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Galvanic Action between Stainless Steel and Phosphate

October 13, 2008

Q. Hello - In restoring an antique 1967 Corvette I find that although the front sides of the wheel trim rings are in excellent shape, the back sides have separate captive rings that retain clips to hold the entire assembly to the wheel. The captive rings cannot be removed from the ring assembly for refinishing without adversely affecting the cosmetics that are identified with originality.

The trim rings are stainless steel that are flash chromed on the front side. The back side which is in contact with the separate captive rings is 'bare' stainless. The captive rings to which the retaining clips are spot welded to are made of a low carbon steel that already have significant rusting.

I am considering the use of a product containing phosphoric acid that will convert the iron oxide to iron phosphate to arrest the rust.

My question is: what is the potential for galvanic action between stainless steel and iron phosphate parts that will be in direct contact?

Thanks for any feedback!

Bob Schaefer
hobbyist - Angier, North Carolina

October 12, 2008

A. Hi, Bob. Iron phosphate is not a metal, so it will not contribute to galvanic corrosion with stainless steel. Phosphating the steel component will not hurt, it will only help, but probably not much. Keeping the area salt-free, clean, and dry will be key to deterring further corrosion.


Ted Mooney,
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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 17, 2017

Q. Hi all,

As part of a complex system, we are currently needing to couple two dissimilar metallic parts. The first part is a carbon steel part that will be painted. However, on the interface, steel + zinc phosphating will be in contact with stainless steel. This particular galvanic interface is expected to be exposed to free weathering. Can anyone recommend me a way to counteract the galvanic effect, as I guess it might be very detrimental for the carbon steel? Is zinc plating on stainless steel an option? or should I do something on the carbon steel surface?

Many thanks in advance and best regards,


Angel Espinosa
Product Development Engineer - Swindon UK

March 2017

A. Hi Angel. If the steel part is to be phosphated and painted, is it possible to paint it all over? Bare steel or phosphated steel will corrode fairly quickly whether in contact with stainless or not, whereas painted phosphated steel is much better off. Rainwater is not highly conducive to galvanic corrosion because it is not very conductive, but road salt, lawn fertilizer, cleaning agents and other things can make the water quite conductive.

It's hard to offer definitive answers (or even strong guesses) without knowledge of the details, starting with what the thing is :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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