Trailer manufacturers have been battling with corrosion since the first rust spot marred the finish of a painted trailer.

Since then, trailer makers have been able to slow this enemy down by using more durable paint under a chip-resistant clear-coat finish and more rust-resistant hardware.

Now, thanks largely to research and development done by EZ Loader Trailers, a company called CounterAct has sparked a new, preemptive weapon that hits corrosion where it starts.

Opposites really do attract. Gary Potter, president of EZ Loader Trailers, explained that iron and oxygen have opposite natural charges and, therefore, seek to combine to form rust. Steel doesn't like being a refined metal; it prefers to be rust, and it spends its life trying to corrode its way back to it.

Three things are necessary for metals to follow this path back to their roots. First, they need to be in contact with an electrolyte that can conduct electrical current and support ionized particles. This is usually water in the case of boat trailers, but there is often enough moisture in the air to do the job.

The rate of corrosion increases with decreasing pH (increased acidity), so dunking a trailer in water with high acidity or exposing it to acid rain can speed up the process.

Second, the electrolyte must contain dissolved substances like the oxygen and hydrogen gasses found in water to serve as corrosive agents.

Finally, two portions of the metal surfaces on a trailer must become electrically connected by an electrolyte "bridge."

One surface becomes the corroding anode that gives up metal ions, and the other surface becomes the cathode that collects them.

CounterAct describes the recipe for rust as two parts iron combined with three parts oxygen, add water and salt to taste. Increase temperature to speed up the process.

Traditional marine corrosion prevention measures like sacrificial anodes aren't practical for trailers because they need to be submerged to be effective. CounterAct's system works in the open air, where trailers spend most of their time.

A CounterAct capacitive coupler attaches with peel-and-stick aircraft-grade adhesive right over a trailer's paint. A power supply/control module then applies a negative electrostatic charge to the coupler, making it act like the positive half of a capacitor. The protected metal trailer underneath acts like the negative half of a capacitor and the resulting negative surface charge interferes with corrosion's natural electrochemical reaction.

Potter explained that the negative surface charge and its corresponding electrostatic field create an electrical double layer that reduces the rate at which the iron and oxygen can combine to form corrosion.

EZ Loader developed this boat trailer system based on CounterAct technology back in 2000, after a year and a half of testing and modification. The company's goal was to minimize corrosion on trailers used in salt water, tidal estuaries and bodies of fresh water with a high salt content.

The system was tested on a trailer with an aluminum I-beam frame, galvanized steel cross-members and zinc-plated hardware. After one year of use in Florida's saltwater environment with no freshwater wash-downs, the trailer showed little to no corrosion, and the hardware showed absolutely no corrosion.

This trailer was used to introduce the system at 2001 dealer meetings, and was taken back to these meetings in 2002 and 2003. It was finally sold, still rust-free. The system is now offered as an option on all the company's trailers.

It takes under 50 milliamps to power the system, less than it takes to run an average digital clock. There is no electrical shock danger because its output is measured in microamperes and the electrostatic surface charge is less than the normal static charge that accumulates on a vehicle under normal driving conditions.

The system is powered by the tow vehicle's 12-volt electrical system, and when the trailer is disconnected from the vehicle, a solar charging panel provides power during daylight hours. A portable charging unit the size of a cell phone charger can power it from any AC outlet when sunlight is not present. The system uses solid-state technology with no moving parts, and internal components are encapsulated in epoxy. It could outlast several trailers.

If these systems can keep a trailer rust free for years in salt water, they should protect a trailer used in fresh water practically forever.

The systems retail for between $299-350, and can be purchased on any new trailer manufactured at EZ Loader's custom facility in Midway, Ark., or separately on the company's web site: www.ezloadercustoms.com.

For more information, visit EZ Loader's web site, or check out CounterAct's site at www.counteractrust.com.