Rust, Corrosion and Corrosion Holes

Cars at auction in Japan in general tend to be a lot cleaner, well-maintained and with lower mileage than equivalent cars at auction in other countries. However, obviously as vehicles age and are driven more, particularly in the far North of Japan where there is a lot of snow, they will gradually start to deteriorate and corrode.

When you read the word “corrode”, your mind probably starts to imagine these vehicles as real “rust buckets”, but that is often not the case. The auction inspectors tend to be quite strict, and the Japanese people themselves look after their vehicles well and replace them earlier than most other people around the world.

When looking at cars in the Japanese car auctions, it is important to know the different terminology that is used to refer to corroded metal. After all, most of this kind of damage occurs under the vehicle, which means that you may well not be able to see anything in the exterior photos of the car.

At the most basic level, there are three levels of damage associated with corroding metal:

1. Rust

This is the most mild level of deterioration. “Rust” (sabi in Japanese) on a car auction sheet simply means:

“Surface orange discoloration”

If you look at the photo of the underside of this car, you can see areas of rust, particularly at seams in the metal.

Rust: This means "surface orange discoloration" in the car auctions in Japan

2. Corrosion

This is the next level of severity. When a Japanese car auction inspector refers to “corrosion” (fushoku in Japanese), he means:

“Orange discoloration of the metal that is flaking away”

The key phrase here is “flaking away”. The deterioration has gone below the surface such that parts of the corroded metal are now flaking off. (The photo below would be a rather extreme example.)

Corrosion: Deterioration in metal such that it is flaking away

3. Corrosion Hole

As you can imagine, as corrosion progresses, the metal deteriorates and flakes away, resulting in a hole. In Japanese, the car auction inspector will refer to this as a fushoku ana.

Corrosion holes: The metal deteriorates and flakes away leaving holes

Severity of rust or corrosion

The car auction inspectors use a system of letters and numbers to describe different kinds of damage (dents, scratches etc) as well as to refer to deterioration caused by corroding metal.

Rust is designated with the letter “S” (which comes from the Japanese word for rust – sabi), and corrosion is designated with the letter “C” (from the English “corrosion”). Unless the level of damage is extremely trivial, the letter will be followed by a number that indicates the severity of the damage. So, “S1” is mild rust, “S2” is medium rust, and “S3” is severe rust. The same applies for corrosion.

In the case of corrosion holes, this will be written either completely in Japanese, or using the letter “C” followed by the Japanese kanji character forĀ  hole, which is ana.

(Remember that we do not expect our customers to read Japanese, which is why we provide a professional translation service. It’s all part of our goal to make buying from Japanese car auctions smooth and stress-free for you.)

Extent of rust / corrosion damage

In addition to the severity of the damage, the auction sheet may also give an idea about the extent of the damage as well.

If the damage is on the exterior, the auction inspector may draw on the car auction sheet to show where and how large the area is. If the rust or corrosion is in an area where it cannot be noted on the car auction sheet, the inspector will sometimes (not always) write comments that indicate the extent.

Common comments are:

Rust on the suspension (or on some other particular part)

Area of rust

Patches of rust

Unfortunately, the inspectors do not always write much detail about the extent of rust. For example, the auction sheet may simply say, “rust underneath” leaving you to wonder what the extent of the rust is. However, it is possible to get some idea of the extent even in this situation. If the car has higher mileage (over 100,000KM) or is in the far North of Japan where snow is common, then we should assume a worse-case scenario.

Equally, if the car has a relatively low mileage, is quite new and is not in the far North of the country, then it may well be that the inspector is simply saying that there is some orange discoloration (rust), but the reality is that it could just be a few small patches.

If you are ever unsure about what the auction inspector’s comments mean, you can always contact us and we will be happy to help.

Putting into practice what you have learned

In the video below I talk you through an auction sheet for a 1980 Toyota Landcruiser. Being an old, offroad vehicle, this one has a number of different comments about rust, corrosion and corrosion holes.

As you watch the video and listen to me translate these comments, use the information you have learned above to visualize the different amounts of rust and corrosion damage it has.

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