Mechanics say car owners are ignoring a rust safety problem

Salt causing problems for drivers

CLEVELAND - While the Ford Windstar rust recall has topped the headlines, our investigation found it's not just Windstar owners who need to worry about rust.

Our investigation uncovered more than a million cars that have been recalled for rust problems that could lead to a crash. Car dealerships told WEWS-TV in Cleveland that car owners are not taking these dangerous recalls seriously.

It was a picture perfect day in the spring of 2010 when Kim Canfora bought a shiny, black Isuzu Rodeo.

"The car looked fine from the outside," Canfora said.

Just more than 7 months later, the car was deemed unreapairable by a local dealer.

"The frame is rusted out, there's a hole," Canfora said.

Isuzu is recalling 1998-2002 Rodeos and 2002 Axioms originally or currently registered in salt belt states for corrosion problems.

The corrosion is so extensive in some cars, Isuzu is not repairing them. Canfora's car was parked along with a dozen others waiting for its day in the crusher.

"I had no idea I was driving something that was unsafe," Canfora said.

Car dealership service manager thinks someone should investigate

"I wish I could tell you it's a rare instance," said Bill Opalich, service manager of a dealership in Ohio.

Canfora did not buy her car at that dealer. It's the dealer inspecting cars and repairing them, if possible.

"Unfortunately some people are buying these cars and they're not paying them off before they have the problem," Opalich explained.

Our investigation found 11 vehicles were recalled since 2009 for rust-related issues near the frame or suspension that may increase the chance of a crash.

The cars include the following: 2001-2003 Hyundai Santa Fe, 1998-2002 Honda Passports, 1998-2002 Isuzu Rodeos, 2002 Isuzu Axioms, 2000-2003 Toyota Tundra, 2001-2004 Kia Optima, 2001-2003 Hyundai Elantra, 2003 Hyundai Tiburon, 1999-2004 Hyundai Sonata, and the 2004 Hyundai XG 300 and XG 350.

While the manufacturers are taking action and placing blame on the salt that's used on our roads, car dealerships who see these problems over and over wonder if there's a bigger issue.

"Somebody should really figure this out so we don't make the same mistake again," Opalich said.

Consumer lesson

Consumers have something to learn from this, too. You should pay $75-100 to have a used car independently inspected before you drive it off the lot. If you have a good relationship with a mechanic or service department at a dealership you may even get it inspected for free.

It's a mistake Canfora won't make again.

"I think $75 is not a lot of money when it comes down to your life," Canfora said.

While you should have every car inspected before you buy it no matter the age, the recalls we examined were for cars at least six years old at the time of the recall. Mechanics suggested looking for rust when the car is about five years old.

Ask your mechanic during an oil change if he noticed anything unusual. That's why it's so important to build a good relationship with a mechanic you can trust so he'll alert you to dangerous problems with your car.

Dealership responds

We called the dealership where Canfora bought her car. The dealership did not return our call, but soon after, we left a message for Fred Martin and the dealer offered to refund Canfora's deposit.

Isuzu is buying back the car.

Canfora is happy with the outcome.

This is not Canfora's first rust recall. She also owned a Ford Windstar. The two car manufacturers handled the recall differently. Ford paid for her rental car, and Isuzu is not.

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