Ford Helps Bust Rust
CHICAGO – Rustproofing has become rare necessity thanks to corrosion protection innovations over the years. Ford Motor Company has helped make rustproofing a non-issue. In the 1960s, Ford developed a special paint layer called anodic electrocoat, also known as “e-coat.” This electrically charged coating was applied in a large tank to an unpainted steel body. Ford highlighted the new process in a print ad that appeared in a 1969 issue of Life magazine.
In the late-1970s, cathodic electrocoat began replacing anodic electrocoat. The newer coating offered improved corrosion protection and reduced the amount of energy needed to apply it. Not only was Ford quick to make the switch, it also became the first automaker to convert all of its North American assembly plants to lead-free cathodic electrocoat by the mid-80s to reduce the environmental impact of lead-containing materials.
Advances in steel added to improved corrosion protection for customers. One-sided galvanized steel, which contained a protective layer of zinc, led to two-sided galvanized steel. The inclusion of dip phosphate by Ford in the 1990s further enhanced rust resistance. Prior to dipping, vehicles were sprayed with phosphate. Spraying provided cleaning and conditioning to the outside of the steel body, but not to the inside where corrosion from road salt frequently begins.
To help ensure effective application of the company’s present corrosion protection system, Ford relies on sophisticated computer models in a process called “digital pre-assembly.”
Ford also uses computer-aided engineering tools to develop and tune the large ovens that heat and cure the electrocoat. These tools are especially effective in helping Ford meet the challenge of curing e-coat on thicker metal panels, which are required to comply with more stringent safety regulations.
As added corrosion protection against stone- or gravel-related paint chips, polyurethanes and polyvinyl chloride coatings are employed underneath the paint on rocker panels and other lower body areas. Body fasteners, such as bolts and screws, also are treated with special anti-corrosion materials.
Ford engineers continue to look for ways to improve corrosion resistance while protecting the environment. For example, Ford is studying a new dip pretreatment process that requires less energy and water, eliminates process waste, and further improves the corrosion resistance of metals used in vehicle construction.