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  1. #1
    Spin Meister icyclist's Avatar
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    Frame Corrosion Question

    Hi, I purchased a nice, new frame in January. It's polished steel, supposedly with a clear coat over it. It looks great.

    Except that little brown splotches, maybe a quarter inch to an inch in size, have begun appearing on random surfaces of the frame over the past few weeks. Most of the discoloration is down at the bottom bracket area. Other splotches (some of which seem to have little tentacles that radiate out from a larger center) are on a rear seat stay and on the front fork. So far I've seen about a half a dozen of these splotches, and the worst one is on the rear seat stay.

    Most of the splotches are smooth to the touch, however a few of the splotches have texture on them, as if they've come through the clear coat, assuming it's there.

    I've got several hundred miles on the bike, and I sweat a lot. The splotches, except maybe around the bottom bracket, don't seem to be in places where I'd drip sweat.

    What happened? Bad or non/existent clear coat?

    And what remedy, short of suing the person who sold me the bike, might I have?

    - Might I be able to re-polish by hand these splotchy areas (I have no experience with that)?

    - Is there a way to stop the spread of these splotches? Maybe a new clear coat, or just somehow strip off whatever clear coat might be on the frame, and then paint it?
    This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

    Icyclist, the blog considered too areodite for bikeforums

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    As you probably know, clear coated frames are prone to this, and some companies seem to have greater or lessor success, more variability than others. There does not seem to be one foolproof product that one can just use with confidence. Part of this may related to different degrees of corrosion resistance in metals, and permeability in clear coats. Some of the tubing I store in my shop stays rust free indefinitely, and some of it looks like solid rust as the first breeze from out of doors comes through the shop.

    I suppose you can pursue the usual remedies. Paint is the best bet. Paint itself may or not be so wonderful, but epoxy primer is good stuff, and the paint does a pretty good job protecting that from the uv.
    Last edited by MassiveD; 06-14-12 at 02:03 AM.

  3. #3
    Randomhead
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    my understanding is that this is very common. In fact, I have heard that this often happens under powdercoat, but we don't see it because most powdercoat is opaque.

    This just reminded me I have never done anything about the FAQ, going to make a link to this thread in there

  4. #4
    Spin Meister icyclist's Avatar
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    MassiveD wrote: "As you probably know, clear coated frames are prone to this,"

    If I'd known, I wouldn't have purchased the bike! The "polished steel" was a selling point. Why buy it if it's going to end up covered in rust?

    The idea of painting my lovely, polished steel frame, for which I paid a lot extra over the regularly painted version, seems unfair, but then, life isn't always fair. I think the the seller owes me new paint job or another bike that's already painted.
    This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

    Icyclist, the blog considered too areodite for bikeforums

  5. #5
    Andrew R Stewart Andrew R Stewart's Avatar
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    Icyclist- Your builder made you happy. They did what you asked for. Now with new knowlege you want some other quality. Seems to me like you bought too soon. Andy.

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    Randomhead
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    it's really too bad, but I blame the builder too. It's not too hard to find discussions of this on the internet, and the people who follow through on it usually report failure. I'd really be interested to hear about the Speedvagens that were made with clearcoat, although they weren't polished

  7. #7
    Andrew R Stewart Andrew R Stewart's Avatar
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    I'm at odds with this ethic we are talking about. Builder is in the know (or so we hope). Customer wants what he sees on line, thinks is cool. Who is right/wrong here? Is this clear over raw steel a safety issue? Will it distruct catastriphicly? I don't think so. Will it have a limited life span? Will it need future "maintainance" to survive? Yes. Like other choices that a rider makes about his equipment some choose short term gain, some the long term.

    The big loss as I see it is the builder's rep if his name gets out. Andy.

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    We don't have any statement from the OP that he requested the clearcoat. If we don't know if it was requested by him or the builder sold him on it, we don't know whose character to assassinate.
    To the OP, take a look at a product called ProtectaClear. The company claims it will protect metal even in a marine environment. I have no idea if it really works but would love to find out. If you try it, let us know.

  9. #9
    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
    The big loss as I see it is the builder's rep if his name gets out. Andy.
    the OP is riding the builder's bike around with visible rust under the clear -- it's a walking bad advertisement. The builder's best interest is to get it fixed and chalk it up as an expensive lesson. This is one of many reasons that builders shouldn't give them away, some frames are going to require expensive rework.

    I am curious if the OP was the motivation for this finish or if the builder presented it as an option that the OP decided he liked.

    I would only clear over stainless, and even then I'm not sure about it. There is someone that posts over on the MTBR forums that does this and reports no problems, I didn't think he was selling frames though.
    Last edited by unterhausen; 06-15-12 at 08:08 AM.

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    Brompton has a clear also, and my friend has had one for a couple of years, so far so good.

    I think custom builders shouldn`t build stuff they know to be crap, for a variety of reasons. Of course another possibility is that there is a painter somewhere in the background also.

    Did a search on Bromptons and people report problems with the clear coat also. Sound like the same problem you are having.

  11. #11
    Randomhead
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    from what I can tell, a lot of times there is real reluctance for the painter/powdercoater to do the clear.

  12. #12
    THE Materials Oracle Falanx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by busdriver1959 View Post
    We don't have any statement from the OP that he requested the clearcoat. If we don't know if it was requested by him or the builder sold him on it, we don't know whose character to assassinate.
    To the OP, take a look at a product called ProtectaClear. The company claims it will protect metal even in a marine environment. I have no idea if it really works but would love to find out. If you try it, let us know.
    As a professional working in keeping fatigue lifed parts alive under coatings for expected service periods of 35 years, I would like to say: balls.

    Clearcoats contain no anticorrosive pigments, have a very short diffusion path to substrate and piss-awful surface adhesion energies to metals. It's hard enough keeping reactive metals intact under leaching, semisoluble anticorrosive pigment loaded three-layer paint systems, let alone under none of the above.

    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    the OP is riding the builder's bike around with visible rust under the clear -- it's a walking bad advertisement. The builder's best interest is to get it fixed and chalk it up as an expensive lesson. This is one of many reasons that builders shouldn't give them away, some frames are going to require expensive rework.

    I am curious if the OP was the motivation for this finish or if the builder presented it as an option that the OP decided he liked.

    I would only clear over stainless, and even then I'm not sure about it. There is someone that posts over on the MTBR forums that does this and reports no problems, I didn't think he was selling frames though.
    As the only reason stainless steels remain stainless is ready access to atmospheric oxygen, I'd be inclined not to clearcoat them. It tends to defeat that behaviour

    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    from what I can tell, a lot of times there is real reluctance for the painter/powdercoater to do the clear.
    You do surprise me ;-)
    "While my father fought for you, I learnt. While my father glorified your petty administration, I learnt. While he longed every day for our line, Adunís line, to be restored, I learnt. He sent me away to bring the Dark Templar back when the time was right!
    "And you tell me that I cannot do this? That I cannot feel the weight of the universe?
    "Damn you, Tellan! Aldaris killed my father!"

  13. #13
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    If you like the look of polished steel finished, get a stainless steel (953, XCr, or KVA) frame and don't clear coat it. It'll look new for a lifetime.

    - Stan

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    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by Falanx View Post
    As the only reason stainless steels remain stainless is ready access to atmospheric oxygen, I'd be inclined not to clearcoat them. It tends to defeat that behaviour
    The only reason I mentioned this is that I know some stainless bicycles are clear coated. This always surprised me a little.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Falanx View Post

    Clearcoats contain no anticorrosive pigments, have a very short diffusion path to substrate and piss-awful surface adhesion energies to metals. It's hard enough keeping reactive metals intact under leaching, semisoluble anticorrosive pigment loaded three-layer paint systems, let alone under none of the above.



    As the only reason stainless steels remain stainless is ready access to atmospheric oxygen, I'd be inclined not to clearcoat them. It tends to defeat that behaviour
    As is so frequently the case, you include more information than we can easily absorb so some clarification will be needed.

    I understand that a coherent oxide layer is important for the function of "stainless" steel and that access to oxygen is important for the establishment of this layer, yet KVA recommend the use of Boeshield T9 on any frame constructed from their MS2 steel. I'm not sure why.

  16. #16
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kelly View Post
    I understand that a coherent oxide layer is important for the function of "stainless" steel and that access to oxygen is important for the establishment of this layer, yet KVA recommend the use of Boeshield T9 on any frame constructed from their MS2 steel. I'm not sure why.
    Perhaps I'm looking in the wrong place, but the KVA website section on MS2 Bicycle Tubing Care & Maintenance doesn't mention this.
    - Stan

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
    Perhaps I'm looking in the wrong place, but the KVA website section on MS2 Bicycle Tubing Care & Maintenance doesn't mention this.
    It's in their FAQs: "A complete frame made with MS2™ tubing can be media blasted, brushed or mirror finished, and/or left raw, without clear coat. We suggest a liquid or paste car wax or you can use WD-40 to clean and follow with a specialty metal protectant coating such as Boeshield T-9ģ to help protect the finish.

  18. #18
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    OK; thanks.

    It seems unecessary to me. I use Boeshield T-9 on the interior surfaces of my aluminum airframe, and it leaves a waxy coating on the surface that I'm not sure I'd like on my stainless bicycle frame.

    http://boeshield.com/: "The [Boeshield T-9] formulation, based on a unique combination of solvents and waxes, is designed to penetrate metal pores and dissolve minor corrosion, then leave a resilient waxy coating that lasts for many months." and "Dries to a clean Paraffin Wax film so it will not pick up dirt."
    - Stan

  19. #19
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
    OK; thanks.

    It seems unecessary to me. I use Boeshield T-9 on the interior surfaces of my aluminum airframe, and it leaves a waxy coating on the surface that I'm not sure I'd like on my stainless bicycle frame.

    I]
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  20. #20
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
    OT..... does this mean you are building a plane now also?
    Yep; a two place Zenith CH601XL Zodiac. The airframe is aluminum alloy.

    - Stan

  21. #21
    Andrew R Stewart Andrew R Stewart's Avatar
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    This direction of thread that SS needing a layer of oxide has me thinking. How soon does this layer establish itself? If it does this in minutes of time after cleaning and/or brazing (and flux removal) then by the time that any inhibitor is applied it might be a moot point. Andy.

  22. #22
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    According to several sources on the interwebz, the chromium oxide passivation layer, which is only a few molecules thick, reforms over a few hours.

    "After the bath and a rinsing phase, the passive layer will begin to form. It may take a couple of hours (and as much as 24 hours) for the passive layer to completely regenerate. After this 24-hour rest time, testing the passivity of the stainless steel is imperative and can be performed simply with a passivation tester meter. Proper testing of finished parts will not only satisfy quality control engineers and end users, but will also serve as validation of the entire passivation bath procedure."

    http://www.productionmachining.com/a...n-of-stainless
    - Stan

  23. #23
    Senior Member Cassave's Avatar
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    To the OP;
    If the frame is already polished and you like that look (who doesn't) consider having it electroless nickel plated. EN is a catalytic deposition so no current is used, meaning no hydrogen embrittlement and very even deposition.
    A medium phosphorous NE can be matte or bright and is an excellent corrosion inhibitor.

  24. #24
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cassave View Post
    If the frame is already polished and you like that look (who doesn't) consider having it electroless nickel plated. EN is a catalytic deposition so no current is used, meaning no hydrogen embrittlement and very even deposition.
    That's interesting. I googled "electroless nickel plating" and THIS popped up. Do you think a DIY kit like the "Jumbo" (600 square inches) would work on a polished bare 4130 bicycle frame? At $349 it would be a pricey experiment.

    I did a quick calculation, and it looks like my 61cm (24") frame has an exterior surface of about 530 square inches.
    - Stan

  25. #25
    THE Materials Oracle Falanx's Avatar
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    Sorry for my slow replies, been away, holidays, all that jazz, so I'll try to go around the new stuff ASAP...

    Why do KVA recommend Boeshield? Essentially, and in the kindest way possible to the fine gentlemen and women there, because they don't know what they're talking about. The buzz around KVA is that they found a cost-effective way of making high strength stainless steel tubing for bike frames. Their patents are all based around clever tubing manufacturing routes, not an intimate understanding of discrete metallurgy. And I salute them for their clever use of design. But stainless steels much prefer being wet to being oily, if you catch my drift. Anything that stops oxygen getting at a high chromium steel stops the very mechanism by which it survives. I can understand why they suggest it - because it prevents waterborne reducing agents, like chloride ions getting at the surface in the first place and doing terrible, terrible damage. But a far better way of stopping it is to WASH THE DAMNED STUFF OFF. If waxes really stopped salty water getting at steel, then you'd only need to underseal a car once.

    Second, you can drive a horse and cart through the different degree of stainlessness of 'stainless' steels. Aerospace makes a point of not using the word at all if it can be helped and refers instead (usually) to high chromium martensitic, dual-phase or precipitation hardening steels as 'corrosion-resisting' and conventional 'stainless', high chromium, austenitic steels as corrosion-resistant. That's because, for example, Greek Ascoloy or Carpenter 455 has ****ty corrosion resistance compared to, oh 21-6-9 or 318LN. So the passivity and the degree of passivation of a given corrosion resisting or resistant steel can vary by as much as two orders of magnitude, and is well rated by the empirical PREN number. Most ASTM, MIL and equivalent passivation procedures take minutes and the product is most passive immediately after completion. Exposure to corrodants in the air is demonstrably accumulative, not subtractive.

    Third, the surface 'film' isn't just plain chromium oxide, but that's a digression for later if any of you are particularly interested :-)

    Fourth, autocatalytic metallic deposition reactions that are galvanic in nature may still have free hydoxonium* ions kicking about, so don't think that EN is blameless. It can achieve some quite remarkable hardnesses, too, which is interesting. Until you realise it has the ductile elongation of a carrot, and once cracked, it's excellent barrier properties start becoming a galvanic corrosion accelerator...



    *There's no such thing as a naked hydrogen ion. In real life it binds up with a water molecule to form H3O+, the hydroxonium ion.
    "While my father fought for you, I learnt. While my father glorified your petty administration, I learnt. While he longed every day for our line, Adunís line, to be restored, I learnt. He sent me away to bring the Dark Templar back when the time was right!
    "And you tell me that I cannot do this? That I cannot feel the weight of the universe?
    "Damn you, Tellan! Aldaris killed my father!"

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