Rust – A Common Quality Issue Of Two-wheelers In India

India is the largest two-wheeler market in the world with the sale of 17 million bikes and scooters in 2016-17. The Two-wheeler quality has phenomenally improved since the entry of the Japanese manufacturers Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha in India from the mid-80’s. The home-grown two-wheeler leaders also improved their product quality.

Rust has been a major quality and visual issue since the old `Hamara Bajaj’ days. India has long coastal and rain-fed areas with enough moisture to seed rust quickly on uncovered metallic parts. Rust is a silent killer and most critical quality issue for the vehicle manufacturers in India. The metal-eating rust is seen on almost all two-wheelers.

It is more prominent where the vehicle is not maintained properly by customers.

Two-wheelers near the coastal areas have severe rusting problems due to the proximity to  salty water and humid weather.

 White Rust, Red Rust

Red rust is an oxidation process that changes the state of the metal. In the presence of oxygen and water or moisture, the metal starts to disintegrate forming a new component. The new component is much weaker than the metal and slowly spreads through the metallic surface. It is to be noted that the metallic surfaces corrode when they come in contact with air and water.

White rust is similar to the red rust but happens on the zinc-coated steel products. Some metals like copper oxidise and form a protective layer of oxidation that saves the inner layers. Metals and alloys of iron form rust but they do not save the inner layers, and rust can continue to disintegrate the whole metal part slowly.

Most Vulnerable Parts

 The following are the most common parts of two-wheelers that get rusted easily.

Engine section: The engine is exposed in the two-wheelers as against 4-wheelers. Motorcycle engines, which are placed in open part of the motorcycle gets constantly splashed by rain and water puddle on the road. The fins of air-cooled engine lose the coating over time due to excessive heat, and develop rust.

Wheel, chain and sprocket: Motorcycle wheels are constantly in contact with the water on roads. Chains and sprocket that grind against each other are totally exposed to the environment unlike the engine components. While the close type chains require less maintenance and care, the open ones need more attention. Wheel rims, chain and sprocket are extremely prone to rust if they are not oiled periodically.

Chrome parts: Chrome parts like the key ignition area, handlebar, grab rail etc are dipped in chrome to make the product look more premium. Chrome parts are little more susceptible to rust than the painted parts.

 Any metal part of the motorcycle or the scooter can get rusted if the paint of the part chips off or is scratched. Frames are the most common places where rust can attack first. The frame is welded, and sometimes, paint may not cover the welded joints properly. The metal parts that come in contact with the humid air start to rust.

Other shiny parts which are not painted but galvanised are also prone to rust. Parts like exhaust manifold and muffler, engine fins, chain sprocket, spoke rims, inside of fuel tank, main stand, brake pedal, clutch pedal, gear shifter, chrome handle and levers are extremely prone to rust. All these places can get scratched, and the galvanization coating can give away easily. The exposed metal begins to rust.

Other essential parts like ignition key and exposed nuts and bolts can also start to rust over time. The number plate gets rusted very quickly. The paint starts to come off from the lower section of the number plate due to constant water splashing on it while riding through wet roads.

Manufacturing Process

 When the vehicles are still on the assembly lines, they get a coat of red oxide and paint on the metal surfaces. Other parts like engine fins get powder coating as it becomes very hot and regular paint will not be able to handle it. Similarly, the exhaust muffler goes through galvanising process to get a layer of another alloy which is less susceptible to rust. Even after so many steps, the rust surfaces and there are no special treatments done to the vehicle that is sold in the coastal region or the rain-prone areas like the North-Eastern states of India.

Workshops, Consumers

Rust is often ignored by the common consumers. Local workshops, however, advise repaint the surface or oil the parts like chain and sprocket and wheel hubs. Post-delivery treatments like Teflon and wax coatings are often done by workshops to prevent rusting. These are the best rust removers for two-wheelers, but many customers do not wish to spend on them.

Many smart customers, however, spot the rust at an early stage and take some countermeasures like repainting the surface and polishing the surface with wax. These are most common solutions that the market adopts to deal with rust.

However, the customers expect the manufacturers to build products with more effective quality standards that overcome rust and other issues at least for 3-5 years, the average resale time of a two-wheeler in India.

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I have a Bajaj Platina Bike and i faced many rust problems. Bike Companies should take care rust issue. Two wheeler should not get rusted in 5 years.

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