If you happen to own an automobile (or are planning on buying one and want to learn how to keep it in great shape), this is an important guide for you.
It creeps up silently, takes its time developing and before you know it, your beloved vehicle looks aged, run-down and neglected.
Sounds bad, but the bark is usually worse than the bite here. That said the brown parasite can cause serious damage to your car if it gets to the frame components, so you need to get rid of it before it does.
To be able to successfully get rid of rust (and hopefully keep it at bay) it’s imperative to first understand what causes it.
Rust is caused by a chemical reaction of iron and its alloys to oxygen and water.
Basically, moisture is the main culprit with saltwater and winter road treatments speeding up the whole rusting process.
There are broadly three stages of rust that develops on cars: surface rust, scale and penetration.
However, as you’ll soon discover, getting rid of rust is not half the daunting task it seems to be.
All it takes is a little preparation, patience and a few readily-available tools and materials.
Here’s all you need to know about the different methods of removing rust from your car, starting with basic prep.
Regardless of which method you choose to work with, the following steps are highly advisable for safety purposes and to prevent further damage:
- Be sure to wear safety glasses, gloves and a dust mask (though a respirator is advisable while using a grinder)
- Use masking paper to mask clean spots to prevent them from getting dusty
Surface rust mainly occurs when paint breaks down due to mechanical or UV damage.
It doesn’t usually pose a problem as it is largely dependent on alloy composition and metal thickness.
However, it is highly recommended to correct surface rust as and when it occurs.
Liquid or aerosol rust remover or rust converter, sandpaper, grease and wax remover soap, rag, primer, spray paint
- Spray/brush the remover onto the affected area (as per the directions on the packaging) and let it sit for a few minutes
- Wipe off residue with a clean rag
- Remove any residual rust with sandpaper
- Clean the surface with a grease and wax remover soap
- Air dry the surface
- Spray a light to medium coat of primer and let it dry for an hour (three such coats should suffice)
- Spray about five-six coats of paint within plenty of time in between to prevent drips
- Make sure the paint coats are thinner than those of the primer
- Spray the clear coat
- Wait a minimum of three days before washing and two-six months before waxing your car
Why not check out our guide to the best rust converters around right now?
Distilled pure white vinegar, sandpaper, rag
- Use sandpaper to remove any rust in the affected area that is loose
- Use a vinegar-soaked rag over the area by holding it down for several minutes (the longer you hold it the more rust it will dissolve)
- Repeat the process as many times as required to remove all the rust from your car
- Follow steps 6-10 from Solution 1.
The underlying cause behind scale rust is that rust molecules are physically larger than those of iron or steel.
When you fail to remove rust when it is at surface level, it forms bubbles.
It begins to expand and flake away, thereby exposing base metal that soon begins corroding, causing a serious problem.
Removing this kind of rust demands significantly more effort and skill than surface rust, hence it is advisable not to let the rust develop till this stage at all.
Grinder with sanding wheel, self-etching primer, fiberglass-reinforced body filler, fine grit sandpaper, wax and grease remover, spray paint
- Use the grinder to remove surface rust while taking care not to apply too much pressure
- Use a grease remover to clean the area
- Use the filler for the holes and let it cure completely
- Sand the filler with sandpaper then clean with wax and grease remover
- Use self-etching primer and leave to dry
- Follow steps 7-10 from Solution 1
In case you haven’t dealt with the rust in its scale stage, it will advance to an even more problematic stage called ‘penetration’.
In this stage, the base metal of the car gradually flakes away leaving holes in its place.
Having a car reach this stage leaves you with two options:
- replace the entire affected panel
- cut out the affected parts and weld in ‘patch panels’ in place of them
At this stage the car is highly susceptible to crashes and further damage as its frame has been severely affected.
In this case, your best bet would be consulting a professional and getting it repaired at a repair facility.
Arguably the best way to deal with rust is to prevent it from accumulating on your car altogether.
Prevention is indeed better than cure, especially when you’ve invested thousands of dollars in your car and the alternative is spending hundreds more on ensuring it looks brand-new for years.
Hence, these are the most effective ways of preventing rust from developing on your car:
- Wash your car regularly and thoroughly
- Keep the underside clean from dirt, road grime and salts as these lead to corrosion
- Check the drain holes that are present along the bottom of doors and rocker panels (that allow rainwater to flow out) regularly
- Use a pipe cleaner to thoroughly clean these holes
- Use multiple coats of wax, especially during winter months to protect paint, road grime and water
- Don’t let snow and chemicals accumulate while driving on snowy or salty roads
- Use rust prevention paint
Hopefully that’s been a useful overview and you’re now well equipped to remove rust from a car should the need arise.
Have you had to de-rust a car before? How did you do it? And are there any suggestions not included in our guide that you’d recommend?
Let us know below.