Tips on How to Remove Rust from Your Car
Rust is like cancer once it lands on an iron-containing metal. If that metal is a part of your daily driver, you know you need to act first before it affects its effective functioning and, eventually, its safety level. If you’ve spotted signs of corrosion on your vehicle, this diy car rust treatment guide is yours. Read on as our team shares important tips for removing rust from your car at home.
Here’s Why Cars Rust
Rust is the end product of a natural process called the oxidation of metal. This process occurs when the iron in metal reacts to oxygen in the presence of water or moisture. Because iron and oxygen have opposite charges, they combine in a chemical reaction that produces iron oxide, Fe2O3 – this is the unattractive brown and crumbly substance that we call rust.
Modern cars are much less susceptible to rust and corrosion thanks to the use of galvanized steel and advanced anti-rust paint coatings. However, rust still presents a major problem in vehicles today because the metallic components have to be drilled, cut, and drilled when manufacturing the vehicle. These actions lower the rust resistance level, further accelerated by factors such as rain (or wet conditions) and salt when the car is in use.
The combination of high humidity and salty conditions is why corrosion is more rampant in coastal areas than inland parts.
Car rust may also be attributed to neglect. When you fail to clean rust off the car as soon as it appears, it can eat away the metallic components, which affects the vehicle’s structural integrity and resale value.
Types of Car Rust Explained
Before getting into the main part on how to get rid of rust on the car frame and other parts, we first need to define the exact type of rust affecting your vehicle.
Rust formation occurs in 4 major stages, each requiring a different corrective action.
This is the ideal baseline and represents the stage where there is no sign of rust spots, such as paint bubbling or cracking. Likewise, if the metallic part is not painted, there aren’t any visible traces of rust, for instance, etching or pitting.
There is no cause for worry at this stage since there are no visible signs of rust. However, you can still lower corrosion chances by keeping the vulnerable surfaces as clean as possible. Removing contaminate agents, such as oil, grease, and dirt, is another preventative measure at this stage.
Stage 1 – Surface Rust
Just as it sounds like, this is rust forming on the top layer of your car’s surfaces. At this stage, you start noticing small patches of brown, black, or white deposits on the metal surfaces making these parts less uniform to the rest of the body. If this type of car rust happens on the painted surfaces, the protective paint coating will display cracks, nicks, or cracks.
Surface rust is a superficial problem that can be fixed easily. However, if ignored, it can quickly intensify and get into the next stage, posing a bigger problem.
Stage 2 – Scale Rust
At this stage, the actual degradation of the metallic components has begun. This phase is characterized by a visible sign of bubbling on the painted areas. These bubbles are a result of the reaction between iron and oxygen on the metal underneath the paint. This reaction causes shards of corroded metal, which gives the affected area a rough texture. When not dealt with, this stage of rust starts working on the bare metal, causing pits.
Stage 3 – Penetrating Rust
This phase represents the most advanced car rusting level. The pin holes from the second stage have penetrated through the panels and metal frames. Because penetrating rust eats through the metallic components, repairing the damage often requires replacing the entire portion or body panel. The best way to avoid the costly repairs caused by penetrating rust is to prevent, catch, and repair surface rust early enough.
Auto Rust Removal Tips
Here are the materials you’ll need to clean rust off your car:
- Grinding tool
- Hand scraper
- Hand scraper
- Dust mask
- Sander and sanding discs
- Protective eyewear
- Microfiber cloths
- Sandpaper in 40, 320, and 2000 grits
- Painter’s tape
- Clear coat
- Prep solvent
- Polish and wax
- Color-matching Paint
- Touch up paint pens
- Grease and wax remover soap
How to Remove Surface Rust
1) Start by cleaning the affected area and let it dry completely.
2) Mask off the area you want to work on using the painter’s tape.
3) Spray the rust remover onto the rusty spot and let it sit for around 10 minutes.
4) Next, wipe off the residue using a microfiber cloth. Most, if not all, of the rust, should have come out by now. If there’s any leftover, sand it using the sandpaper and wipe off the residue.
5) Clean the affected area using the grease remover soap and let it air dry thoroughly.
6) Spray 3 light-to-medium coats of the primer allowing each layer to dry for 1 hour.
7) Spray 5-6 coats of your car’s color base coat. Ensure that each coat is thinner than the primer coats and allow enough drying time between the layers.
8)Finish by spraying the clear coat and wait for at least 2 days before washing the vehicle and 2 months before waxing.
How to Remove Scale Rust
Begin by marking off the part with rust. You may want to cover the entire vehicle except the work area to protect the unaffected parts from the fine dust from the sander.
1) Attach a sanding wheel to the grinder to remove the surface rust.
2) Use the grease and wax remover soap to clean the area you’re working on and let it dry completely.
3) Fill any depressions and holes left with a fiberglass-reinforced car body filler.
4) Sand the work area starting with the 40-grit sandpaper followed by the 320-grit and lastly the 2000-grit sandpaper. After sanding, clean the area using the wax and grease remover soap.
5) Use the painter’s tape to tape off the area for painting.
6) Start by spraying 3 light-to-medium coats of primer waiting for the layer to dry before applying another.
7) After the primer, spray around 5 coats of your car’s paint leaving enough drying time between the layers.
8) Lastly, spray 1-2 layers of clear coat. Wait for at least 2 days before washing your car and at least 2 months before waxing.
Fixing Penetrating Rust – Part Replacement
Penetrating rust creates a much bigger problem because you’re dealing with brown holes cutting through the panels or other metallic components. Since you can’t paint these rusty holes off, your easiest option is to replace the entire part with an original or aftermarket component. If you have the skills and the required tools, there’s another option of cutting out the affected part and welding a patch panel onto it. The latter option takes a lot of work and may be an expensive process even at the body shape.
How to Prevent Rust on Your Car
Rust may be one of the biggest nightmares you may have to face as a car owner. If not fixed early enough, what starts as harmless brown spots on the surface could eventually cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. At worst, they could easily take your vehicle to its early ‘graveyard.’ Car rust is preventable, though, and doesn’t require any specialized skills.
The easiest way to keep your car from rusting is by giving it a good wash at least once every 1-2 weeks. Washing your car regularly removes built-up grime, salt, dirt, and other common car corrosion causes. If you can’t manage to wash your car manually regularly, an automated car wash is an excellent alternative.
Secondly, keep a close eye on the drain holes. More exposed areas, such as the doors and windshield, have holes that allow water to exit. If not checked regularly, these holes may get plugged up with dirt, leaves, and dead insect remains, causing water to accumulate. To prevent rust around these areas, always know where your car’s drain holes are located and ensure that they are always open.
Can rust be stopped?
Yes, car rust can be stopped from spreading. However, the ideal fix will depend on the type of rust. Surface and scale rust can be stopped by sanding the rusty paint and spraying primer, color coat, and clear. On the other hand, penetrative cost requires replacing the entire panel or cutting the rusty part and welding a new patch.
Is fixing rust on a car worth it?
It depends on the severity of the rust. Surface and scale rust problems are easy and inexpensive to fix. However, if the vehicle has several areas that have rusted to the extent of having small holes through the panels or frame, the cost of fixing these rusty spots may be equal to that of buying another car. Consider the costs and make the decision.
Can rust destroy a car?
Yes. Given enough time, rust can ruin your car to the point of no repair. Penetrating rust can weaken vital components compromising your safety and that of your passengers and other road users.