While automobiles aren’t prone to sickness, signs of rust are like symptoms that require medical attention. Like most things, there are different severities of rust on an automobile. Some cases have quick fixes, while others may necessitate some major surgery. If you’re concerned about rust on your vehicle, then now is the time to address it. In this guide, we’ll discuss common forms of rust on automobiles, and what to expect during the repair process.
Rust, or iron oxide for the chemistry majors, is caused by bare metal (particularly steel on automobiles) being exposed to oxygen. As a result, the metal develops a brown and red appearance, and can eventually lose its structural integrity and deteriorate, becoming brittle and flaky.
So why is rust bad for automobiles? Rust can eat away at the metal in your vehicle’s body and frame, usually steel, and lead to some serious structural repairs if left to its own devices. A rusty fender could mean shelling out cash for a replacement, while the cost of repairing rust within the frame or unibody may easily exceed the value of the vehicle.
Since rust on a vehicle can range in severity, the repair process varies accordingly. Due to the specialized nature of rust repair, it’s strongly encouraged that you take your vehicle to a professional auto body shop for any level of repair.
Mild Surface Rust
For cases of mild surface rust where the metal is only cosmetically flawed, the repair process starts by sanding or grinding down the surface corrosion to expose the clean metal underneath. Once the clean metal is exposed and free of any corrosion, the area is prepped for paint.
After wiping down the surface, the area is first sprayed with a primer to prevent rusting of the bare metal. Once the primed area has dried, the surface is painted in the body color, and eventually a clear coat can be applied, if the vehicle has one.
Fighting Rust with Chemicals
When rust has gone farther than mere surface corrosion, you can consider using a chemical rust converter. These products are designed to chemically convert rust into an inert material. Once the rust remover has finished acting on the surface, the affected area will usually have a flat black appearance that is ready to be painted.
If ignored for too long, rust can make a metal surface unsalvageable. In these cases, the rusted section of metal has to be cut out, and a new replacement panel has to be welded in its place. Once the metalwork is finished, the paintwork can begin. Sometimes the rust can be contained to a bolt-on replaceable part (such as a fender or a trunk lid), but that is the best-case scenario for large amounts of panel rust. Unless you’re experienced with metal fabrication and welding, this is a job best left to the professionals.
Now that you are familiar with rust repair, what can you do to prevent it from occurring in the first place? Here are some suggestions to fend off the tin worm:
Preventative maintenance goes a long way toward rust prevention, as the repairs can get very costly. Just remember: your car takes care of you, so why not return the favor?