Hot-dip galvanizing is the process of coating iron or steel with a thin zinc layer, by passing the steel through a molten bath of zinc at a temperature of around 860 °F (460 °C). When exposed to the atmosphere, pure zinc reacts with oxygen to form zinc oxide, which further reacts with carbon dioxide to form zinc carbonate, a dull grey, fairly strong material that stops further corrosion in many circumstances, protecting the steel below from the elements. Galvanized steel is widely used in applications where rust resistance is needed, and can be identified by the crystallization patterning on the surface (often called a “spangle”).
The process of hot-dip galvanizing results in a metallurgical bond between zinc and steel with a series of distinct iron-zinc alloys. The resulting coated steel can be used in much the same way as uncoated. Galvanized steel can be welded; however, one must exercise caution around the resulting zinc fumes. Galvanized steel is suitable for high-temperature applications of up to 392 °F (200 °C). Use at temperatures above this level will result in peeling of the zinc at the intermetallic layer. Galvanized sheet steel is commonly used in automotive manufacture to enhance corrosion performance of exterior body panels of some models.