If you have ever seen the bottom of a vehicle that is from an area that requires snow and ice prevention, you know what it does. Lately, transportation departments have employed some new countermeasures that, while very effective at snow and ice prevention, are down right brutal to the metal on your precious ride. Today, you will not only find granular sodium chloride (salt), magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate, and potassium acetate, but also liquid forms are being used for pre-snow treatments. These liquid forms are far more effective at finding their way into areas of your Jeep that are difficult to clean and leaving them in place is a sure fire way to accelerate rust development.
It seems many of you have already felt the wrath of salty water on metal, as my little post yesterday about us winter prepping our Jeeps sparked several questions on exactly what we do and use. So, I tried to document the process I use while prepping Dirty (the JKU) today. For what it’s worth, we do most of this every time we trail ride, regardless of the season.
The process for us begins with a good cleaning. I’m not talking about a drive through the car wash and call it good “clean”, but rather a put on a good rain suit and crawl under the Jeep with a pressure washer kind of clean. I also tend to keep a rag handy and actually wipe everything down because I have found that no amount of water and spray will get off what a little rubbing with a rag will. When done, we like to go for a small drive before parking and letting everything dry overnight.
When you crawl under the Jeep the next morning, or whenever you get back to it, prepare to be a bit disappointed. No matter how hard I have worked under the Jeep with the pressure washer and rag, there are always a few spots I have missed that looked clean when everything was wet.
Here are a few pictures of what our belly looked like after this first cleaning once dry.
I know how tempting it is to just grab some spray paint right now and go to town, but I have learned that any cut corners and you might as well not even bother. Every step is the foundation for the next. There are undoubtedly spots of surface rust around some rock rash and maybe some burs that need to be sanded down. I have an arsenal of sanding and polishing disks I use on a die-grinder to clean up all the rust spots and burs.
Next, it’s time to put some elbow grease into it and clean the bottom again… 😯 You heard me… clean some more. Why, you ask? Well, the light surface dirt you see will cause any primer and paint to adhere poorly. Not to mention there is likely a bunch of dust from the sanding you just did that should be cleaned off. The better you clean, the better the end result will be. I like to use a multi-purpose/glass gleaner along with an old towel.
The pictures below is where I ended up after the final cleaning.
I know you are itching to paint, but hold on… 😛 I highly recommend taping and masking off anything that you don’t want to paint. Even if you think it is out of the way and you won’t hit it, take the time to do this. If you ignore me… I have found that a bit of acetone on a rag will wipe spray paint off, but it’s pretty hard on whatever you are cleaning the paint off so it’s best to just mask it on the front end. We keep our paper towel rolls. A quick cut down the side and they make for easy masks for most of the parts you are likely trying to avoid.
Now, it’s time to grab a rattle-can, but not paint…. I prefer to first hit any of the areas that had rust or spots I took to bare metal with some zinc enriched primer. I have had really good luck with Rustoleum as a product, but their new cans that spray upside down have a serious nozzle problem that seems to clog easily so be sure to wipe it off in between coats.
Give the primer time to dry and then grab that paint can! It’s time to go to work.
Quick protective equipment note: You really should use a breathing mask and some sort of eye protection for all of this. I have done it without before and it’s just stupid. Even when I am lucky and avoided getting crap in my eyes, I picked paint boogers out of my nose for days. I can’t imagine it’s too good on the lungs.
Anyway, here is the post paint belly.
It is at this point where I often call it quits as this is our normal stopping point after a trail ride or before a show type event. However, with winter looming and all those rust promoting chemicals just on the horizon, I take it one step further. This is to add some additional prevention measures (beyond just paint). In the past, I have used the WD-40 product shown below. It has worked amazingly well for protection all winter long. This said, everyone keeps telling me that Fluid Film is far superior. Both are roughly the same price at $11/can, but the larger Fluid Film can was enough to tip me over the edge and give it a try.
I’m not sure exactly what the WD-40 is, but I liked that it dried into a solid and didn’t stay oily. Fluid Film is a lanolin based product which is safe on just about anything. I could have sworn I also read that it is supposed to dry solid, but even after a day it still seems oily and wet. Initially, I didn’t like this but, after more thought, I like that it has more time to run and penetrate more spots than the WD-40 did. The fluid film also came with a small straw for application into really tight spots.
As for the application, it really depends on the vehicle. For our rigs that will see lots of winter driving we spray just about everything pretty heavily. For Dirty, who sits in the shop on blocks most of the winter, I only hit the troublesome and sweet spots.
So, there it is… yes, it is quite labor intensive, but we feel it’s worth it. We use Dirty pretty hard, and while we can’t avoid the dents, we think her belly looks pretty good for a nearly 4 year old Ohio chassis. A few side benefits; we don’t have mud and dirt falling in our face when we work on her and the bolts don’t have to get cut off every time we need to take something off, we also have found many items needing some maintenance while cleaning BEFORE they got to the point of failure.
Hope you enjoyed the read!