'Rustproofing' treatment not worth its salt, UB laboratory experiments have shown


News Services Staff

WHILE SOME corrosion-control treatments may be beneficial, a UB professor has proven in laboratory experiments that one rust-proofing treatment billed as protecting motor vehicles against the ravages of rust-"Rust-Evader"-just isn't worth its salt.

Makers of "Rust-Evader," which RustEvader Corp. also sells under the name "RustBuster," "Electro-Image" and "Eco-Guard," have been charged with making false claims about their product by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC is seeking an administrative order that would prohibit RustEvader Corp. in Altoona, Pa., from making deceptive claims about its automotive products.

According to Robert Good, UB professor of chemical engineering, he was contacted about his experiments by FTC commissioners while they were making their investigation.

"As far as I can tell, this product has no effect at all," said Good. "The people who sell it make a big point of saying that it can't do any harm to your car, and they're right. The only harm done is to your pocketbook."

The FTC has charged that RustEvader Corp. has falsely represented to automobile dealers that reports of laboratory tests performed on the RustEvader provide scientific proof that it reduces corrosion on motor vehicles.

The company also provides car dealerships with materials so that they may perform the demonstration themselves.

But when Good conducted experiments that simulate the method in his laboratory at UB, he found that the company's claims about its product were false.

"It looks like an authentic corrosion-control product," said Good, explaining that the claims sound plausible because the product is described as providing what is known as cathodic protection, and the product includes something that could be called a cathode, which is a negatively charged electrode.

"What makes it a fraud is that some of the parts essential to a cathodic system aren't present," he said.

The electrochemical system is designed to look similar to one that works very well in reducing corrosion in ships and ocean locks, he explained. The difference, he adds, is that when a ship's hull is submerged, the sodium and chloride ions in the salt water conduct electricity, creating a complete circuit.

"With the RustEvader, the manufacturer provides a cathode and an anode, which attaches to the car battery," said Good.

"The catch is that since there's no salt solution between the cathode and the anode, there is no conduction path, so the circuit is incomplete and no protection can occur," said Good.

In his laboratory at UB, Good conducted a series of experiments where a piece of steel, representing the car, was exposed to salt water.

Without the RustEvader connected, rust began to form on the steel after about one hour.

With the RustEvader connected, rust also began to form on the steel after about one hour.

"This product has no effect at all," said Good.

The FTC case is scheduled to be heard in May 1996.

Car owners who wonder what will prevent or postpone rust might take a tip from Good, who writes limericks and verse in his spare time:

"Ashes to ashes,

dust to dust,

if you don't wash your car,

it'll turn to rust."

Good says this is especially true during the winter, when washing removes road salt from motor vehicles.

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