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How To Treat Rust On A Car
The Detroit Post
Thursday, 21 October, 2021

How To Treat Rust On A Car

Maria Garcia
• Wednesday, 30 December, 2020
• 8 min read

In spite of the advanced coatings and alloys developed by chemists and engineers, iron’s unstable chemical makeup means it will always succumb to rust in a natural environment. Examine an old iron engine block and you'll see a thin surface layer of rust but little penetration into the metal.

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Adding a dollop of carbon to iron creates steel, which offers dramatic improvements in flexibility, tensile strength, and formability. For drivers, this means that dirty or salty water trapped somewhere in the car's body makes that spot rust faster.

A huge amount of testing and material science is dedicated to keeping your car from dissolving away beneath you. Aluminum and magnesium components are becoming popular not only because of their light weight, but also because they corrode at rates that are unnoticeable within a human lifetime.

However, the road-facing side of the car turns into one big sandblasting cabinet at highway speeds, and those dips and coatings wear off over time. Rust forms in stages, and knowing where a problem spot is in that decomposition process can help point you to the right solution.

Start by using an abrasive wheel or sandpaper (we used 50-grit) to cut through the paint and corrosion until clean, bright metal is visible. Rust inhibitors convert iron oxide into a chemically stable, moisture-resistant compound that protects the rest of the metal underneath.

(You can paint over this Permeated version, but we recommend this one for places like the car ’s under body where you don't care how it looks as long as it's not rusting.) If you don’t correct surface rust and you allow that decomposition to penetrate further into the metal, you may see bubbles start to form in your car ’s paint.

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When rust penetrates into the surface like this, it causes a rough, pitted type of damage called scale. Correcting scale means getting through the rust with a wire brush, knocking down roughness with a grinding wheel and smoothing out the surface with sandpaper.

If it’s in a nondescript area such as underneath the car, you can just seal this cleaned-up spot back up with a rust converter and call it a day. If it’s in a more visible spot, you may want to consider smoothing it out with a body filler such as Bond before finishing it out with primer and paint.

Follow the instructions from the manufacturer of the body filler as it can vary, but generally speaking, you mix it up to a specified ratio depending on your room temperature. NAPA recommends only mixing as much body filler as you’ll use within ten minutes as it starts to harden relatively quickly.

After that, smooth out the extra filler you left on top so the repair matches the contours of the rest of the car. If you have a rust inhibitor that is safe to use with body filler, add this now, but otherwise, you can seal your work with a regular, high-quality primer.

As with fixing surface rust, paint and clear-coat your repaired spot, then buff to blend it in with the rest of the car. Penetrating Rust After prolonged exposure, steel is converted to brittle iron oxide and holes form.

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This is penetrating rust, and it’s the cause of everything from Swiss cheese-style holes in the fenders to more dangerous problems with weakened frames and suspension components. Take a look underneath the car periodically to inspect for any rough or compromised parts that could be a safety risk on the road if left unfixed.

Welds that hold on patch panels can be smoothed out to look like they were always part of the car by the right set of talented hands. As tempting as it may be, you shouldn’t repair these larger holes with body filler as you would with pits left by scale rust.

The best advice is the most obvious: Wash your car regularly to keep the body and underside clean of the road grime, salts, and dirt that lead to corrosion. The not-so-obvious advice is to check the drain holes along the bottoms of doors and rocker panels, which allow rainwater to flow out.

As noted earlier, many vehicles have a thick coating on the underside that chemically seals the steel against oxidizing agents. Regular inspection and repair of the spots that have worn bare will keep rust from advancing and causing additional damage.

POR-15 is one of the more popular examples of such a rust -protective sealant, and they even have a rubberized coating to go over it in case you want even more protection underneath your car. As long as your metal is properly sealed from the elements and kept clean of corrosive salt and grime, you should be able to get years of safe driving out of even the most abused winter beater.

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This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. Rust is the enemy of any vehicle, especially a classic or a daily driver you plan to keep for several years.

Those menacing brownish stains or paint bubbles can mean an early retirement to the salvage yard if the issue isn't corrected, especially if it makes its way to frame members. Rust is a chemical reaction caused from the interaction of oxygen and ferrous metal molecules.

It happens on many kinds of automotive metals when they are exposed to air, although saltwater and winter road treatments expedite the process. Since it's a chemical reaction, it makes sense that chemistry can save the day by delivering products that stop the rusting process.

Pick a day with low wind and decent weather, or do all these steps in a garage. If this is your primary vehicle, realize the entire process might take a full day as you wait for paint and primer to dry.

You want a few inches of protection surrounding the rust spot. Remember that rust remover is nasty stuff, so be sure to wear the appropriate protective gear when handling it.

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Clean with a grease and wax remover soap, then air dry. Try different distances from the cardboard and back-and-forth patterns and overlaps to see how the paint will actually apply.

For more serious rust issues, like when an entire steel bumper is under attack, it's time to step up the tools. These steps will show you how to remove rust from metal.

If sanding through paint and primer, cover the rest of the vehicle to protect it from the super-fine dust. Use a grinder with a sanding wheel to remove as much surface rust as you can.

When removing the rust, remember not to bear down any heavier than you absolutely need to. Use a fiberglass-reinforced body filler for holes and depressions left over after digging out the rust.

Sand the filler with progressively finer grit sandpaper, and then clean with wax and grease remover. Don't bother with rust repairs if the damage is too great.

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Holes rusted through a fender will require welding in a new patch panel, a process that can be tricky and expensive at the body shop. Advance stocks a huge assortment of fenders, floor pans, and any other replacement metal parts you might need.

Then, cover any parts of the car you’re not working on with paper and masking tape before you sand off the paint around the rust. Next, use the grinder to remove the rust, then fill any spaces where you've sanded off the paint with a body filler.

This week’s freezing fog and last week's snow kept road crews busy, which means more salt on roads and on your car. METEOROLOGIST MOLLY BERNARD IS LIVE WITH THE TOLL IT TAKES.


IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND THAT THAT SPRAY, NOT GOING TO GET RID OF ANY RUST THAT HAS DEVELOPED. This week’s freezing fog and last week's snow kept road crews busy, which means more salt on roads and on your car.

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This week’s freezing fog and last week's snow kept road crews busy, which means more salt on roads and on your car. “Salt and water and ice you can make ice cream, but other than the good attributes of salt and ice it can cause damage to cars,” said Peter Bingo, owner of Riverside Automotive. Bilgo said the damage to car ’s is often in places a driver can’t see.“Besides the obvious body corrosion, the under carriage is totally exposed to the elements, so it can affect your exhaust system, your suspension,” he said.

Meteorologist Lindsey Slater's husband, another mechanic, said that's especially important for drivers who park in a heated garage. Once it's there, it's there,” Bingo said. Taking action to stop rust and corrosion before it starts is key.

Meteorologist Lindsey Slater's husband, another mechanic, said that's especially important for drivers who park in a heated garage. Some collision shops offer a spray for a car ’s under carriage that can help prevent rust.

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