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Checking for salt damage

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New User

Dec 30, 2014, 2:22 PM

Post #1 of 4 (939 views)
Checking for salt damage Sign In

I'm looking at a 2009 Avalon in a couple days that had an original owner in Wisconsin and I'm concerned about salt damage leading to rust in the future. I'm in Seattle and we don't really salt our roads here and I know that when the dealership got the car here from auction the undercarriage was washed.
I've requested they lift the car so I can inspect the undercarriage with a flashlight, but I'm not really sure what to look for.

Since it's an '09, I don't imagine I'd see much in the way of rust. What should I be looking out for under the car?


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Dec 30, 2014, 3:40 PM

Post #2 of 4 (920 views)
Re: Checking for salt damage Sign In

You might not see much at a glance but places to look include......
*Seams on lower doors inside.
*Get underneath and look all around. Bolts put on or thru metal it would be showing.
* Trunk or rear where you can look low inside rear quarter down low behind where wheels would spray if seen INSIDE trouble is coming. Some on outside wheel trim you decide.

I'm from perhaps the world's worst place for extensive road salting exacerbated by and snow banks melting during the day even several times after a snow or ice situation the melt water is RE-SALTED again and again. It harms vehicles worse if driven faster and behind other vehicles spray such as forced melted then wet super salted water just gets everywhere. #1 vehicle killer next to pushing them off a cliff!

This car being a unit body (any style can have serious problems) will have sub frame areas and spot welds under body and seams down low even the areas you would use the car's own jack to hoist it.

You can wash them all clean of salt but it stays in pockets and hidden places and doesn't quit till it corrodes it way out leaving up to total destruction are critical areas never mind what might get ugly seen from outside.

Don't discount the vehicle just because it's from you said Wisconsin, a known salt state. Some owner's may not be out in or lousy road conditions and garaged vehicles survive much better even when exposed so don't rule out a vehicle just from location alone.

Avalon and others seem to do better in general salted or not. Wild problems can happen early with exhaust parts, brakes, fuel and brake lines, fuel tanks and so on.

You fix what comes up if you live it till you give up as the only real fix is to totally cut out or replace entire parts involved at some point no longer worth it and a safety issue.

Sorry for the novel. If the price is right and still OK everywhere you look and you aren't expecting mega years more out of it then go for it anyway. It will slow down but not stop once it's infected it there.

IMO this is a bit new to be fatal anytime soon either way just price accordingly. It's always advised to have a car checked out pre-purchase in general not just rust alone but the whole package, miles, maintenance history, accidents show evidence and at least know it was repaired top shelf work not hacked or worse a fixed wreck that was totaled I would avoid rust or not. Known to me as vehicle's with a "Salvage" title had damage above the value of the vehicle repaired at the time. Bargains sometimes and more often a nightmare forever on,


New User

Dec 30, 2014, 7:30 PM

Post #3 of 4 (908 views)
Re: Checking for salt damage Sign In

Thank you all for your help, Tom! I will search all of the locations recommended. Luckily there is the same car available for just barely more with about 20,000 more miles (still less than 100k) from a single owner here in the Seattle area, so if this car doesn't pan out I have a backup plan.

Thanks again!

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Dec 30, 2014, 11:50 PM

Post #4 of 4 (893 views)
Re: Checking for salt damage Sign In

Time is your best friend when buying. A seller in a hurry is his/her own worst problem. For the age of the car take the whole thing in not just one area that matters. Care all along if only carefully driver counts too.

I find most of about this age that are quite nice are folks who bought new and were wise to how little it was worth as a trade in for another so selling on their own and will take less but get more than a trade in.

If this doesn't work and you find newer I go one more and age the car by the build date not the model year that can be a whole year off. Read the driver's door jam for month and year made. May not have been sold for a few months but it started aging then, sat in weather (near always) sun, rained on and just moved around now and then till sold new. Unreal what silly issues come up new (you think) as battery is older, tires exposed, fuel never that great and oil just sat at the bottom of engine and can be horrible to needing serious work with no miles on them.

Same with the so called "old lady's" car that looks so great with wild low miles. Check 'em all out anyway, yourself and or a professional check at your expense at a place independent of the seller. If they refuse to let you, let it go right then and there. They may want to go and understand that it's their car still.

You are being smart to worry about rust now. I'm inland from Boston just N. of Interstate 90 which seems like the world's worst line marking the rust belts coast to coast. Cars from a lot further North are actually less rusty! It stays cold, less salt as it doesn't work anyway and too expensive in low populated far NE areas of USA. Near always garaged. No sun damage and fewer accident cars.

Right here you get the snow birds (some) that buy new here and Winter every year in the South, frequently FL. My own is one of those gorged at both ends never saw salted roads. I don't use it when the roads are even wet if possible so it appears like a two year old car still and going on it's 27th model year! No, don't go that old unless collecting and know the biz. Even I'm getting old for this crap.

You've targeted the best bang for the buck age of vehicle. Should have a known track record of which ones turned out better than others now and prices begin to drop off fast.

Good luck. The more you do now the more luck you'll have,


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