. I do not have any rust issues at all. I do baby my car, but i understand that a lot of Mustang owners would take a more normal approach and have no problem washing their cars regularly or driving them in the rain as such. If you do hose wash, then using a quality wash and wax product in the bucket, is a big help in preventing ongoing rust issues. For me, i see any water as being destructive to my car for the reasons i have stated above, and so, my car never sees any water at all. I have perfected ways of cleaning my car externally with out the need of a garden hose and bucket. I use a compressed air gun to blow off any surface dust first, then use a semi wet chamois to softly wipe down each panel or surface around the car. The chamois gets rinsed out several times as i move around the car. I don't get any scratching issues either. I finish off using a top quality carnuba spray wax detailer with microfibre cloths. Also, leaving town water on glass and chrome surfaces to air or sun dry, can cause etching issues as well. If you drive you car in wet weather, the roads usually have a lot of greasy, oily, chemical road grime and gritty filth on them. This wet grimy, gritty road muck gets flung up everywhere on your under carridge and lower body panels, gets into your inner cavities and acts as a rust accelerator as well. This gritty dirty grime deposited under and around your lower car, is the reason most guys have the NEED to hose or pressure spray the car off first before moving in with a bucket of suds or snow foam spray products. I don't drive in wet weather or on wet roads, so the under carridge and lower body panel dirt and grime senario is not a problem i have to deal with. Also, don't use cheap detergents to wash your car. They are full of phosphates and chemicals that act as rust accelerators. My vert, like a lot of the 1,2,3 Mustang verts has slight leak roof area  issues, that can't be rectified, by buying new parts. (you gotta love the old cars!) This is another reason why my car never sees water at all. I guess there is a lot of truth when they say that in America, your hot, dry inland regions, help preserve the old cars from rusting out badly. I must have been very fortunate, as my '73 came from Ohio originally. ( Snow and salt) What saved my car from any rust issues was the original owner only drove the car on occasional weekends, and not in winter time. It was always garage stored as well.  He owned it from 1973 to 2009.

So when you add it all up, water is the enemy in creating ongoing problems with our old cars. If you can do your best to keep water away from your cars, then there is no doubt, you will be doing your self some big favors, and reap some good benefits.


Greg. :classic_smile:

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Good writeup, Greg. Water is definitely an enemy of everything on our cars that isn't bright trim, rubber or plastic (sun and ozone takes care of the rubber and plastic). Thin uncoated steel doesn't last long. What was called patina on older cars eats holes through ours.

Thanks Don, and for the thumbs up guys :thumb:

Good point there Don about sun damage. Yes, it's the uv radiation  that destroys most man made materials from plastics, rubber, all types of paint. A garaged car is a happy, long lasting car. BTW, never long term store any car in a shipping container. They sweat and cause major rust problems as many a person has found out to their determent.

I also got to thinking after i wrote the post, that today it's become somewhat (fashionable) for certain owners to present their rides as rusted up, beat up junk jalopies. The rusted patina look. I believe some owners actually wax polish over the rusted panels to show off the rust, and help stop it from advancing. Also, some spray clear coats with mat additives to seal off the rusted panels, and again, stop the rust from more advancing. Not for me i think! How about this at your next show and shine ride ....................................... Dig that charming rusty patina! What a head turner. :cool:

Greg. :wrench:

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Not for me on this particular ride, Greg! I think it depends on the car - a  beaten up and slight rusty, old pickup, yes. But one of our Mustangs, no... They look better in shiny in my opinion. And a ventilated garage is a must...  :thumb:

Concerning Muscle Cars for daily driving: I use a 2013 Challenger R/T as a daily driver through summers and winters since a few years. It holds up quite well but although it is made 40 years later as our Mustangs you see in details, that these cars aren't built for being outside all seasons long, too. It is some kind of personal experiment and I enjoy driving it every day, through heat and snow. We will see, how far that will last the next years...  :thumb:

But this I would never do with one of our Mustangs. As I restore them I see how they are built, they have many rust traps from the factory. After a few years outside they would be gone... Furthermore it has a much more sentimental value than any other car for me. So it will be kept garaged and waterless hand-washed, for sure  :thumb:

Hi Tim,

Hope you're keeping well. Regards your 2013 Challenger, i would think that these cars were tank primer dipped with manufactured, but i am not sure as i have not done any research on those year model cars. Do you have any rusting issues at this stage? Do they salt the roads where you live?

Good to see that you are looking after your Mustang and keeping it dry - way to go!

When car primer tank dipping came into being, with the various car manufacturers,  it revolutionized the car industry in making cars that didn't rust at all in their expected lifetimes. A real improvement and game changer for car consumers for sure. I recall this practice started back in the mid to late eighties if i'm correct. I started my spray painting career back in the mid seventies, and the cars of the day suffered badly from premature rust problems. I remember back then, working on an Alpha Romeo that was about 5 months old from new, about 1978 vintage. Incredibly, the two A pillars and the turret where it meets the windscreen had rusted completely out, so you could polk a stick through the metal in various places. For real! Repairing rust damaged cars was par for the course back then. I resprayed many a rusted car, believe me. You will notice that panel and paint shops today that take on restoration work of old  cars, have to make rust repairs as part of their job description, because of the fact that they were not tank primer dipped.

I owned a 1988 Ford Laser, and a then bought a Mitsubishi Lancer 2006 which i still own. Those cars were my daily drivers over the years. Both cars suffered zero rust issues in the times that i have owned them. They were both dipped on manufacture.

Just for interest ..........................................

Cheers, Greg. :classic_smile:

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Hi Frank,

Wow, is the road salting that bad in Germany . How do you guys get on with modern day cars and any rusting issues per say? I would like to think that even though the roads are salted, rust issues would still not be the big deal like it used to be. Would that be so or not do you think? Do you drive your Mustang around in winter time with the salted roads, and does your car suffer from any body rust problems?

Greg. :classic_unsure:

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In most districts these days, salt brine is sprayed on the roads even when temperatures are suspected to be below freezing. This is to prevent the roads from icing up and to protect today's drivers, who are much better at the levers of their PS4s or X-Boxes than at the steering wheel, from driving into ditches.



Most modern vehicles are already well protected against rust. Plastic rarely rusts. The remaining iron parts are either galvanised or coated. But the new cars are more likely to break down because of electronic problems than because of mechanical defects.

I only drive my Mustang in winter after several rain showers have washed the roads clean again after a period of gritting.