Rust - particularly in temperate climates - is a car killer. It’s all well and good if you live in California and can leave cars out on your driveway without a care in the world, but in an often rainy place like the UK, cars can easily rot and crumble away.
This is due to the oxidisation of metal when water is left to sit and fester in whichever crevice it can find. And considering that wheel arches and sills are the first point of contact for water being flicked up from the road surface, they are normally the first casualties.
Normally, the only way to repair your car after an infestation of rust is some good old grinding, cutting and some choice fabrication. But earlier this year, a video went viral that blew the traditional rust removal methods out the water and had us all yearning for the revolutionary method in our lives.
This epic contraption is built buy a company called Clean Laser and is its 1000 Watt rust-remover called the CL 1000. Cleaning a rusty grille down to nice shiny metal, the device appears to complete a two-hour job in seconds. And the great thing is that there is no hoax or camera trickery, this technology does exist!
The process is called sublimation and is the act of changing the state of metal to a gas form, skipping the liquid phase. This is achieved using high frequency bursts of micro-plasma which - when combined with extremely high thermal pressure and shockwaves - can be set to a certain depth to skim away a surface of rust. So the device can be set to burn away pretty much any material that is layered over metal, be it paint, filler or dreaded rust.
This technology could be a true game-changer in the world of car restoration. If a car’s chassis and bodywork are beyond the realms of a plug-in grinder to provide some mechanical sandpaper, sand-blasting can be used to remove even the thickest sections of corrosion, but this requires a complete strip-down and is a messy, arduous process. Therefore this handheld vacuum-like product could be the answer to every car restorer’s dreams.
What makes this laser device even more intriguing is the fact that it has an on-board hoover system that immediately sucks up the vaporised rust, making the entire rust removal process as clean and simple as you could possibly hope for.
Unfortunately, there is a rather large drawback - the cost. These state-of-the-art contraptions ain’t sitting on Machine Mart’s shelves for £50. The cheapest version on the market is a much smaller, less-powerful 20W unit that starts at $80,000 (£62,000). That 1000W specimen from the video would set you back an eye-watering $480,000 (£370,000). So it’s fair to say that laser rust removal is probably out of the reach of most petrolheads trying to restore their project car for next month’s car meet.
On the other hand, there is hope. So much technology throughout the past couple of decades has become available to the average home mechanic at extremely affordable prices, giving the practical amongst us a chance to properly work on our own cars. Be it MIG welders, plasma cutters or entire car lifts, mechanical work on your car has been made much easier by the availability of once specialist tech.
So leave it a few years and I can guarantee that this rather convenient tech will be in your local hardware store ready to take home and plug in. Have you got a hopeless project car sitting in your garage, bathing in its own rust? Well then, there may be light at the end of the tunnel!