How to Fix Rust on Cars the Easy and the Inexpensive Way

Having unsightly rust on your car can be annoying and embarrassing. Unfortunately, rust is the silent killer of many cars; it creeps in over the years while you’re not watching, and it can eventually wear out not just the body of your vehicle, but more important parts, too. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies out there on how to fix rust on cars or prevent it altogether.

Is Rust a Car Killer?

Even though rust can cause issues for many cars, just because a car’s a little rusty doesn’t mean it’s destined for the trash heap. Used car values can drop when they have a little rust, and this can sometimes work to your advantage if the rust is easy to repair.

If you’re looking for an affordable used car, even one with a little rust, it’s always a good idea to check its accident history first. If the vehicle you’re looking at has been in an accident, it might be more prone to rust or damage in specific areas that have been repaired or replaced.  Autocheck is an exceptional tool for this that can help you find anything meaningful in a vehicle’s history, either from its license plate or its VIN number.

Whether you don’t mind new car prices or you’re looking for a bit of a deal, AutoTrader is an excellent place to look to start, too. AutoTrader can tell you truck prices, car prices, and can even help you sell your current car.

Rust Prevention and Rust Fixes

It’s easier to prevent rust than to fix it, but if you’ve managed to let some slip by, it’s not the end of the world. Some rusty areas may be harder to fix than others, and this largely depends on the severity of the rust. Since rust is the oxidization of the metal itself, badly-rusted metal can’t just be cleaned off; sometimes it needs to be replaced.

If the rust your car is the result of an accident or a bad repair job, you may be in luck. Incidents of rust that don’t originate from normal wear and tear are covered by most comprehensive car insurance policies, like those from Geico. If you suspect that the rust on your car could have originated from one of those sources, report it to your insurance company right away.

However, if your rust is the result of improper care or normal wear-and-tear, as the case usually is, then it’s up to you to pay for a repair or fix it yourself.

Rust fixes generally fall into one of two categories: mild fixes and severe fixes. For severe rust, the rust has typically eaten all the way through the sheet metal on the vehicle. If the hole in the sheet metal is small, you may be able to repair it with body filler, but if it’s large, it may be better to replace the entire rusted panel. Consider your budget and the severity of the damage before you get started.

If the fix is mild, then the rust hasn’t eaten all the way through the metal yet. If this is the case, you’ll have much less work ahead of you, and you’ll probably be looking at less cost, too.

Any rust fix involves grinding away the rust, re-priming the exposed metal after patching any holes, and repainting the fixed area. To do this, you’ll need a number of different supplies.

What You’ll Need

There are a few things you’ll need to repair rust on your car. These things include:

●   Sandpaper (and preferably, a mechanical sander or sanding block to make your job easier)

●   An angle grinder for more significant jobs (optional)

●   Safety goggles

●   Body filler for dents and dips

●   A respirator or surgical mask

●   Touch-up paint that matches your vehicle

●   Vehicle paint primer

●   Masking paper and tape

If you’re looking at a significant repair job that involves holes in the body, you may also want to look into purchasing a patching kit like this one. Fiberglass repair kits are inexpensive and should set you back around $20, but if you’re looking to repair the holes with sheet metal, you will end up spending much more. Unless you’re familiar with welding, it’s inadvisable to work with sheet metal yourself.

Getting Started

To begin, you’ll want to do some prep work to get your car ready for its rust repair job. Since you’ll be releasing rust particles in the air, you should always work in a well-ventilated area and use a respirator. If weather permits you to do your sanding and grinding outdoors, it’s a good idea to do so.

If you plan to use a grinder at any point during the rust removal process, make sure to wear protective clothing and eyewear and be sure to mask off any nearby areas of your car. Any sparks sent flying by the grinder can damage the finish on your vehicle, giving you extra work to do!

Once you’ve sanded or ground away all of the rust on the problem areas of your vehicle, it’s time to smooth out the area. Make sure to “feather” the paint around the repair area; this means extending the edges so that it creates a gradual edge instead of a steep one.

If you have holes to repair, do so at this time, and allow your patch job to cure fully. If you have dents in your repair area, you’ll want to fill or straighten these during this step, too. Some dents can be fixed with gentle hammering from the inside, but many are better fixed with body filler instead. A single-use portion of body filler will set you back anywhere from $5-$10.

If you used body filler or a fiberglass repair kit, you will want to sand your patch job once it fully cures. Be careful to create a smooth, even transition between the repair area and unrepaired areas of your car, or the repair job will be noticeable once the paint is applied.

Painting Your Car

Once the repair job itself is finished, it’s time to put the final touches on your vehicle. For this step, make sure to mask your vehicle if you’re using spray paint. Apply the primer you’ve purchased first, then allow it to fully dry. Once the primer has dried completely, you can apply your car’s body paint color, allow that to dry, and finally, apply a clear coat on top.

If you experience any paint drips or notice any unevenness after your paint has been applied, don’t hesitate to sand and re-paint your repair job as many times as necessary. These mistakes will become more visible as the paint dries, so be vigilant in the aftermath of your repairs for areas that you may want to fix.

The Finished Product

As long as you’ve done your repair job carefully, your new patch job should last for years to come, keeping your car beautiful and healthy. Of course, you may need to repair a few more rust spots as your vehicle ages, but this is normal. Whether your car is a Ford or any other brand, it’ll still be prone to rust if you don’t care for it properly.  But hey, at least now you know how to fix rust on cars.

Prevention is the best way to take care of rust, but tackling rust spots early is equally important. To prevent rust development, be very careful about washing road salts and other chemicals from your vehicle, and wax your car often. With rust, prevention and good habits are everything!

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