How to deal with rust on your car

Updated Jul 19, 2018 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

Tips and tricks on how to prevent and remove rust from your car.

You’ve been with your car for a considerable amount of time now, and comes with that tenure you’ve been through all kinds of weather that a tropical country can offer – sun, rain, cloudy, stormy, floody. All those times you got safely to work and back home, in the freshest condition all because you’re protected inside your ride’s loving arms.

checking a rusted car

Seeing rust on your car can be quite alarming especially if you are a person who takes care of your car thoroughly

Now, while appreciating your newly washed car, looking at its beauty from far, you noticed something you haven’t seen before running along the fender. With frowning eyebrows you slowly walked towards your car and bent over to where you’ve seen that odd looking thing. You have a hunch of what it is, but deep inside you’re hoping that it’s just a little dirt forgotten to be wiped away by the carwash boy. As you move closer, you touched it and closed your eyes, accepting that your hunch is true it is, indeed, a rust.

Since your car is made of metal, exposure to salty water and humidity can increase your car’s chances of getting rust infested. Since we live in a tropical country where weather is mostly sun and rain, it is very likely that at one point, we’ll encounter this problem. Now, we need to make sure we are well informed about rust in cars.

1. What Can Rust Do To Your Car?

1.1. Damage on the car’s body

Although cars have a natural rust protection in the form of car paint, if not given proper care and attention, it is still susceptible to rust. Just as long as the car is still well-covered in paint, you can be at ease that rust may not develop that easily. However, if there are chipped off paint, scratches and other damage that exposes your car’s metal body to water or air, then it more likely to form rust in the affected areas.

If you see areas on your car, no matter how small, where there’s scratch or chipped off paint, repair or have it repaired right away. By doing so, you’re preventing rust from forming and eventually keep your car rust free for a longer period.

a rusted car

Rust can make your car physically unattractive

1.2. Damage on the engine

The car’s body is not the sole part of the car that is composed of metal. One of the most important part that is made of the same element is the engine. Since engine is under the hood, exposed to high temperatures and liquid, it is not impossible for it to acquire rust as well – and rust in engine is not a good sign. When rust forms in the engine, it can crawl over to the engine compartment, make the exhaust system vulnerable and cause damage in the trunk area. Eventually, this can lead to air leaks and water leaks.

a rusted car engine

Rust on engine can cause internal damage to your car and may affect its performance in the long run

1.3. Electronic System Damage

Since modern day cars are full of electronic components that make any driver and passenger’s life so much easier, these lifesavers can also be prone to rust. They are all made of metal and usually attached to other metallic parts of the car like the chassis. Once they are infested with rust, no matter how little, your vehicle can experience an electronic system malfunction or electric system damage.

1.4. Floor

Don’t be in a hurry when washing or cleaning your car. If you wash your car and didn’t give it enough time to dry up thoroughly and completely, you’ll leave moisture in some parts, most likely on the floor. If you place your floor mats back without ensuring that the floor is dry, it becomes susceptible to rust. Rust will eventually eat the car floor and can lead to some serious trouble.

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Rust on a car floor

Rust on the car floor can make the metal brittle and can cause holes

1.5. Car’s Underpart

The part under the car is the most exposed to water, soil and heat coming from the road. Hence, it could be the part that is most prone to rust. Although we may not always realize it since we are almost always focused on the parts that can be seen, we should also pay attention on the undercarriage. There are some car manufacturers or dealers who offer rust protection – something you can take advantage of.

Now that we know the extent of damage that rust can do to our vehicle, it’s time to know what we can do to remove rust (if it’s already existing) or prevent it from invading our ride.

Rust in a car's underchassis

The part under the car is the most susceptible to rusting due to its exposure to road waters, moisture, heat, among others

2. How to Remove Rust off Our Car

2.1. Identify the extent of rust damage

You have to thoroughly check the area of your car where you’ve seen the rust. You have to determine if it’s still repairable by DIY or you have to take it to professional repair shop. If you have determined that it’s still fixable by you, follow the next steps.

2.2. Make sure you remove them all completely

You need a sandpaper to rub off the paint from the rust infested area. Remove the paint and the rust thoroughly, ensuring you leave nothing behind. Remember, if you leave any hints of rust on the surface, it will just grow again and continue eating up the metal of your car.

2.3. Clean the area and be ready with a rust converter

Clean the area affected and brush over it your preferred automotive rust converter. The rust converter has two main components, namely ‘tannic acid’, which converts iron oxide or rust into a dark stable material called ‘iron tannate’. The second component is organic polymer, which provides a protective primer layer.

Using a rust converter

Clean the area and be ready with a rust converter

2.4. Body filler

Mix body filler with the hardener that comes with it until it turns light pink. Apply this on the area in a thin and even layer and leave it for a couple of hours to dry.

2.5. Sand it again

Once the area is dry, sand it using a 400 grit paper until it evens out on the existing paint job. Cover the area surrounding the repair using a tape and clear plastic before spraying a primer over the repaired part.

2.6. Apply Color

After sanding the part, it’s now time to apply color or paint. Apply two coats of color carefully and evenly.

3. How to Prevent Rust from Forming On Your Car

Given that we can do something to remove rust from our vehicle, it is still better to prevent it from forming. You know, we’re always for ‘prevention is better than cure.’

Always cleaning your car, including the parts underneath and letting it dry thoroughly and completely can definitely prevent rust from forming on your vehicle. Another thing is to apply wax on your car regularly for added protection and sealing it from possible rust formations.

>>> Click here to get more helpful tips and advice for your car maintenance

Ivy Kristia Padura

Ivy Kristia Padura


Ivy is one of the first Philkotse's content writers. She finds joy in sharing her driving tips, particular for dealing with heavy traffic in Metro Manila, with other fellow drivers.

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