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I live in Quebec & have a 2005 model bought in July 2005 which has steel wheels. I already have rust appearing on the wheels after 13,000 Km! I wash the car weekly and it is garaged. I wonder if any one else has experienced early rusting of steel wheels? Other than this problem I am very satisfied with the car.
 

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Rust from the unpainted surfaces of steel wheels is inevitable. Driving on well-salted roads and then parking in a garage where the temperature is above freezing can accelerate this. The steel wheels on my 2000 (83,500 km) have rust also, even some bubbles where paint has flaked off in a couple of spots, but I don't think the previous owner paid much attention to them. I try to keep them as clean as possible, and I wax them also to provide a layer of protection.
 

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The Toyota steel wheels have a lousy design with the groove all the way around the wheel and visible thru the wheel openings. This groove holds water no matter what and combined with minimal paint at factory, leads to early rusting. That area on my ol' '98 was getting real bad before I traded it. I bought Highlander steelies for my snows on the '05 and although a different design than the RAV, they too have the groove!!! ......so I painted the wheels, front and back, before mounting the snows....see Album.
I'll probably paint them again before next winter, just to fend off the rust..........I think it's the only solution.....
 
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