How to Repair Rust on a Car

Rust is the mortal enemy of beautiful metal. Just a little bit of rust on your car creates an eyesore and earns the nickname “Rust Bucket”. If you get rust on your car you may think it is a death sentence. However, you can repair the rust on your car if you have the knowledge, tools, and determination. You may want to restore an old car, or fix an area on yours that has succumbed to rust. Whatever the case, here is how to repair rust on a car. 

What Causes Rust

Rust happens when steel corrodes. Steel corrodes when the iron is exposed to a combination of air and moisture, making it oxidize. Rust is also called iron oxide. It is more common in locations that have high precipitation. 

Rust forms on your car in locations that have steel panels or frames. It can occur as a result of general wear and tear, or due to an accident that may remove the protective paints. In places where it snows often, the snow and slush get underneath and make rust a nuisance. The salt used to thaw frozen roads and highways can also be a major cause of rust formation. 

Surface rust and penetrating rust are two types that form on your car. While surface rust is easier repaired by patching or filling, penetrating rust often needs steel panels to be replaced. 

Correct surface rust as soon as you see it.

Replacing the Steel

The first way to repair rust on your car is to replace the steel panels. This may happen at a body shop or with the right tools you could do it yourself. Depending on the location of the rust you may be able to just remove some bolts and replace the rusted body panel. 

Some rust replacement may require some serious work. If the car is overwhelmed with rust and you are determined to restore it, the labor could be your only option. To rid your car of its iron oxide, the rusted areas may have to be cut out using a torch or other cutting tools. Then you or a body shop can weld the steel panels back into the area that need replaced. 

This type of project requires expertise, tools, and the ability to do the work. Depending on the location of the rust, it may require the removal of many other parts, such as plastic bumpers, seats, and wheels. While it is possible to completely replace the steel panels, there are easier alternatives to repairing the rust on your car. 

Using a Body Filler to Repair Rust

There are many filler or aftermarket products that allow you to fix a rusted area and make it look good as new. You can do this yourself or send your car to a body shop to have it done. If you do it yourself, you will need some sandpaper, filler, a body patch to fix holes, and paint. Follow these steps to repair the rust on your car with a filler. 

Remove the Rust

You need to remove the existing rust before you can apply the filler. Take the sandpaper and sand the rust all the way to smooth steel. The amount and damage of rust will determine which sandpaper grit you need to get the job done. Remove any areas of your car that do not need sanding. You don’t want to ruin good paint on a body part that does not need repair. If you leave any rust it will continue to spread like a cancer of your car. You must get all of the rust off before applying the filler in order to restore the car to its former beauty. 

Patch The Holes

If the rust was bad enough that it formed holes in the steel, you can use a body patch to fix it. These patches are applied behind the hole and the filler is applied to make a smooth and even surface. You can cut the patches to fit the size and shape of the hole you need to fill. 

Apply the Filler

A body or rust filler is available at many stores or auto parts stores. It is inexpensive and will come in a generic white or grey color that you can paint over to match the car. Some of these fillers require a little mixing, but afterward you can apply it with a putty knife to the area you sanded and patched. After the filler is applied, it must sit for a while to harden and take shape. 

Sand the Filler

After the body filler hardens, it is time to prepare it for painting. Use more sandpaper to sand the filler until it is smooth with the rest of the steel panel’s surface. Just like before, you want to use an appropriate sand paper based on the type of putty and how much sanding needs to be done. After it is smooth and even you are ready to finish the job and paint the filler. 

Paint and Protect

After the filler is applied and sanded, it is time to paint the area so it matches the rest of the car. You can get your paint code from your VIN in order to get the exact paint that matches your car’s color. Painting the repaired area properly will help protect it from future rust and other types of wear. Make sure and use the proper painting methods such as primer and undercoats needed to give your car that extra protection and beauty. 

Prevent Future Rust 

After the rust on your car is repaired, you want to prevent it from rusting again. Keeping your car indoors and out of lingering elements is one way to keep moisture away from the steel areas of your car. Keeping the car clean and dry are the best ways to prevent future rust. There are also many coatings you can apply to your vehicle that will protect the paint and metal areas to keep them from rusting. 

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