Car Rust: How To Remove, Prevent And Repair Rust On Your Car

Any iron-based metal is susceptible to forming rust, which can also happen with cars, as they are predominantly made from iron-based metals. Rust forms due to the electrochemical breakdown of iron-based materials through the process of oxidation, which occurs when surface molecules react with oxygen in the environment and produce the by-product of iron oxide.

Car rust can occur due to various reasons, including climate change, among other reasons. The paint on our car protects it from rusting, but when the paint is removed due to some reason, then our car can be susceptible to rusting. Exterior rusting can easily be cured by painting over it, but if left neglected for far too long, then it can lead to the rusting of internal parts, which can damage our car.

Read on to find out how car rusting can be prevented, and more information about car rusting.

When Do Cars Start to Rust?

There is no time period set in stone, regarding when a car can start to rust. A car can start to rust over the years, depending upon its usage, and what conditions it has been exposed to. A lot of factors are involved in vehicle rust.


Why Do Cars Rust? What Causes Rust on a Car?

Sometimes, we can notice rust spots on a car, or rust under a car, or rust anywhere on the car in general. A lot of factors can cause rusting. Here are a few possible reasons:

1. Climate

Oxidation of metals is caused due to their exposure to moisture. The chances of rust on your car are increased if your car is regularly exposed to rain, sleet and snow. The corrosion process of metals speeds up if they are exposed to salt, and with salt being used to grit icy roads, the corrosion process of your car's metal increases when it is exposed to this salt. Higher temperatures generally lead to higher rates of corrosion too.

2. Driving Style

Sticking to driving on the road can keep your car rust free. Driving in puddles or off the road, can increase the chances of rusting and vehicle corrosion as well.

Also Read: How to pass Practical Driving Test In UK?

3. Materials

Older vehicles are made with materials that are not rust proof, while new vehicles are usually made with rust proof materials. As a result, older cars are more prone to rusting than the new ones.

4. Age

While there is no set period for when a car might start to rust, your car will start to rust over time, as it wears and tears due to the usage. Once the paint starts to come off, that's when rusting usually starts as well.

What are the Different Types of Car Rusting?

There's not a single type of car rusting, as there are several different kinds of rusting that can occur to a car. The following are the different kinds of car rusting:

1. Surface Rust

Surface rust is at surface level only, but it starts spreading deeper if left untreated. It can be observed in bumps and nicks to body panels usually but can affect the inner parts if left untreated.

2. Scale Rust

The metal on the body of your car corrodes if the surface rust is left untreated for too long. Road salt is notorious for speeding up the corrosion process and can severely affect the integrity of the metal itself.

3. Penetrating Rust

This is the worst form of vehicle rust you can encounter, as it is the deepest and most problematic type of rust ever. This is the surface rust which affects your car parts severely, if you leave your surface rust unattended for a long time.

What are the Most Common Locations Where Rust Can Form in a Car?

While surface rust is very easily identifiable, it can occur in a lot of places.

1. Exhaust

Mud and dirt can trap moisture inside the exhaust pipe, as it is exposed to moisture both from inside and outside the car.

2. Suspension

As it is near the tyres, which can pick up moisture, dirt and other elements on the underside of the car, it has a huge chance of encountering moisture and turning rusty.

3. Frame Rails

These are located underneath the doors, on both sides of the car. As a result, they too are exposed to a good amount of moisture.

4. Wheel Wells

Older cars did not come with arch liners, and since our wheels encounter a lot of moisture content, so do the curves above our tyres. Older cars have a greater chance of these wheel walls being prone to rust than the new ones, while even never cars can experience the same problem.

5. Doors

As doors are exposed to moisture within and outside the car, it is always important to make sure that there's no rust on them.

6. Boot Floor

Rusting can take place on the floor of your boot as well, so always check the floors of your boot by removing the carpet.

7. Windscreen

A car's windscreen is probably the most exposed to moisture content, as it deals with a lot of factors daily. The areas around the glass are also prone to leaking.

How Do You Spot Rust on Your Car?

Since rust can occur in many ways and in various locations in our car, there's no saying how and where it will occur, or even when. The best thing we can do to be careful is to keep checking our car for any possible rust spots regularly. Here are a few pointers on how you can spot a rust spot on your car:

1. Irregular Paint

Paint prevents a car from forming rust, and essentially protects it from rusting. However, if done wrong, this is the very same thing that could lead to rusting. Spots or strips of paint that don't match the original paint can be due to rusting. If they're not repaired or sealed properly, then the problem might persist and even become worse.

2. Puddles

Always check for any dampness or water damage on the carpet, in footwells or the boot, as they are usually a sign that the metal underneath has rusted.

3. Body Damage

Nicks and dents on your car, when left unattended to, can lead to the rusting of your car. Getting them checked out in advance can stop rust on car.

4. Bubbles

When there are bubbles under your car's paint, known as paint bubbling on your car, it usually means that the paint has lost contact with the panel underneath because water and air have gathered in between. This means that there's rusting on your car and that immediate action is required.

How to Identify the Warning Signs That Your Car Needs a Rust Repair or Treatment?

Rusting can happen anywhere in your car, as has already been established. It is also noted that it can occur at any time, and that it can lead to the damage of your car overall, if left untreated for a long time. While you can give a second eye to rusting on your car, there are a few warning signs when you must step up your game and waste no more time, as it can result in serious damage. These warning signs are:

1. Puddles of wetness in your car – this means that the metal under your car is probably rusted

2. If your exterior paint is bubbling, then it is an early sign of rust

3. Patchy paintwork on your car

4. Dents or nicks on your car

Is it Advisable to Buy a Car with Rusting Signs?

While buying a car, we tend to be very careful and calculating as it is a huge investment. As such, it is important to ask yourself the following questions, in case you notice rust patches on the car you're considering buying:

1. Is the Price Coming Down?

If the car you're interested in buying has rust damages, but if the owner is willing to sell it to you at a reduced price than the usual market price, and if you feel it's a good deal, then it should be okay for you to consider buying the car.

2. Am I Going to be Okay Driving a Car with Rust Damage?

The first and foremost thing to ask yourself is whether you will be okay with driving a car with visible rust damage. If the answer to that question is a yes, then you should go ahead.

3. How Bad is the Damage?

Always make a deep check of the car under consideration, before you take your final decision. While surface rusting is easy to deal with, the same is not the case with internal rusting. If the rust damage is not too much, then you can go ahead.

Can Your Car Be Treated For Rust And Corrosion?

Depending on the levels of damage, your car may or may not be treatable for rust and corrosion. This would depend on whether the rust damage is at the surface level, or if it has gone deeper. Car Rust treatment can happen only when your car is still salvageable. Whether or not rust can be repaired depends on the level of corrosion to your vehicle and where the damage has struck. Take your car to the nearest expert to know if it's treatable or not.

How To Remove or Repair Rust Damage on Your Car?

Removing rust from car or car rust treatment is a highly important thing to do, as the neglection of the same could result in your car being damaged and unfit for use. Contrarily, rust protection for cars is also very important. Here are a few tips for removing and repairing rust on a car:

1. Remove the Old Paint, and the Rust

At the site of damage, use the necessary tool for scraping out the rust and paint coating. An angle grinder with flapper wheel, or a coarse 80 grit sandpaper and a wire brush can be used for this job. A rust converter can also be used, which goes beyond the paint to chemically neutralise the rust and leave a protective black coating behind.

2. Repair with Fibreglass

Long strand glass fibre repair gel provides a structural repair that is nearly as strong as steel. Mix the gel and hardener and press into the damaged area from behind. It begins to harden in about 15 minutes, and can be sanded in, in less than an hour.

3. Use Sand for Excess Fibreglass

Any excess glass fibre gel can be removed using an angle grinder and flapper wheel.

4. Body Filler

Mix the body filler with the right amount of hardener and apply it with a flexible, flat spreader, pressing it into the rust holes. The flatter the application of the filler is, the less sanding it requires afterwards. Make sure there are no low spots left out in the end, so apply enough filler.

5. Use Sand for Smoothening

The hardest part of bodywork is to achieve a smooth surface on the car, before you start applying paint on the body. For this, sanding is required. Start with a 400 or coarser grit sandpaper to sand off any excess body filler. The process can be done sooner if it is not quite fully hard. A sanding block is required when sanding a large area, to make sure you don't end up with a wavy surface.

6. Clean the Area

Use a clean rag and mineral spirits to remove any residual dirt or oil for cleaning the area you just repaired. The body filler you applied should be so thin that you should be able to see the metal and paint through it in most places. Clean again once it is dry.

7. Primer Application

Spray primer over the repaired area, any bare metal, and at least an inch around it for proper blending. For best results, spray over the entire area in a thin coat, followed by a heavier coat after a few minutes. Let the primer dry before sanding.

8. Use Wet Sand

Wet-sand the newly primed area with a 400-grit sandpaper until it is smooth, and the edges of the repair are blended into the original paint. Then, wipe it clean, allow it to dry, and spray another coat of primer. Then move on to a higher grade of sandpaper, 600 grit, and wet-sand and prime again. Two or three coats of primer are typically enough to get a reasonably smooth repair.

9. Spraying the Base Coat

These days, most cars use a base coat, covered with a protective topcoat. Spray two or three thin coats of paint over the primer and the repaired area. Several thin coats are better than a single thick coat, as they avoid leaving runs or dips in the paint.

10. Rub Out the Paint

For a fully glossy finish from the spray, you need to run it by hand with a rubbing or polishing compound, and if you have any significant mistakes (orange peel, runs, drips), you will need to start with wet sanding. Wet sanding with 1000 and then 2000 grit should allow you to remove runs and orange peel, or you may have to go even coarser, but going too far will require another coat of paint.

11. Spray the Clear Coat

This is an optional step for most minor repairs, but the advent of 2K clear paint in a spray can has made it a good idea if you plan on retaining the car. The original factory paint uses a two-part mixture with paint and an activator or hardener, making the paint like an epoxy that is impervious to weather, UV light, and solvents. This spray paint will make your home repair nearly as durable as a professional body shop paint job, and much longer lasting than touch-up paint alone.

How Much Does the Repair for Rust and Corrosion Cost?

Depending upon the damage, the cost for repairing rust and corrosion can vary. Doing these repairs on your own can save you a lot, but sometimes, an expert's help is necessary. Experts can charge anywhere in between £36 to £200 per hour, for their services.

If the damages can't be repaired, then you might have to consider placing the parts, which costs a whole lot more.

Can Rust and Corrosion be Repaired by Yourself?

If there's not a lot of damage done already, and if the rust is still surface deep, then there are chances of you fixing the rust on car by yourself. The basic tools required for the job are:

1. Angle grinder and flapper wheels

2. Wire brush

3. Fibreglass epoxy gel

4. Body filler

5. Various grade sandpaper (80, 400, 600, 1000, 2000)

6. Sanding block

7. Primer and base coat paint

8. 2k clear coat paint (available in aerosol cans)

9. Masking materials (paper and tape)

10. Rubbing compound

11. Mineral spirits

12. Rags

13. Tack cloth

Should You Repair Rust and Corrosion by Yourself?

While you may be able to repair rust and corrosion by yourself, it is important to remember whether you should or shouldn't do it. This depends on how much damage has occurred to your car. Consider the following factors while deciding whether you should repair rust and corrosion by yourself:

1. Budget

If you're willing to invest a lot, then getting your car repaired by an expert is a good idea. On the contrary, working on the damage yourself is much cheaper.

2. Extent of Damage

If the damage is just surface level, then you can work on it yourself. If the rust has gone deeper though, then you would have to get an expert opinion.

3. Time

A lot of time is required to assemble all the tools and materials required for the job. With some of them being quite expensive, you would have to wait around for the best deals, which takes a lot of time. If time is not something you have working in your favour, then considering getting the job done by an expert is the best option.

4. Confidence

If you're extremely confident with yourself and your capabilities, when it comes to handling the damage, then you can go ahead.

How to Prevent Rusting in the First Place?

Car rust can be a tricky thing to deal with, as it can turn out to be quite an expensive repair in the end, if not dealt with properly. While rusting might be inevitable in the long run, certain steps can be taken to try and prevent your car from rusting in the first place. While anti rust coating is one way, there are many other ways, through which rust can be prevented on your car. Here are some ways in which rusting can be prevented:

1. Rinse And Dry

If you're living in a coastal area, or if your car is regularly exposed to various conditions, then it would be a good idea to keep rinsing it every now and then and patting it dry.

2. Apply Oil

WD40 is a great tool to fight against rust and corrosion. WD stands for ‘water dispersant’. Applying the solution with a smart straw will help you drive out moisture from hinges, joints and other areas that are hard to reach.

3. Add a Coat of Wax

A coat of wax to your paintwork will provide a protective outer layer for your car. You can even try using a wax injection gun to reach those areas where moisture is likely to collect over time.

4. Keep Your Car Dry

Parking your car indoors, or in a garage, can keep it well protected from any moisture content. You can even use a dehumidifier to remove any moisture content in your garage, for better protection.

5. Use of Alloys

Stainless steel is an alloy that can be used to prevent rusting on cars. While it is not economical or applicable in all scenarios, it can still be used to prevent rusting in some cases.

6. Application of a Dry Coat

There is rust preventative, or anti rust sprays, which offer a comprehensive protection from rust. These coats offer a protective barrier over the metal, preventing the formation of rust.

7. Galvanization

Zinc is coated over iron or steel to protect it from rust, thus galvanizing them. This is because zinc corrodes at a much slower rate than iron or steel, slowing down the rusting process by a lot.

8. Blueing

A layer of magnetite is created over the metal to prevent it from rusting. The metal must be regularly oiled to maintain rust resistance, and it will turn blue or black in the process.

9. Powder Coating

A layer of acrylic, vinyl, epoxy or other substances will prevent moisture from reaching the metal, thereby preventing rust.

10. VCI Packaging

Vapor Corrosion Inhibitors (VCI) are a type of chemical compound that emit rust eradicating vapours when infused into various packaging materials, thus protecting them from rusting or corrosion.

Is Rusting the End of Your Car?

Rusting is not the end of your car, if you get the rust checked out during its early stages. However, if you leave the rust unchecked for a long time, and it penetrates the interiors of the car, then there is a possibility that there's a lot of damage done to the internal parts of the car. In such a case, you might have to replace those parts. If buying a new car is cheaper than replacing those parts, then it means that it's the end of your car.


Car rusting and corrosion are very important things to be kept in mind as they can affect the overall health of your car. If left unchecked for a long time, then you can lose your car in the end. While treating rust and corrosion may turn out to be cheap if you tend to the problem at its early stages, it can turn out to be quite expensive, if you leave it hanging for a long time. Car warranties may cover these damages, saving a lot on costs for you. Warranty Direct offers a comprehensive policy for its customers, as our Gold extended car warranty policy covers the repairs of mechanical and electrical components. Head to our page to find out more about our policy today.

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