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how much rust is a problem for steel?

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how much rust is a problem for steel?

Old 03-04-07, 10:05 PM
  #1  
electricaltape
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how much rust is a problem for steel?

hello all,
i've got a steel bike. just wondering about the rust worries. i was about to tape up all the machined holes on the frame when someone told me they're drainage holes to prevent rusting on the inside (really?).

what i'm more curious about are the little chips that happen around all the screw hole threads (ie. bottle cage, fender mounts, etc), bottom of drops scraped on ground, chainstay, various knicks, etc.
how much of a danger is rusting that happens around these little bits?

cheers.
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Old 03-05-07, 08:21 AM
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Well, steel obviously rusts. If you have chips on the paint job, get a bit of clear coat & paint over them to protect the steel.
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Old 03-05-07, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by apclassic9
If you have chips on the paint job, get a bit of clear coat & paint over them to protect the steel.

I haven't worked on rusted steel since I did minor body repairs on my car -- and if you can recall the last time car bodies were made of metal that oughtta give you an idea of how outdated my advice might be! -- but at that time, the important thing was to be sure you removed any evidence of rust *before* you covered over the chipped paint w/ clear coat or touch-up paint. Use aluminum-oxide sandpaper or steel wool to remove any rust and feather the paint down to bare metal around the chip, wipe off any remaining dirt/dust/paint flakes/etc with a soft rag, *then* go ahead and touch up the spot.

Also look into FrameSaver for the inside of your bike. And yes, leave the drainage holes at the bottom of your frame open...BUT, it's often a good idea to tape over the slot in the back of your seat tube (that the seatpost clamp squeezes).
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Old 03-05-07, 09:36 AM
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The holes in the frame do serve as drainage holes after the fact, but their primary purpose is venting during the welding or brazing process when the frame is manufactured. Best thing you can do for a steel frame to prevent meaningful rust is to use Framesaver, as mentioned above, or something similar, on the inside of the frame's tubing-
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Old 03-05-07, 09:47 AM
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They generally don't rust very fast especially with the way bikes are operated. Unlike cars we don't park them overnight in the rain nor do bikes have lots of nooks and crannies and interior voids that get a lot of water and moisture inside them and because these areas never see the light of day they evaporate slowly causing more oxidation. Even when the paint is chipped up on a bike frame and you ride it regularly in the rain the rust still isn't very deep after years of abuse. If you follow the advice above, a once a year project at most, and don't leave your bike parked outside, a steel frame will last decades, many decades.

A great way to minimize water creeping into entry points on your frame: bottom brack, seatpost, headset, is to get a set of full coverage fenders. But living in San Diego you may be in one of the few parts of the country where you don't need to worry about fenders or rust.
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Old 03-05-07, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Ross
...and if you can recall the last time car bodies were made of metal...
??? Uhh, car bodies are still made of metal with a few exceptions. And, except for a few more exceptions, that metal is steel. They do a better job of treating the metal (mostly with zinc) before painting these days, so rust is less of a problem.
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Old 03-05-07, 01:34 PM
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My steel frame was heavily used in a damp coastal town and locked outdoors 24/7 for 2 years. I even rode it along the seafront during storms. I protected the inside with a squirt of WD40, the outside with car wax and all metal-metal contacts with grease. There is minor surface rust where the paint chips but I just smear more wax over this until it is time to use touch-up paint. The inside of the tubes, where I can see are shiny metal.
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Old 03-05-07, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by jhumason
??? Uhh, car bodies are still made of metal with a few exceptions.
Yeah, I must've been thinking about bumpers.

Or maybe I was thinking about Good Quality metal, 'cuz whatever my '98 Honda Civic's body is made of, it definitely ain't that!
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Old 03-06-07, 05:44 AM
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If you are in PDX you've got more worries with rust than in SAN, but unless you leave your bike out in the rain, or don't wipe it down after going out in the rain, it's not likely to have many problems (except for the chromed shiny bits on steel--THOSE will rust. If you've got steel rims still, get rid of them and get alloy rims. Unless you only ride the steel bike in SAN .)

You might want to visit the Classic & Vintage forum, too. Just do a search with the parameters set as 'rust' and confine the search to 'Classic & Vintage'.

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Old 03-06-07, 11:56 AM
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Last year I got rid of a steel bike that I'd had for over 20 years. Only rode it during about half of them, but it saw rain and snow when I did. No visible rust. The steel rims were a bit pitted, but nothing that would make you distrust their integrity or anything.
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Old 03-07-07, 10:27 AM
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Any steel frame bike made in the past fifty years by a major company, such as the original Schwinn company of Chicago, or Trek, etc., is amazingly resistent to significant rust damage. The better bike makers used high quality steel that was then treated for rust resistance prior to primer and painting. After the paint and primer is chipped, the treated steel forms a thin surface coat of rust, but deep pitting or rust-through virtually never occurs.

As a result, even in places such as Galveston and Houston, where the air is a mixture of salt from the Gulf of Mexico and toxic chemicals from our "friends" at ExxonMobil and BP, I've never seen a frame or fork fail due to rust.

The worst looking bike I've seen was a 1944ish Schwinn. It had been stored outside for most of the past sixty years. There were dime sized holes in the top tube were rust had completely eaten through the steel. It was still be ridden around the neighborhood by a tech at a Houston bike shop. None of the rust holes were near where tubes were joined, and he said the frame was still waay stronger than it needed to be.

Still, keep water OUT of the inside of your frame. Leave your bike in the sun for a few hours to evaporate out any moisture that might be inside the frame. Then, put grease around the seat post so that no water can go down the seat tube. Put a dab of grease in each of those tiny "drain" holes in the frame that are left from the manufacturing process to prevent rain from getting in.

An easy way to touch up paint chips is just to scrub them hard with a rough flannel rag dampened with pure alcohol. Then cover them with two coats of clear finger nail polish.
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Old 03-07-07, 02:13 PM
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thanks for the replies.

i will look into the framesaver stuff.
i think i may actually tape up the drainage holes, as recommended by zinn's 'art of road bike maintenance'. perhaps 'air out' the bike after rainy rides. extra goop inside seat tube. buffing and nail polishing the knicks.

the bike spends most of its time in portland. and i figure if rust is about to ever become a substantial problem, it could take a trip to the paint shop.

also, rust can be quite an issue in san diego, depending on how close to the coast you are. i'm right at the beach when i'm down there. my old car can attest to that.
cheers.
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