How to Get Rid of Rust on a Car: Techniques to Try

Published On: December 22, 2023Last Updated: December 23, 2023
how to get rid of rust on a car

Sooner or later, car corrosion becomes an unavoidable reality. Nevertheless, tackling rust in its initial stages enables you to curtail its spreading and extend your vehicle’s lifespan. But the question is, how to get rid of rust on a car quickly?

Certainly, addressing rust isn’t overly complex; it’s mainly a waiting game for drying during various stages. Anticipate an expense of around $100 for necessities such as sandpaper, primer, masking tape, poly sheeting, a tack rag, polishing compound, touch-up paint, and a clear coat. Opt for a serene, cloudy day and allocate ample time to mend prevalent rust areas on the hood and doors.

Before we discuss how to remove rust from car, let’s find out –

Why Do Cars Rust?

Rust forms as a result of the interaction between iron, oxygen, and water, manifesting as a reddish-brown layer with the potential to induce corrosion.

This type of deterioration commonly occurs in automobiles due to the convergence of various contributing elements:

  • Weather Conditions – Frequent contact with rain, sleet, and snow enhances the likelihood of moisture reacting with the metals on your vehicle. Additionally, the application of salts to prevent icy roads accelerates rusting, and elevated temperatures tend to promote corrosion as well.
  • Age – As time goes by, the paint and protective layers on surfaces may experience deterioration. When subjected to moisture, metal will ultimately undergo rust and corrosion.
  • Materials – Cars of earlier times were often manufactured without non-reactive coatings, making them prone to rusting. In contrast, modern vehicles implement wheel arch liners effectively to safeguard wheel well areas. That said, you can always add car mods to your old vehicle to boost your ride’s condition and performance.
  • Driving habits – Should you frequently navigate off-road terrain or traverse puddle-filled paths in your luxury trucks, you might inadvertently elevate the chances of corrosion.

Now that the reasons behind rust formation are clear let’s delve into the three primary phases of rusting.

Three Types of Rust

1. Surface Rust:

Initial indications of an issue emerge as blemishes in the paint, fissures, and marks.

External rust exists superficially. When a vehicle with steel disc brake rotors remains stationary for a brief period, you might notice superficial rust developing on the rotors. Yet, this isn’t a cause for concern since the rust usually gets removed from the rotor surface after a couple of braking instances.

A considerable amount of surface rust on vehicles arises due to the deterioration of paint from either mechanical sources or UV exposure. This phenomenon isn’t limited to cars in arid, hot regions.

In terms of its impact on the vehicle’s structure, surface rust doesn’t pose a significant concern. In fact, the degree of “passivation” might be attained based on the metal’s thickness and composition, potentially leading the existing surface rust to serve as a protective layer against subsequent oxidation.  

2. Scale Rust:

Chemical reactions alter the surface, leading to a decrease in the strength of the metal.

Neglecting initial rust on the surface and enabling its progression deeper into the metal might result in the appearance of bubbles in the car’s paint.

This occurs due to the larger size of iron oxide molecules compared to iron or steel molecules. The escalation of the rust problem triggers an automatic spread, causing the outer paint and metal layers to peel off, revealing the underlying metal that subsequently undergoes corrosion.

3. Penetrating Rust:

Over time, extended contact alters steel into fragile iron compounds resulting in the development of gaps.

If unattended, corrosion will progressively erode the metal of your vehicle. It manifests as invasive corrosion, giving rise to issues ranging from perforations resembling Swiss cheese on the car’s exterior to more serious concerns like compromised chassis and suspension elements.

For those residing in regions prone to corrosion, it’s advisable not to anticipate the emergence of blisters on the car’s surface. Regularly examine the car’s underside to identify any irregular or weakened components that might pose safety hazards while driving if unaddressed.

Here is the list of supplies you need for automobile rust removal:

  • Tool for shaping corners and smoothing surfaces + Abrasive flap tools
  • Metal wire cleaning tool
  • Epoxy gel with glass fibers
  • Repair putty
  • Different grits of abrasive paper (80, 400, 600, 1000, 2000)
  • Handheld sanding tool
  • Base layer and undercoat paint
  • Special clear coat paint (available in spray cans)
  • Materials for covering and masking (paper and adhesive)
  • Polishing compound
  • Solvent for cleaning
  • Cloths
  • Special cleaning cloth

How To Get Rid of Rust On A Car?

Prioritize safety

For this task, having safety goggles is essential. Confirm your vehicle is on an even surface. Avoid wearing baggy attire or dangling accessories. Ensure proper ventilation in your workspace.

Mark off the area

Segment the part you’ll address, similar to prepping for a car paint job. It’s crucial to shield the non-rusty areas to prevent damage. As rusting can release rust and paint particles, ensure they don’t reach the unaffected paint. Opt for proper masking materials like masking paper instead of newspaper.

Eliminate paint and undercoat

Commence with a conservative approach, progressively advancing. Our suggestion involves the utilization of a dual-purpose sander or a hand-held grinder furnished with a flap disc for enhanced maneuverability.

Initiate the process employing a 60-80 grit texture. The aim is to scour through the layers of paint and undercoat, potentially dislodging any loosely adhered rust on the metal surface.

Keep in mind that while addressing blistered paint areas, the rust beneath may have already permeated the metal, manifesting as diminutive perforations. This initial phase will effectively eradicate the majority of superficial rust as well.

Use a Degreasing Product or Cleansing Agent

After rust removal, ensure thorough cleansing. I prefer employing a degreasing solution or car soap designed for wax stripping. This eliminates any remaining rust particles, grease, or impurities. Conclude by rinsing and drying the area.

Cleaning with IPA Solution

I didn’t list this item as it’s up to personal choice. Certain individuals opt for a tack rag, a pre-paint tool designed to eliminate dust or debris. For addressing surface rust, consider a mix of 30% Isopropyl Alcohol and 70% distilled water. Apply and clean the region using a microfiber towel.

Prepare the surface

If you intend to temporarily prepare the region or genuinely restore a panel or part with the correct paint texture, the success of your task commences with a correctly prepared surface.

Opt for an etching primer or a primer designed for direct contact with metal. Following this, you can opt to finalize the panel with body filler or surfacing primer and then apply paint. Bear in mind that directly applying body filler on unprotected metal without proper sealing isn’t advisable; such mending will eventually develop cracks and prove ineffective.

It is how you get rid of rust on a car.

Preventing Rust on Your Car: Quick Steps

1. Rinse and Dry: Living by the sea or driving in harsh weather? Give your fast cars a swift water rinse to prevent dirt from settling on the paint and causing rust. Remember a chamois rub to finish.

2. Apply Wax: Coat with wax for protective paint layer. Try wax injection in moisture-prone spots with a wax gun.

3. Use Oil: WD40 fights rust (WD = ‘water dispersant’). Apply with smart straw to dispel moisture from hinges, joints, and tricky zones.

4. Keep It Dry: Garage parking shields from elements; go further by using a dehumidifier after parking to eliminate air moisture.

About the Author: Waqar Tariq

Waqar (nick name is Vicky) loves to travel, explore new places and like to meet new people around the world. Full time journalist, blogger and writer.

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