Removing Rust on Car is an Intermediate Level Repair for Most DIYers. Here’s What You Need To Know To Stop Rust on Your Car.
- DIY Difficulty Level: Intermediate
- Time Required: Five hours to a full day, depending on the severity of the rust
- Tools and Materials:
- Touch-up paint
- Spray applicators
- Base coat
- Clear coat
- Epoxy self-etching primer and lacquer primer
- Sanding block
- Automotive detergent
- Painters tape
- Microfiber cloth
- Tack rag
Rust is your car’s natural enemy. It can take a heavy toll on your car’s appearance. If left untreated, it can slowly corrode the structures around the engine bay, causing safety and performance issues. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars removing small patches of brown rust on your vehicle. However, you will need to spend a few dollars purchasing rust-removing supplies and spare a day to finish the work. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about rust on your car and how to stop it before it causes serious harm to your vehicle.
What Is Rust?
Rust is the brown patch that develops at the edge of different parts of your car, particularly the body. It’s caused by a breakdown of iron-based materials or oxidation. This occurs when iron comes into contact with water and oxygen. Rust on cars happens in stages. It’s essential to inspect your car for signs of rust regularly and repair it as soon as possible. Not doing so can cause the rust to progress and cause more damage.
Why Do Cars Rust?
Rust on cars happens due to a combination of factors. They include:
- Age: Over time, your vehicle’s paintwork and protective coating can wear out and expose the metalwork to moisture, leading to rust.
- Materials: Cars made from rust-prone materials like iron can rust faster than those coated with non-reactive materials.
- Climate: If you live in areas with extreme rain, snow, and sleet, your car is likely to rust faster due to moisture oxidizing with metals on the car. Salts used on icy roads also speed up rust.
- Driving style: If you drive off-road or through puddles often, your vehicle is at risk of corrosion.
- Maintenance: Some practices, such as not parking under a shade, not cleaning your vehicle often, parking around dirty and wet places, and not maintaining your vehicle, can cause rust.
Is It Safe To Drive a Rusty Car?
It depends on where the rust occurred and how deep it is. During the early stages of any rust, driving doesn’t compromise your safety. However, as soon as it turns structural, driving the car can be dangerous. For instance, rust on the body is safe, but rust on frames isn’t. Rust can eat into the frame turning it into flaky powder and damaging its structural integrity.
When To Repair Car Rust
You should take steps to stop rust immediately when you spot it. Beyond your car’s bodywork, check these parts for signs of rust:
- Wheel wells
- Frame rails
What Happens If You Don’t Stop Rust?
Rust can affect your car’s appearance and cause critical damage to components, leading to expensive repairs and replacements. If the rust occurs on your car frame, it can eat up the entire frame and attack suspension, brake, or fuel lines, bringing the entire vehicle down.
What Are Common Symptoms Indicating You Need to Stop Rust on Your Car?
Some of the common symptoms of rust include:
- Brown stains on the bodywork
- Bubbles, especially around the bottom of the door
- Scratches that appear brown
Keep in Mind
If you have one incident of rust, you can stop it before it worsens. However, if you have a heavily rusting vehicle, consider getting help from a professional. It’s important to follow the maintenance schedule recommended by your car’s manufacturer to avoid rust.
How To Stop Rust On Car
Here are steps you can take to stop rust on a car:
Step 1: Mask the affected area
Using your tape, mask off the area where you want to remove rust. The tape should be a few feet away from the repair area to allow room to blend the touch-up paint.
Step 2: Remove the rust
Sand through the rust spots down to the metal and enlarge the area to create space to feather the edges. Use different sandpapers to feather the edges of the repair area and a tack rag to remove particles from the unmasked area.
Step 3: Clean the area
Use automotive soap to clean the rusty area and the surface around it. The procedure helps get rid of dirt or oils. Once the area is dry, wipe the area with a lint-free cloth to remove any rust or lint.
Step 4: Apply the primers
Spray the filler primer in heavy coats to cover the entire affected area. Slightly move the can away from the surface to blend it with the surrounding painted area. Spray about two or three medium coats of self-etching epoxy primer and wait between each coat for the last coat to dry.
Step 5: Sand the primer
Sand to smooth the affected part and the blended areas. Wash with clear water and let it dry. Wipe the dried rust remover with a lint-free cloth. Apply a few heavier coats of lacquer primer and wait an hour before sanding.
Step 6: Apply the colored base coat
Hold the spray can 12 inches away from the surface and spray the affected area from the bottom. Apply the color coat in left-to-right rows overlapping each pass. Build the color into the repair and surrounding areas in three coats and allow 15 minutes break between each coat. Allow the base coat to dry for at least an hour.
Step 7: Spray the clear coat and buff
Apply the clear coat in several coats, allowing the recommended drying time. Wait for at least 15 hours before driving the vehicle and 48 hours before buffing.
Still Need Help?
Inspect the rust damage on your vehicle before attempting any DIY work. If you’re unsure about doing the job yourself, join the FIXD Mechanic Hotline to get unlimited access to our Master Mechanics, who can help answer any question you might have.
Disclaimer: The guidelines in this article are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual, repair guide, or a professional before attempting repairs.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.