WBZ-TV’s investigative reporting team has turned its attention toward Nissan, due to “angry Nissan Altima owners [who] have posted an endless slideshow of photos of the corroded metal under their cars.” Trouble is, those cars are all out of warranty.
Some of the cars in question are as old as 2002. The owner in the WBZ report noted that her car only had 70,000 miles.
Up until the mid-1980s, cars rusted as a matter of course. It wasn’t unusual to buy a car or truck in the mid-1970s and need fenders or doors in five or six years. Galvanization became more widespread in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s a process in which a zinc coating is applied to the steel before paint is applied. It provides a corrosion-resistant coating to the steel, and also acts as a sacrificial anode. If the paint is ever scratched to the bare metal, the scratched area is protected by the remaining zinc.
Regardless of galvanization and better paint processes, though, rust is inevitable. Corrosion is an electromechanical process that requires both oxygen and moisture, which drivers in many states have plenty of. It’s exacerbated by chlorides such as sodium chloride or calcium chloride, both of which can be dumped on the road surface by the truckload until the highway turns white. Add in the fact that areas along the coast have salt carried to their cars by the air, plus the natural acidity of rain and you’re looking at a perfect storm for rust.
When galvanization came along, rust warranties lengthened significantly, but even the longest warranties expired at about 10 years. In 2002, Nissan offered a five-year corrosion warranty, regardless of mileage. At this point, the 2002 Altima in WBZ’s report has been out of warranty longer than it was in it.
Nevertheless, some Nissan owners are demanding remuneration. “I’m not a car expert, but I could easily tell that it was not normal,” said one Altima owner who requested anonymity, and owned an Altima that had been out of warranty since 2008. “I think they should acknowledge this and fix it.”
The image above shows how trucks from the 1970s through the 1980s used to rust. If you had one in New England that got driven in the snow, they looked like this after five years.
400 rust complaints were registered with NHTSA in reference to Nissan Altimas, with 20 in New England, according to WBZ’s i-Team. In previous years, NHTSA has demanded recalls for rust, but as in the case with the Toyota Tacoma, it was because rust invaded the truck’s frame and made it completely unsafe to drive.