Owners worry Cybertruck of the future rusts after rain

Since introducing Tesla’s futuristic, angular designed Cybertruck back in 2019, CEO Elon Musk has at times described the 6,603 pound stainless steel behemoth as “badass” “literally bulletproof” and possibly “the best product ever.” But growing complaints from actual Cybertruck owners online say the rugged, all-electric, end-times enduring vehicle may have an unexpected problem: water. 

Cybertruck owners writing in online forums since the truck’s official launch in December have reported noticing small orange dots popping up on the surface of their trucks which they say appear to resemble rust. These customers cited a Cybertruck user manual which advises owners to meticulously maintain the vehicles in order to avoid corrosion and other surface damage. That expectation of scrupulous care seems to contradict Tesla’s own marketing characterizing the Cybertruck as a tough, off-roading hulk meant to rival heavy-story truck models offered by veteran carmakers like Ford and Toyota. 

Cybertruck owners are reporting odd, orange splotches that look like rust 

Heated discussion over the alleged rusting broke out in an online forum called the Cybertruck Owners Club. One commenter going by the name Raxar claims he drove his vehicle through heavy rain in Dublin, Ireland after picking it up and quickly noticed several small orange specks and water spots on the exterior of the vehicle. Raxar says a Tesla representative told him the Cybertruck can “develop orange rust marks” following exposure to rain. The commenter posted several photos purporting to show the odd orange splotches. 

Another driver writing on the forum claims he also noticed similar orange specs appearing on the exterior of his car after driving it through heavy Los Angeles rain. When he took it into a Tesla facility for inspection he claims he was told a representative “documented the corrosion” and told him they would call next month to perform a service. The Cybertruck owner, who went by the username vertigo3pc, claims the Tesla worker told him they have a “procedure” for addressing the issue but said they did not have the tools on hand to make the necessary repair. He claims he noticed the orange spots after driving his truck just 381 miles. 

Can stainless steel rust? 

Tesla did not immediately respond to PopSci’s requests for comment asking if the Cybertruck’s stainless steel exterior is susceptible to rust. But can stainless steel even rust in the first place? The short answer, according to metal metal supplier Mead Metals, is yes, however it’s less prone to corrosion than other alternative metals. Chromium, one of the elements found in stainless steel, is responsible for its notably higher rust and corrosion resistance. 

“Despite being known for its extremely corrosion-resistant features, stainless steel is prone to rust in certain circumstances,” Mead Metals writes in a blog post. “Although rusty metals are often a result of water exposure, stainless steel will also rust from exposure to damaging chemicals, saline, grease, or prolonged exposure to heat.”

Some Tesla owners commenting in the online forum pushed back against the rust claims and instead said the orange spots may have been caused by carbon dust or other debris from the road. Others, meanwhile, posted screenshots of vehiclce’s owners manual which advises owners to immediately remove any potentially corrosive materials sticking to the car’s body, which could include grease, oil, bird droppings, or dead insects. 

 “To prevent damage to the exterior, immediately remove corrosive substances (such as grease, oil, bird droppings, tree resin, dead insects, tar spots, road salt, industrial fallout, etc.),” the manual reportedly reads. “Do not wait until Cybertruck is due for a complete wash.”

That Cybertruck owner’s manual, which isn’t available to the general public yet, appears to note that the base Cybertruck does not have a “clear coat” which means that scratches or other abnormalities that appear only on the surface of the vehicle are in fact in the steel panels themselves. The manual advises Cybertruck owners to use denatured alcohol to remove any tar spots or grease stains from the vehicle’s exterior and then “immediately” wash the affected area with water and a miled, non-detergent soap. Cybertruck owners can opt to purchase an option, clear paint film to their vehicle for an additional $5,000 according to the company’s website. A black or white film is also available for $6,000. 

Cybertruck owners commenting on the forum offered their own solutions. One owner claimed cleaning the affected areas with Bar Keepers Friend and Windex appeared to solve the issue. It should be noted though that the Tesla owner’s manual appears to advise owners against trying certain DIY efforts. The company, according to the manual, notes it won’t be held liable for damages sustained to the vehicle if user’s failed to abide by those guides. Another Cybertruck owner commenting on the forum offered a blunter solution: just don’t get the truck wet.

“I think as long as you don’t drive it in the rain,” the commenter wrote, “It will be fine…” Others advised owners of the luxury off-road vehicle to “cover that sucker during transport.” 

CEO Elon Musk’s parchment for stainless steel extends beyond Cybertruck or even Tesla. SpaceX, Musk’s aerospace venture, has long-used stainless steel as the main build material for its Starship rocket due to the material’s high melting point and, maybe more importantly, it’s more affordable cost relative to more widely used carbon fiber. Responding to customer concerns over scratches resulting from off-roading, Musk previously said Tesla could offer an option “basically-scratch proof” tungsten carbide coating for an additional fee. It’s unclear if Tesla intends to actually follow through with that idea.

Cybertruck owners report series of odd design choices 

The alleged rust issue, if true, marks one of several growing quality complaints lodged against the Cybertruck which cuts against its tough and rugged premium image presented in marketing materials. Reporting from The Verge last year showed how the Cybertruck’s unconventional design led the company to attach multiple standard windshield wipers together in order to reach across the car’s wide front windshield. Reviewers on YouTube meanwhile have shown how the truck’s sharp angular front trunk can slice through carrots, apples, and hot dogs, when closed too quickly. Other Cybertruck owners have complained the vehicle’s stainless steel exterior annoyingly makes its a fingerprint magnet.

Inconsistencies in quality and unmatched expectations have fueled criticism of Tesla vehicles broadly. In recent years, US regulators have opened investigations into the company after customers reported some models shockingly breaking unexpectedly. More recently, a Reuters investigation claims Tesla appeared to blame drivers for faulty suspensions and other parts failure the company knew were defective. Tesla may have jump-started the industry-wide pivot to electric vehicles, but actual owners don’t seem to be getting exactly what they asked for in every case.