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Would Sincerely Appreciate Opinions about and Experience with Undercarriage Rust

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Would Sincerely Appreciate Opinions about and Experience with Undercarriage Rust

Old 09-14-2018, 01:48 PM
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Question Would Sincerely Appreciate Opinions about and Experience with Undercarriage Rust

Hello, I’m new here. This is my first post outside of Introductions. I’d really appreciate opinions from all of you if you would be so kind to take the time to read this detailed post. I realize it is nothing short of a thesis, and I apologize, but this issue is critically important to us for the safety of our new driving son, and I want to provide you with enough details so that you have more than enough to imagine yourselves being in our shoes. I also tried to anticipate questions you might have first, and thought it would lessen the number of potential back and forth posts asking them, saving time. That takes more words.

We are facing an important decision to sell or keep a first gen Acura TL we purchased for our son this year that I keep waffling on, and we care deeply that he is in a “safer” vehicle should an accident occur. (No guarantees with any car really.)

We did extensive research when our older two began driving, and concluded that the safest cars for a new driver to drive that were also in an affordable price range were Hondas and Acuras, with the TL being number one and literally stealing our hearts and loyalty. We love these cars. After three accidents in a Honda and two TLs, two being serious, our daughter walked away from the two serious ones without a scratch. Mission accomplished and wisdom confirmed.

Now our last child needed a car, and we purchased one back in January that has just recently presented us with a “Keep or Sell” dilemma.

We purchased a 1997 Acura TL 2.5. It was a rushed buy, (something I never do,) because we were without any car at that time having only one family car, a 17-yr old Odyssey, that was having its transmission replaced the end of December, and received word the first week in January that it could take another 2-3 weeks before being finished, hopefully before the end of January. I had already stayed home for two weeks traveling nowhere, and while that is possible over holiday breaks, it’s impossible any other time and the break was over. We also had a very important application interview with a private high school the second week of January, trying to immediately get our youngest disabled son away from our abusive public school that semester (tough times,) and about four doctor appointments over those next 10 days. We had no way to get to any of them without high costs of rentals. So, I needed a car while waiting for the Odyssey pronto, and since our youngest would need one come fall, we chose one for him.

Already knowing the best car to look for, we found an 5-cyl Acura TL 2.5 that might be worth it:

-It was priced at $1500 with only 90,000 miles on it
-Had a great interior and body condition short of two 5”x3” sized rust patches on each back wheel well, with one already painted over.
-The rest of the body looked pristine with only the expected hairline scratches from a 20-year life but still having a glossy finish, and not a dulled or worn hood or trunk due to any sun heat or long-term severe weather exposure. (Not bad for only $1500.)

With a son who is a mechanic we felt that if it ended up needing some substantial work beyond a wiper blade, a battery, or a new tire or two, it was worth it, because we only had to pay for parts. (My son is almost finished earning his associates in automotive technology and will be attending SIU next fall to get his bachelor’s in Automotive Engineering. He has gotten very skilled repairing cars the past two years while also working in a privately-owned mechanic’s shop for one year, and currently for a Chrysler service center since spring.)

We all took turns test driving it, and he looked it over and said it was in great condition for its age and he didn’t see anything significant other than it needing front brakes. I noticed the rust on the undercarriage, and without a lift he said it looked typical for the age of the car, but not eating through anywhere. Of course, he was 9 months less experienced when we bought this Acura, so I was never really sure if it was a wise buy or not, or if there were any serious issues that would cost more than the car was worth. He didn’t think so, making it a great buy. It was now Saturday and I had no way to get to the upcoming school interview that Tuesday. Worst case scenario: it would be a great buy for our older son to fixup and sell, with a potential profit between $500-$800, so we took the gamble.

-There was only one owner on the CarFax report in the past twenty years,
-It was primarily garage kept until the last year
-It had incredibly low mileage for an Acura TL, (common for them to drive well to 300,000 miles,)
-There was incessant care with maintenance shown all over the CarFax report.
-It drove smoothly and handled as well as we’ve come to expect from the TL.

We have been slowly discovering things here and there that need attention, and have not been driving it since the end of January. The latest discovery has rattled us the most and we are trying to decide if we should keep the car for our son to drive the next two years to get our money’s worth, or - sell right now while it is worth the most having only 90,500 miles and documented proof of valuable repairs just completed, all making it a very easy sell we think and worth more than we paid. It may be older than most 2001-2005 TLs and Accords in the same price range we would want, ($3,000-ish,) but the lowest mileage we found on those was only one at 143,000, and most having between 180,000-250,000. We think the mileage on this TL and its body condition as well as new mechanical improvements compensates for it being 4-8 years younger. Out of 11 cars, only one stated the timing belt was replaced, one stated the back brakes were replaced, but not the rotors, and none had new tires or other significant repairs like ours. However, what we have done to ours has made it the kind of car we would have paid more for, except for what our son’s teacher at college told him about the rust all over the undercarriage. We are aware that can affect the safety of the car if in an accident. We chose TLs for safety.

I have attached pictures to this post of the rust since it is the pivotal issue in our decision. (If I can. I’m new with only two posts so far so might not have the permission??)

*** To get your opinions, I have detailed below the CarFax history, and below that the present condition and opinions of the car, and the repairs we have done. What would you do, keep or sell? What are your experiences and insights about rust on the undercarriage. No opinions will be held against any poster or this site in any way should we follow them and it not turn out well. We’re not idiots who sue for hot coffee. We see that the opinions and advice on this site are not flippant or lack any respect or consideration for others, and they are based on having owned, maintained, repaired, and marketed your own TLs for years. What more could anyone want when asking for opinions from those who are graciously giving their time to help others. That alone overshadows any advice given. The final decision lies with us, so we are the sole responsible party for that decision. *** (I hope that was a clear and good enough disclaimer. LOL)

The Carfax report shows:

-The owner took it into either a Honda or Acura service center every 3-4 months for its entire life for one thing or another, such as oil changes, tire checks, looksies, and repairs.
-All recommended milestone services were done, and all emissions testing detailed.
-There are several “vehicle serviced” entries throughout the 20 years that have no other information. I assume it could be anything, even minor things that are too frivolous to detail for the report, like a wash or a, “I think my wiper is loose, can you check it,” and it wasn’t, etc. But I also know it can be because the owner was having typical problems in later years and wanted them to look at something for them. If there was nothing to be concerned about, or if he chose to not do anything about their findings, or if they went elsewhere to have the repair done, there would be no other details other than the “vehicle serviced” notation.

-It appears the owner just traded it in a few months before we bought it, being unwilling to find and repair an oil leak the dealer found and recommended they come in and fix, no doubt spooked by the potential cost of something like that. (We put the dye into the freshly changed oil to track the leak. My son investigated the leak recently and it wasn’t oil at all, so even the Honda service center didn’t do a proper job on diagnosing that one. It was power steering fluid that was leaking. Nothing else. And he fixed it.)

The Mileage info is as follows:

-Purchased fall 1997.
-Half of the mileage was put on in the first three years with 43,000 by the end of 2000.
-14,500 miles were put on it the last three years: 5,000, then 6,700, then 2,500 from fall 2016 to January 2018.
-The fourteen years in between? Only 32,600 miles were driven with the car, averaging 2,300 per year, (some 5,000, some only 1,500, etc.)
-So, most of the heavy driving was while it was brand new and it was sparingly used every year since. Condition of the paint confirms it was primarily garage kept.

Other than the many emissions tests, oil changes, tire checks, and “vehicle washed” or “vehicle serviced” entries, following are the notable CarFax service entries:

3 years old @ 43,127 mi: Front brake pads replaced
6 years old @ 54,649 mi: Incident damage report – damage to rear (no indication on report if it was fixed and we don’t see damage on it now short of two ¼" scrapes in the paint; no dents.)
12 years old @ 66,514 mi: Power steering fluid flushed or changed; Rear brake pads replaced; Brake calipers cleaned/serviced; Brake rotor(s) resurfaced
13 years old @ 68,072 mi: Front brake pads replaced; Brake calipers cleaned/serviced; Brake rotor(s) resurfaced; Oxygen sensor replaced, Tire repaired
14 years old @ 69,865 mi: Wheel speed sensor(s) replaced/repaired; ABS sensor replaced
15 years old @ 71,328 mi: Brake fluid flushed/changed; Antifreeze/coolant flushed/changed; Battery replaced
15 years old @ 71,929 mi: Distributor seal replaced
18 years old @ 81,000 mi: Failed emissions inspection twice before passing the third time, (odd for only 81,000 mi?)
19 years old @ 87,706 mi: Fall of 2016: Battery/charging system checked and again two weeks later; Brakes checked and again two weeks later; Battery replaced; Alternator replaced; Drive belt(s) replaced; Left axle replaced, Four tires replaced, mounted, and aligned (only 2,800 miles driven on them to date); Safety inspection performed and again two weeks later

19 ½ years old (May 2017) @ 89,344 mi: Front wiper blades replaced (there are no back ones,); Catalytic converter replaced

June 2017 @ 89,668 mi: Vehicle serviced. No other details. To be safe, I called the service center on the report that the owner took it to and asked what was found during this service (unlike all the other “vehicle serviced”,) and I was told there was an oil leak so the owner brought it in. There was nothing conclusive from the visit, but they could tell it was high up and leaking down. They advised the owner to come back in and have it fixed. They didn’t. (Although we found it wasn’t an oil leak after all and an easy repair.)

July 2017 @ 90,000 mi: passed emissions

20 years old (September 2017,) @ 90,200 mi: Auto Auction Illinois listed it as a dealer vehicle and it says Vehicle sold at auction.

December 1, 2017: Title issued or updated, Duplicate title issued, Loan or lien reported (If it was a dealer, why?) Exempt from odometer reporting; Registration updated when owner moved the vehicle to a new location.

-In January we probably mistakenly thought it was another dealer who bought it Dec 1st because most non-dealer buyers wouldn’t buy a car and turn around and sell it two weeks later on Dec 18th. But why would they have needed a loan/lein on a cheap trade in from July if they were a dealer? Is it possible someone bought it from a used car dealer and then learned that repairs were needed, and it would have cost them twice what they paid for the car to fix it if also paying a mechanic for labor, unlike us? And so, they got rid of their mistake?

December 18, 2017 @90,210 mi: Listed as a dealer vehicle, Vehicle sold at auction.

January 2017: We received the car @ 90,214 or 90,224 mi? Something close to that. I remember it was less than 20 miles put on it.

-IL Vehicle Use Tax form states seller’s information is Brigitte A Curtis from Evanston, IL. (Would that mean they were the last private buyer who owned it? For those 18 days in December?) The bill of sale has “Fairway Auto & Logistics Hammond Indiana” at the top, and the salesman name as Joseph Thomas. Not sure why so many names. We know, or thought we knew, that CarFax reports cannot be tampered with and what they say is reliable. I hope that is true.

Current condition and our repairs:

Right off the bat a break line broke as I was driving it home on the expressway the same day we bought it! We drove it straight to the shop my son was working at, (using my previously unknown superhero skills to stop a car, repeatedly at dozens of intersections, using solely my timing and reduction of speed, and tenacity. LOL) and we had the owner put it on a lift and check everything out on the car:

-He said our son could easily repair the break line which broke due to rust.
-He said eventually the timing belt and water pump would have to be replaced simply due to the mileage
-He said that two belts might need to be replaced soon
-He explained that even if the car did not have much wear and tear on it due to low mileage, after 20 years parts are going to deteriorate naturally, even if just sitting in a garage in between trips. Salt and water would also take a toll on various parts.
-He explained things we could do to deal with and cover the rust on the wheel wells and at the very least remove the glaring orange by covering it in black like was already done to one wheel well.
-When I asked about all the rust under the car, (seen in lower lighting,) he took a lamp and moved around looking, told us it was typical rust due to age and our northern driving environment, and it was surface rust. He didn’t see anything eating through except the brake line. However, it covered entire metal surfaces everywhere in vivid brown and orange unlike the surface rust I’ve seen before where you still see metal patches and various spots with starter rust and only a few thicker darker spots. Still, he said it wasn’t significant and we had a few years before needing to worry, while it naturally spread over time.
-He said everything else looked really good.

Our son’s college instructor looked the car over while our son was repairing the power steering fluid and had it on the lift in very bright conditions. He said

-There is an exceptional amount of rust. It will spread fast especially this winter. Long term is an issue because with rust you never know.
-When asked, “which areas are the worst with rust that would be troublesome if it ate through the metal in under two years?” (because some areas aren’t as critical and some that are critical are super easy to replace the part, but others are a deal breaker.) We were told the whole suspension is rusty, some of the smaller under engine pieces, but that makes up about the whole under car. Majority rust is where the power steering leak was. Otherwise if he cleaned it out, it’s just surrounding lines that may or may not be effected.

That day, our son texted us his opinion:

since his brother just started driving, he will probably have a fender bender in a year or two, so with what he fixed there are no other problems presently until another issue pops up and that may not be until a year or two more, but is possible to be less. He thinks it could safely get him through his last two years of high school. However, he said it is also playing Russian roulette not knowing when rust will strike, thus the photos I wanted to attach for you to review.

Our son performed the following services, for only about $500 out of pocket costs to us:

-repaired rear break lines running under the car, and while doing it found more significant rust on the lines
-new battery
-replaced the timing belt and water pump
-new fuel lines
-new emissions line
-repaired the power steering fluid leak
-drained and replaced transmission fluid which was really low
-repairing the front brakes this month

Our thoughts:

-We already know that the major elements typically needing repairs after purchasing an older car have already been done, and done well, on this 97 Acura TL. Several and/or all of these repairs would still have to be done on another new car if we sell this one, (looking at 2003 or 2005 Acura TLs, 2005 Honda Accords,) thus increasing their true purchase price.
-It drives so smoothly now – way better than January – and handles great - really great - luxurious even.
-We know for certain most of its history and have a great point to move forward from with confidence over its current mechanical condition.
-But … we still need to fix the deteriorated seal at the top of the front windshield (Son said easy job...?)
-And we should get on top of that rust on the wheel wells
-Most pivotal: we would need to figure out how to deal with the rust on the undercarriage to have a peace of mind.

Your thoughts?


Thank you with all my heart.
Juju
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Old 09-14-2018, 03:41 PM
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Including pictures of the car itself to help

I forgot to do this. Would probably help giving advice knowing what the rest of the car looks like. For $1500, it's in spectacular condition. We've seen used cars that were purchased after only 12 years old that were in horrible condition; but ... they probably didn't have undercarriage rust.

These photos were ridiculously large so I resized them and am hoping they will not be overbearing.
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Old 09-14-2018, 04:00 PM
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I can't answer the rust questions; but at $1500, it's a cash car and should be treated as such...if that means driving it til something breaks, so be it...however, I understand it's for one of your children. and that raises the safety concern.
personally, cash cars are awesome but are disposable. take that how you may.


if something were to happen to my 2006 TL, its currently worth around 4-6k...so def. in the realms of a cash car... I would pick up something for $3-4k.
but then again, I live in the south and we dont see that magnitude of rust.


the interior of that TL is gorgeous! looks like it didnt get driven all that much

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Old 09-17-2018, 01:16 PM
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Should I post somewhere else to get help regarding undercarriage rust?

Thank you for replying, @justnspace, and we agree that this is just a cash car which you drive until it dies or can't be repaired. That is where we presently are with our 2000 Odyssey, but it's still running strong and smooth so we have quite a few years on it still. Given the fabulous condition on the car, I want to just keep it and drive it as long as we can. But yes, safety for our kids over accidents with a rusty undercarriage is gnawing at us. We don't have the experience with or expertise about undercarriage rust, and the two professional opinions we got were polar opposite, thus I came here.

I know my post was too long for many members to read. What we'd really like to know is how bad is the rust in the areas that I showed in the first set of pictures, whether or not we need to worry about about it as much as we are, and if so, can it be fixed or improved upon. Or is it just too elaborate/expensive to keep the car. Again my son is a new mechanic, so we don't pay labor.

Should I be posting in a different subforum to get more insights? I can keep that post short. LOL I need more insights regarding undercarriage rust.

Thanks everyone.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by JustJuju View Post
Thank you for replying, @justnspace, and we agree that this is just a cash car which you drive until it dies or can't be repaired. That is where we presently are with our 2000 Odyssey, but it's still running strong and smooth so we have quite a few years on it still. Given the fabulous condition on the car, I want to just keep it and drive it as long as we can. But yes, safety for our kids over accidents with a rusty undercarriage is gnawing at us. We don't have the experience with or expertise about undercarriage rust, and the two professional opinions we got were polar opposite, thus I came here.

I know my post was too long for many members to read. What we'd really like to know is how bad is the rust in the areas that I showed in the first set of pictures, whether or not we need to worry about about it as much as we are, and if so, can it be fixed or improved upon. Or is it just too elaborate/expensive to keep the car. Again my son is a new mechanic, so we don't pay labor.

Should I be posting in a different subforum to get more insights? I can keep that post short. LOL I need more insights regarding undercarriage rust.

Thanks everyone.
I'd keep the car and douse the underside with something like fluid film, or Boeshield, or waxoyl or some such. Then monitor it. I have a '98 3.2. There's rust on it, but the only really annoying rust is on the body panels and is caused from within. I too had a leaking steering rack which I replaced myself. The underside rust is concerning, but with a surface inhibitor I would guess you have a few years left. For comparison, I live the rust belt of PA. Aside from being a nice, safe car, you have the advantage of having fixed most of the things that any used old car is going to need done anyway. Short of struts/shocks. Anyway, I vote for keeping it and having your son check the underside at oil changes.
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Old 09-19-2018, 12:04 PM
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Thank you. It really helps that you recommended some products that I can look into. We aren't familiar with products that actually can make a difference and are worth the cost and effort, so thanks extremely helpful. I could also research how to cover the wheel well rust so it isn't such an eyesore, and possibly prolong its spreading too. For such great exterior and interior condition everywhere else it is surprising that the wheel wells have that. I think I read somewhere that rusting of the wheel wells on these cars is a common problem. When we bought it, that was the worst rust we thought it had.

My son is now spooked over safety hearing us talk about pros and cons of this car, and has asked us to give him the 2000 odyssey instead. Pretty unusual for a 16 year old boy, LOL. But he likes how good it feels driving and its safety, (amazing, but it does drive extremely well even after all these years.) That would mean this 97 Acura would be mine. I'm not sure he will stick with that preference given the private school he now attends. It's astounding the money these families have. Easily 10x what we make, and we do OK, but do live paycheck to paycheck and can't really save. The cars in the parking lot that the other kids drive blow my mind. Yesterday I parked in between two students' cars: a brand new black Porsche 911 Carrera on one side, and a gorgeous Lexus RX350 that any mother would love to drive ... my beat up, dented, 2000 Odyssey smack dab in the middle. The lot is primarily Lexus, Mercedes, Maseratis, BMWs, Acuras under two years old, Infinities and the like. Watching the students get into their cars was surreal. I'm not sure I would buy that for my teen even if I made several hundred a year, but would make them start out humbly and learn the value of earning and hard work to appreciate what they have. My son met one other kid that has a beat up minivan too, so thinks he won't mind, but this morning said, "well .... maybe" as we were driving through the parking lot. LOL

If I drive it, it's less of a concern overall, but if I had known I wouldn't have been looking at starter cars for a teen! I would have picked a different Acura for me, maybe even a used SUV.

Can't wait for a couple more votes/opinions. 2-0 so far keep vs sell.
Thank you for your time in reading my post
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Old 09-19-2018, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by JustJuju View Post
Thank you. It really helps that you recommended some products that I can look into. We aren't familiar with products that actually can make a difference and are worth the cost and effort, so thanks extremely helpful. I could also research how to cover the wheel well rust so it isn't such an eyesore, and possibly prolong its spreading too. For such great exterior and interior condition everywhere else it is surprising that the wheel wells have that. I think I read somewhere that rusting of the wheel wells on these cars is a common problem. When we bought it, that was the worst rust we thought it had.

My son is now spooked over safety hearing us talk about pros and cons of this car, and has asked us to give him the 2000 odyssey instead. Pretty unusual for a 16 year old boy, LOL. But he likes how good it feels driving and its safety, (amazing, but it does drive extremely well even after all these years.) That would mean this 97 Acura would be mine. I'm not sure he will stick with that preference given the private school he now attends. It's astounding the money these families have. Easily 10x what we make, and we do OK, but do live paycheck to paycheck and can't really save. The cars in the parking lot that the other kids drive blow my mind. Yesterday I parked in between two students' cars: a brand new black Porsche 911 Carrera on one side, and a gorgeous Lexus RX350 that any mother would love to drive ... my beat up, dented, 2000 Odyssey smack dab in the middle. The lot is primarily Lexus, Mercedes, Maseratis, BMWs, Acuras under two years old, Infinities and the like. Watching the students get into their cars was surreal. I'm not sure I would buy that for my teen even if I made several hundred a year, but would make them start out humbly and learn the value of earning and hard work to appreciate what they have. My son met one other kid that has a beat up minivan too, so thinks he won't mind, but this morning said, "well .... maybe" as we were driving through the parking lot. LOL

If I drive it, it's less of a concern overall, but if I had known I wouldn't have been looking at starter cars for a teen! I would have picked a different Acura for me, maybe even a used SUV.

Can't wait for a couple more votes/opinions. 2-0 so far keep vs sell.
Thank you for your time in reading my post
Brother, I hear you. I took a pay cut to work in academia over a decade ago. I recently found out my lab lost funding and I'm facing unemployment at the end of this month, for the first time in my adult life. My parking deck is full of McLarans, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Teslas, Lambos, etc. and they're all driven by Chinese students! Today I parked next to a brand new black and white Rolls. One of these kids tore a Corvette in two early Saturday morning. It's crazy. When I was younger I dated a girl whose room mate was the daughter of a well-known billionaire. This girl drove a Jeep CJ, I recall, and drank Old Milwaukee. Today's rich kids are different, I guess, and I agree with you. There is no amount of money that would allow me to put my teenage kid in an exotic car. Let alone in a foreign country. I think the Odyssey is a good choice. I've driven my sister-in-laws, and it's pretty nice. I drove a Mazda pick up in college, and considered myself lucky to have it.
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Old 09-19-2018, 02:45 PM
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LOL - My first car was a 1966 Buick Wildcat. Could have fit a King Size bed in the back seat. haha Beat up, old, ugly green and white, and rust everywhere. But then, we didn't wear seatbelts in those days so rust wouldn't have been a concern at all. Within the first three months, I was adjusting the "boombox" radio in my passenger seat (car radio didn't work,) and swerved off the road into a cornfield, tearing my entire muffler system off. Until I could save enough to get it fixed, I drove some friends and myself to school each day and we all pulled up green with our heads hanging out the window and our tongues out of our mouths. They wouldn't come near my car after that first week. LOL And I was the Salutatorian of my class. XD Booksmart, but just a bit stupid with common sense.
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Old 09-19-2018, 04:29 PM
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The crash worthyness of the vehicle is in the frame rails not the rusted subframe. If the frame rails are sound then the car is still in compliance with the DOT.. The subframe is bolted to the frame rails.

The subframe can be a safety issue. You just need to make sure it's sound. You can literally check it by sound. Tap on it with a hammer and see if the metal crumbles and listen closely to the pitch of the sound. It should be loud and solid sounding. If you're not sure what it sounds like, just tap on a good section of the subframe... front or back subframe. Don't be afraid to hit the sub frame, a solid medium tap should do the trick. This is not perfect but better than just a visual.

Rust on the exterior at the rear of the vehicle are superficial so not an issue in a rear collision. However, you should check the rear frame rails for corrosion. The rear bumper reinforcement is bolted to the rear frame rails.

You can kinda check to see how bad the rust is by poking it with a screw drive. If the screw driver goes through then you know for sure it's no longer sound. Of course this is not perfect to tell but it's better that just a visual.

You should use your Sem Rust Trap treatment to convert and stop the rust and then finish with a top coat (paint) at the rear of the car... The painted areas. For underneath use Rust Trap and then finish off the Sem Under Coat... PN: 39463.

The upper windshield repair is not technically hard but time consuming, it requires experience. Basically if its glued in with urethane then the windshield need to be cut out. YouTube is your friend. The seal is relatively cheap and can be replaced without replacing the windshield but the windshield need to come out.

Last edited by 01acls; 09-19-2018 at 04:35 PM.
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JustJuju (09-20-2018)
Old 09-20-2018, 12:54 PM
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Wow, how incredibly helpful. I'll print this and give it to my son. The results will help us make a decision. I also appreciate the reference to the types of products to use on my rear wheel wells. I knew that wasn't a safety issue but it is very ugly. We also did NOT know that the bumper reinforcement is bolted to the rear frame rails.

I'm so glad I took the time to communicate with this forum, and thankful for all of the replies. All of you are so knowledgeable with great insights. Thank you!!!
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