4XGUARD Product Finish
Introduction At 4xGuard we work hard to design and build a product for our customers that's not only useful but also good looking.  Rust, therefore, is one of our greatest enemies, because the truth is that nothing shy of making our parts out of Titanium — which would be awesome but a bit unaffordable — will stop rust.  As a business, though, we want to push the "rust-free" window out as far as we can. As a customer, you want the same thing.  We all want to buy time.

To that end, 4xGuard from its inception has been in constant contact with leading metal-finish industry professionals, seeking out the best ways to finish our products while keeping costs, performance, and repairability within reason. As it stands, 4xGuard is paying more for its finish than the vast majority of off-road accessory manufacturers, because we are trying to do what all those metal-finish professionals say is best rather than what our company accountants might say is best.
Multi-stage Finishing Process As of September 1, 2010, that means that products moving through our assembly line are subject to a new multi-stage finishing process that is far above the industry norm:
  1. After the metalwork of laser-cutting, welding, and hand-buffing is complete, each of our products is laboriously sandblasted to clean the surface and prepare it for painting. Many companies in the industry just dip their parts in a potentially dirty acid and/or a phosphate rinse.
  2. Once cleaned using compressed air, the product is re-heated to enhance paint coverage and eliminate all accumulated moisture, and then coated with a Zinc-formulated primer. Many companies don't prime their parts, and fewer go to the extra expense to use a Zinc primer.
  3. Each product is then subject to a powdercoating treatment, resulting in a finish that is twice as thick as the industry standard.
Rust Issues Again, rust is inevitable with what we do.  We would be lying if we said anything else. And the factors that can speed or slow it are largely out of our control: atmospheric humidity, salt on the roads (here in Colorado it's mag-chloride), acidic rainfall due to nearby factories, improper care and maintenance ... to say nothing of trail damage.  And of course our products — unlike, for instance, roof racks or the like — are frequently mounted down in the grit and grime, the salt and the slime.  Simple road travel alone is constantly kicking up tiny particulates that scatter across the guards and negatively impact the finish. 

When it comes down to it, then, we know it's ultimately futile to try to stop a fundamental force of nature. But that's not going to stop us from trying to do it. And with this multi-stage finishing process in place, we are confident that we are doing the best that we can to open up the largest "rust-free" window possible.
Stopping the Spread (Maintenance)

As we said above, no matter how a person finishes a product, rust WILL happen to any steel parts whether we like it or not. Nature always wins. You will face rust on your accessories at some point, whether they are multi-staged 4xGuard parts or not.

So what should you do when it shows up?

First off, don't let it get worse.  Try to stop the spread early. It means a bit of elbow grease, but you knew you were going to get dirty when you bought a Jeep. So roll up your sleeves and get to work sooner rather than later.

The basic idea, as you'll see, is to get the rust off, seal the area with rust-inhibitive primer, and then paint it to match the surrounding surface (always test paint color on an inconspicuous or hidden area first). When it comes to paint, many Jeepers have reported great success with ACE Rust Stop and Rustoleum High Performance Enamel. We've had some success with Krylon. There are also "paint over rust" products availabe — like Hammerite — though reports are mixed about their long-term viability. (We'd love to hear your preference.)

If you don't have your own rust-control method — combating rust is such a time-honored tradition among Jeepers that a lot of us tend to have our own quasi-Voodoo potions and rituals to take to the fight — then you can try the method our family has used for generations:

  1. Kick the tire. Doesn't help the rust, but it lets loose some anger. Plus, the pain in your toes will take your mind off the knuckles that you'll scrape in just a few minutes.
  2. Dismount the part. Regardless who made it and how it was finished, if you see rust you need to get it off the vehicle for a thorough investigation. A little rust on one side might mean a lot of it on the other side you can't see. So get it off and be thorough.
  3. Get ice for your banged knuckles.
  4. With the part dismounted, you now can see what you're in for and act accordingly:
    • If it's just a small spot or two of rust, congratulations. You caught it early and the fix isn't bad. Use steel wool to rub out the rust spots and to roughen up a small encircling area on all sides of the rust. Then grab some good outdoor, rust-inhibiting primer and hit the effected area right away, using something as a mask (we like a hole cut in cardboard) to prevent overspray on the rest of the part. After the primer is dry, hit it with matching paint.
    • If there are bigger patches of rust, you might want to buy a chemical rust-remover to help you out. Alternative household concoctions can include vinegar solutions, baking soda paste, Coke-and-Aluminum foil, and even homemade electrolysis baths. Reports inevitably vary, and you should be aware that many acidic processes in particular can damage paint. As with small spots, get rust-inhibiting primer on the part as soon as it's clean and dry. Exposed steel begins to rust immediately.
    • If you find that large stretches of powdercoat are flaking off, you probably need to kick the tire again. You shouldn't have let the rust go so long. Can't change that now, of course, but kicking the tire might help the lesson sink in. Next, unless you have the patience and stamina to get it all off yourself, you'll likely want to limp over to a local sandblaster if you don't have sandblasting tools yourself. They'll blast the rust off the product, along with the remaining powdercoat and essentially "reset" the part. What you do now to finish it is up to you: powdercoating, rhinolining, simple priming and painting, electroplating … whatever you want.

Finally, if it was a 4xGuard part, please let us know what you did and how it worked for you. Send us pictures, too, both before your treatment and after. That kind of information is essential to the improvement of both our products and our ability to help other customers with similar problems. As Jeepers we are all, in the end, in this together.