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Top tips: Dealing with rust

22 May 2012, 17:02 Dave Fall

In life they say there are two certainties we all have to face up to some day: death and taxes. I beg to differ because there’s a third component that you cannot overlook if you own a motorcycle – no matter the age or condition of the bike – and that’s the rust “monster”.

Rust never sleeps, that’s for sure. Once it's made its mark (excuse the pun) it’s awfully difficult to control. Blistered paintwork and corrosion can slash a bike’s selling price come trade-in time by hundreds, if not thousands of rands, I can tell you.

My pal Bob who lives around the corner has one of those fun-to-own, cheap-to-run, nippy Chinese scooters that’s about two years old – but you’d have thought he parks it on the beach every day – the chrome on the exhaust box and other parts of the bike have pitted so badly the bike looks to be more like 10 years old. (In truth, it actually nestles in a warm garage each night alongside his gleaming, but you’d never have guessed, elderly Harley-Davidson).


I haven’t been able to do much riding this past six weeks or so due to a bad bout of shingles* (something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy) and while looking closely at my own bike this past weekend I discovered to my horror distinct signs of rust starting to pit the mudguards, fork tubes and other areas in what seemed to be such a short space of time.

As a relatively new resident to the Mother City after residing in the generally warmer and drier kwaZulu-Natal Midlands for close on 30 years this was something of a wake-up call, I can tell you.

Whatever you do, don’t panic were the words going through my mind on seeing the neglect. But gladly there are two essential winning formulas in the seemingly endless fight against rust: prevention and cure. Make no mistake, regular cleaning and polishing are the front-line weapons in the rust war. One has to quickly conquer that rust monster while living at or near any coastal destination in our country, or else.

Treat yourself to a good wax polish immediately from your local hardware shop or automotive specialist and rub it in well to all the bright parts of your bike, preferably before they become pitted. Here’s a word of warning: don’t ever wash your bike in soapy dishwasher solution  … the chances are there’s more salt in cheap detergents than can be found at Muizenberg's Surfer's Corner!


For those “crusty” looking fins on the engine cases clean them off the best way you can and spray liberally with a WD40-type spray regularly. These types of spray are perfect for offering perfect protection to the heads of the machine Allen (Cap) screws that are probably scattered all over your bike.

Polishes are simply a mixture of waxes, polymers and silicone that create the all-important water-repellent layer. You have to remember your bike’s steel and aluminium alloy parts will only corrode once they are exposed to water and the air (the elements).

For those inevitable paint chips on the frame and other cycle parts use one of the Hammerite paints to stave off rust taking hold. Keep your eye on these regularly should they reappear. A small artist-type paintbrush works wonders here.

If you have some really ugly rust spots (on the bike, not you!) the best course of action is one of the proprietary rust eaters … again, your hardware shop should be able to direct you to the right product.

• A good tip I learned many years ago is to galvanise all your fasteners – we all collect plenty of these, don’t we! Commercial platers are to found in the yellow pages and normally charge by the kg – and that’s an awful lot of nuts, bolts and washers for not a lot of money.

*Can you recommend a painkiller that really works – would love to know its name!

- Wheels24


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