How to Get Rid of Rust on Your Car

It's one thing that no one wants to see on their favorite daily driver — iron oxide, also known as rust. It's an inevitable part of owning a car on a planet with an atmosphere that's 20% oxygen. You'll see even more of this nefarious substance if you live near the water, or in an area that gets snow during the winter. While we might not be able to avoid rust, as long as you catch it early enough it's not hard to get rid of. Here are a few simple ways to get rid of rust on your car quickly so you can prevent it from becoming an even bigger problem.

Types of Rust

First, it's important to know what type of rust you're dealing with. There are three different types of oxidation that you might find in your car, and some are easier to manage than others. First, there's surface rust. You'll see this manifesting in small areas where the paint has gotten nicked or scratched, exposing bare metal. Steel is incredibly strong and flexible, but it's notoriously chemically unstable thanks to the introduction of carbon into the alloy. A little nick in the paint is enough to start the oxidation process.
Scale rust covers exposed steel areas. If you see a large section of panel rusted away, but there aren't any holes in the metal, you're likely looking at scale rust. It becomes penetrating rust once it starts to eat holes in the metal, compromising the structure of the steel.
Surface rust is fairly easy to manage while the other two types of rust will require more time and effort to repair. Once you know what you're dealing with, move on to the next step.

Gather Your Tools

Before you get started, make sure you have all your tools and supplies on hand. Having to stop for a trip to the auto parts store in the middle of your repair job could cause all sorts of problems. Make sure you've got:
·      Plastic sheeting and painters tape, to mask off the areas that don't need repair.
·      At least three grits of sandpaper, starting with coarse and working your way up to fine.
·      A wire brush
·      Wax and grease remover
·      Microfiber cloths
·      Body filler to repair pits or hole left behind by the rust
·      Paint that matches your vehicle's paint code.
Don't try to match your vehicle's paint by eye. You'll end up with something that looks right, right up until it dries, and then you'll be starting this process all over again to fix the paint. Take the time to find your car's paint code and buy the right color the first time.

Use Some Elbow Grease

Once you've gathered all your supplies, it's time to get your hands dirty. First, use the sheet plastic and masking tape to protect any areas that you're not working on. Start getting rid of the rust using the sandpaper. You're going to want to sand down through all the rust until you hit bare metal. Start with your corse sandpaper and work your way up to the fine. You'll also want to use finer grit sandpaper to feather the edges of your repair area so the primer and paint will bond more completely.
If getting rid of the rust left pits in the metal, take the time to repair them with body filler. You can also use filler primer after you've put down coats of bonding primer if that's what you have on hand.

Paint and Protect

Now it's time to prime and paint your repaired area. A layer of bonding primer helps by affixing itself to the bare metal so the rest of your paint won't just peel off when it dries. If you haven't already filled the pits left behind by the rust, this is where you'll add two to three layers of filler primer.
Once the primer dries and you can sand it smooth to remove any drips, you can start adding the color base coat. Apply two to three coats, letting the paint dry between each layer or until you get the color you're looking for. Then add a layer of clear coat. Let it dry for at least 48 hours before you try buffing the new paint job.

Moving Forward

It takes a bit of patience and more than a little elbow grease to get rid of rust on your car, but it's worth it to keep your ride looking good for years to come. A little bit of rust can quickly become a big problem, so make sure you're taking care of your car and repairing rust whenever you see it.