How to Fix Major Rust on a Car

how to fix major rust on a car

Rust is a common issue that many vehicle owners face, especially those who own more than one vehicle. In addition to negatively impacting your car’s appearance, rust will also destroy its structural integrity, especially when left untreated for too long. In this post, we will discuss how to fix major rust on a car step by step. But before that, let’s talk about why rust happens.

Why do cars get rusty?

It’s impossible to completely prevent rusting on our vehicles, because it is part of a natural chemical process that occurs when iron comes into contact with oxygen and moisture. Our earth’s atmosphere is abundant with both of these, making rust a typical occurrence within our ecosystem. 

Corrosion will happen to steel naturally any time it becomes exposed to the air. This process is called oxidation.

However, there are types of steel that take a longer time to corrode compared to other kinds. You can expect modern cars to feature a more durable galvanized steel, which is more resistant to corrosion.

Vehicle paint plays a primary role in keeping rust damage at bay. It’s a physical barrier that prevents water and oxygen from touching the steel layer.

In general, car owners who consistently wax their cars and perform other essential maintenance procedures don’t need to worry about rust as often. But if you’re someone who owns an older or worn car, here are the steps you need to follow in order to remove rust.

Tips for How to Fix Major Rust on a Car


Prepare the tools you’ll need

The following are the tools required for fixing car rust:

  • Sandpaper. Using a sanding block tool or mechanical sander is the most efficient.
  • Angler grinder. This is necessary with large rusty areas.
  • Body filler paste or putty for filling all the gaps and dents.
  • Touch-up paint. This needs to match your car’s color exactly.
  • Primer for vehicles
  • Masking paper
  • Safety equipment

Prepare your car for repair

Rust repair needs to be done in an area where you won’t have to worry about anything getting dirty as you sand the rust away. 

After parking your car in a suitable location, start by covering every non-rusty part of the car’s surface. Use old newspapers and secure them with masking tape.

If this repair will require an angle grinder to remove a considerable amount of rust, use fire-resistant covers, as there will be sparks flying in the area.

Sand the surface

Using sandpaper, sand the paint and rust away. You’ll need to keep doing this until you reach the bare steel layer. Remember to remove all rust particles before you paint your car. Failing to do so will only enhance the corrosion. In no time, the rust will reappear.

Apply the primer

Priming your car is necessary before painting it. Apply the primer to the areas with bare steel. Once the first layer is done, sand the surface again to ensure that all remaining rust particles are removed. Afterward, prime the surface one more time.

To ensure that all rusty parts are removed, you can repeat the sanding process and then prime the surface again.

To ensure peak performance, the last primer layer must be sanded with 400-grit sandpaper.

Paint the car, then sand again

Coat the car with a thin layer of paint first. Let it dry and sand it down with 400-grit sandpaper. If you have accidentally thickened any parts, that’s okay. A sanding block can be used to whittle them over time. Three coats are needed, so repeat this process two more times.

After your last application of paint, get a piece of 400-grit sandpaper with water and rub it on the newly painted areas.

Add a clear coat

By this time, you should have completely gotten rid of all rusty parts of the affected areas of your vehicle. The repainted surface should be totally smooth as well. At this stage, you can now apply a clear coat to prevent minor scratches and fading.

The bottom line

By following this guide for how to fix major rust on your car, you can tackle even the most stubborn rusty spots. With some patience and the right tools, your old rusty car will look good as new!

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