How To Remove Rust From A Car

Whether repairing an old classic or just fixing damage on a new model car, the issue of how to remove rust from a car panel is the one thing that must always be viewed seriously when undertaking a repair. In older models, it is an affliction which is far more common. Anyone who is involved in car restoration or who does up old campers and the like can testify to this. The reason for this is very simple, prior to some stage in the 80’s the majority of cars lacked a zinc (or galvanised) protective coating. It is this coating which protects the steel from the risk of corrosion. Prior to this, cars had severe rust issues, and these issues were personified if you were unlucky enough to live by the sea.  The salty air in these regions all but disintegrated the body work of much early body cars. Luckily warranties and regulations on corrosion were introduced in the 1980’s which improved and elongated the life span of all cars.

When working on pre-80’s models, such as the VW split screen safari campervan or even the sleek Toyota 1976 Celica, the car rust issues can be so severe that the only answer is to physically remove the rust zones and weld in new panels. Even after this process, it is usual, especially during a full restoration, to have dipped the chassis to expose any rust, remove and then replace these zones, and then zinc coat the entire body before finally re-spraying. This is the only method of fully future proofing the automobile. Luckily, when dealing with newer models this excessive and extreme approach is not necessary. The following article will explore how to remove rust from a car in a simple step by step process.

Education yourself on how to remove rust from a car prior to undertaking the process is extremely important. No two car body repair scenarios are the same, so understanding the steps required, and the necessary products, is of extreme importance for facilitating the best possible crash or damage repair.

Step 1. Identifying rust areas for repair

Once rust is spotted it is best to tackle right away, as rust can spread quickly and if not treated can cause a whole world of issues. Some rust will not be fully visible, as it can start spreading underneath the paint surface and shows only as a coarse area on the surface such as bubbles in the paint. Once the danger signs are spotted, such as this or more in more extreme cases, it is time to act.

Educate yourself on rust damage repair

Prior to undertaking any repair process is the education phase, such as researching exactly how to remove rust from a car, so congratulations on successfully educating yourself.The first step is to understand the extent of the damage. To do so it is best to clean down the damaged area. This can be done with a rough sandpaper, being careful just to clean the damaged area. It helps to mask off this zone with masking tape so as to be sure as not to cause unnecessary damage beyond the repair zone.

The first step is to understand the extent of the damage. To do so it is best to clean down the damaged area. This can be done with a rough sandpaper, being careful just to clean the damaged area. It helps to mask off this zone with masking tape so as to be sure as not to cause unnecessary damage beyond the repair zone.

Step 2. Identifying the extent of rust damage

Once the area is cleaned down to the steel surface under the paint it will be possible to identify if it is just surface rust on top of the steel, or if it has corroded a hole through it. A nail or pointed object can be used to test if the corrosion has broken through the entirety of the steel. If the rust has gone all the way through, then it is best to cut out and replace this little section with a small weld plate, this, of course, depends on the extent of the damage.

However, with new model cars, this would be a very extreme case and is very often not necessary. In normal circumstances, the rust will just be on the surface, and therefore must be permanently removed.

Step 3. How to remove rust from a car by treating surface rust damage

To treat and remove rust damage from a car on a panel area I would recommend cleaning the surface with a wire brush after initial sanding, or even better would be a wire brush wheel which can be attached to a drill head. In my experience, this is the most effective tool for the job. Once the area is fully cleaned I recommend sanding the area with progressive grades of sandpaper, moving from 80-120-240-320 grit, until the surface is smooth.

Now you can apply a chemical rust converter, and this is an extremely important step within the how to remove rust from a car process. This is a chemical that will treat any microscopic rust particle that is not visible but may have been missed. It is very important to remove all traces of corrosion prior to moving on to the repair stage, as any traces of rust left beneath a repair will cause future problems.

Stage 4. The body filler repair process

Once this phase is complete it is time to apply fillers, for small repairs and small areas of rust pitting I would recommend ProWorx Pearl or ProWorx Silk Glaze, as it is a small repair which will only need one or two small skims to finish. This product is then ideal for priming and painting. If the rust area is larger or a welded segment had to be introduced, then ProWorx Swift or ProWorx Elite would be the best option as these would be larger repair zones.

In extreme cases where the holes are vast and need to be bridged, then I would advise the use ProWorx Fibrefix which is a chopped strand product and excellent for filling and bridging large holes. Once this product is cured and sanded you can then apply a filler such as those mentioned earlier so as to shape and prepare the finished surface for the priming and painting stage of the repair.

Step 4. Preparing the repair for priming and painting

Once the surface is flattened down and smooth, general to the grade of 320 sandpaper, and no scratches or grooves are left from heavier grades, you are ready for the painting phase. Start by feathering down the edges of the repair, this means lightly sanding so that when you rub your hand along the area there is no feeling of difference between the repair zone and the rest of the panel.

A) Masking the damaged area for priming

Once done, clean down the panel of any dust or debris from the repair and use a scotch abrasive to rub the edges. Now mask around the repair zone with a foam edge tape, if this is not available just use masking tape with the edge curled. It is important not to leave a line of high-build-up primer around the repair as they will cause difficulties when sanding the primer.

B) Applying primer and prepping for paint

After three dust coats, and watching not to have a high build edge, just simply leave to cure. The primer can then be wet sanded with some 800 wet and dry sandpaper, be sure to feather the edges so the repair cannot be felt with t=your hand. Once this is done you are ready to apply some coats of paint. Paint can be bought in aerosol cans for small repairs from your local motor factors. These paints can be matched directly to the paint code of your car, ensuring a perfect match.

Now, all that left to do is boast to your friends about how fantastically talented you are.


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