Rustproofing technologies have advanced dramatically over the last 50 years, but that doesn’t mean corrosion is a thing of the past: Cars can and still do rust, and rust itself is a serious issue, as it eats away at metal components, effectively destroying a vehicle’s structural integrity.
That said, rust isn’t a permanent issue, and it can indeed be fixed.
Is Rust Worth Fixing?
Depending on the rust’s location, aesthetics might not matter. Fixing a rusty frame won’t need as much attention to appearance as repairing a rusty fender, for instance.
Here are some indicators that you may want to repair the corrosion:
- The car is a collector’s item rising in value
- You have the time, the tools, and the ability to fix it
- You’re sentimental about the car
- You need the vehicle for transportation
Just remember that the earlier you catch the spread of rust, the easier it will be to reverse. While a bit of corrosion might be nothing more than a cosmetic problem at first, it can spread to vital areas.
How to Repair Rust
Rust is not a death sentence for your vehicle! Follow these steps to repair your ride:
1. Collect Your Tools and Supplies
The tools you’ll need are as follows:
- Touchup spray paint
- Clear coat paint
- Rough to fine sandpaper (40 to 2,000 grits)
- A sanding block
- An angle grinder
- Tack rags
- Body or fiberglass filler
- Masking tape
- PPE (gloves, goggles, and a respirator mask)
- Rust converters and inhibitors (optional)
If you’re repairing a large section of rust, especially on the frame, you may need pieces of metal to patch in, which will require welding knowledge, though most at-home jobs won’t require such extensive repairs.
2. Preparing the Surface
Place your car in a safe spot, then tape off the non-rusty parts and start using the rough-grit sandpaper on a sanding block to remove the rust. If you need to remove large areas, use your angle grinder. Wipe away particles with tack rags.
It may sound obvious, but make sure you remove all of the rust. You can’t cover corrosion, as it will just spread again.
3. Apply Filler
Following its instructions, mix your filler and apply it to the damaged area, first in a thin layer and only more once that layer dries. Put on enough that when you sand it back, you can shape it properly to flow with the car’s natural contours.
Let your filler completely dry, and then prime the entire area. Sand down the primer, prime again, and repeat. Use 400-grit paper for the final layer, and ensure there is no exposed steel; otherwise, you’ll get rust again.
Now is also the time to apply rust inhibitors or converters. These products convert rust into materials that won’t corrode and that you can paint right over.
Spray on a thin layer of touchup paint and smooth it with 400-grit sandpaper once it’s dry. Apply at least three coats, sanding in between each.
6. Clear Coat
Finally, spray on your clear coat. You may need to do some light sanding to get a shine, which is where your high-grit sandpaper comes in. Follow the clear coat’s instructions, and you’ll be left with a gorgeous finish.