We do everything we can to keep our cars looking their best, but even the nicest cars can fall prey to the corroding properties of rust.
Rust is a common enemy of the car owner, particularly those with older vehicles, and once it appears there isn’t’ a lot you can do about it.
Like most things in life, prevention is the best defense against rust, as well as a range of other car-related issues.
For most people, rust prevention looks like parking their car in a garage and never thinking about it again, but if you don’t have access to a garage or you want to be more vigilant than most, this approach isn’t going to work.
How do you stop rust on a car, then?
Rust is a form of corrosion and it affects cars in all areas, from the battery to the body. The best prevention against rust is keeping a clear car, performing regular spot checks for signs of rust beginning, and keeping it sheltered from the elements as best you can.
If you have an older car that’s already started rusting and you want to stop it from getting worse, or you just want to make sure your existing car stays free from rust for years to come, this guide is for you.
We’ll explain how rust forms in the first place and what you can do to prevent it, even if you don’t have a trusty garage to store your pride and joy in.
What Is Rust And How Does It Form?
The key to preventing rust build up on cars is understanding how it gets there in the first place and what conditions it thrives in.
Rust is a compound, and its scientific name is iron oxide, with the usual color being a reddish-brown, or even green if the rusted surface has been underwater.
Rust occurs when iron and oxygen react, and this can only occur when there’s moisture in the air or water on a surface.
The iron or alloys in an object will start to corrode when it comes into contact with oxygen and water.
Over time, this corrosion becomes worse and it will eventually turn into rust, which ends up disintegrating completely eventually.
A car might also get rust due to the build-up of dirt, moisture, chemicals, and road salt that happens with everyday use, especially if a car isn’t being cleaned regularly.
Minor scratches and damage done to the car’s surface can also lead to rust developing, and if a car is stored in a high humidity area and doesn’t have enough ventilation, it can also become a problem.
Old Cars Vs New Cars And Rust
When we think of a rusty car, we’re probably imagining an old, abandoned body of a car left behind somewhere and covered in rust.
There’s a good reason why people assume that only older cars turn to rust, and that’s because of a significant change if how they were manufactured in the last 30 years.
Galvanizing was a gamechanger for the auto industry and it’s the reason why cars aren’t as quick to rust as they used to.
The steel used to make most cars today has been galvanized which means it’s been dipped into a thin coating of zinc that protects it from rusting, compared to a large ship that has this protective layer bolted to its sides.
Having the layer of zinc deprives the steel body of reacting with the oxygen in the air and also provides a new reaction between the zinc and the iron compounds found within the steel of the car.
If it does come into contact with water and air, the zinc will be the sacrificial lamb that takes the brunt of the damage, making sure the steel lasts a lot longer.
However, just because most modern cars have this protection, it doesn’t mean you can leave your car wherever you want or not take care of it, and there’ll be no rust.
Caring for your car is like caring for any major investment, and it requires ongoing attention and effort to make sure it doesn’t fall victim to rust.
Tips For Preventing Rust Formation
Rust isn’t a problem that you should wait to happen before dealing with it, as the solution is a lot harder than prevention.
Follow these tips to make sure rust never becomes an issue with your car, no matter the age or condition of it.
- Have a regular cleaning schedule in place for your car and stick to it, making sure to wash underneath and keep the interior clean as well. Moisture can build up anywhere, especially under floor mats, and turn to rust as it eats through to the other side.
- Depending on the conditions you drive and live in, more frequent or deeper cleans might be needed. Those living where there are salted roads will need to wash their cars more regularly in winter, as will people who live by the ocean.
- If you noticed anything on the surface of the car, like bird droppings, salt, and tar from the road, remove it immediately with the right type of cleaning agent.
- Make a point of inspecting your vehicle regularly and looking from top to bottom. Check underneath the car as well as the sides and top. If you notice any scratches or dents, have them taken care of before they turn into rust.
- Park wherever you can that has natural light and good ventilation. There’s no need for a garage if you don’t have one, especially as conditions are high in humidity and usually poorly ventilated.
- If you have to transport anything like fertilizer or salt in your car, keep it well protected from the surface of the car and sealed in a plastic container.
Can You Remove Rust From A Car?
If you’ve discovered that your car is already rusting, it can be easy to go into panic mode.
There’s no need to stress though as most minor forms of rust can be removed with a bit of hard work, and sometimes with help from the professionals.
Check out these common forms of rust and how to get rid of them:
- Surface Rust: The first level of rust and most easily treated, surface rust can be removed using something abrasive like sandpaper. Once it’s all been removed, treat the area with a primer and then paint over before buffing it to smooth the surface.
- Scale Rust: Scale is a term for rust that’s rough and pitted, and usually looks like a large bubble. At this stage, you can remove rust using a grinding wheel, and then sanding it down to a smooth surface. Once it’s completely gone, apply a coat of primer, paint, and then topcoat.
- Penetration Rust: Once the rust has made its way through the metal completely, the whole thing will need to be replaced. This is done by replacing the panel which should be done by a professional.
Rust is a serious business when it comes to cars, and at the very first sign of it, it needs to be treated so.
Whether you’ve got an older car that’s more prone to corrosion or you just want to prevent your new vehicle from rusting without the protection of a garage, we’ve got the answers to some questions that can help.
Can I Use A Rust Inhibitor On My Car?
Rust inhibitor is a product designed to slow down the oxidization process that leads to corrosion, and if you have a car that’s more susceptible to rust you might want to use it.
These products aren’t as effective as other preventative measures but they can add a level of protection that gives the car owner peace of mind.
Does WD-40 Remove Rust?
WD-40 has been shown to have a removing effect on rust, as it works at loosening the bonds between the metal surface and the rust itself.
However, when it comes to rust on a car, you should never spray WD-40 on the body as there’s a very real potential that it will do further damage to the paintwork.
Is Fixing Rust on a Car Worth It?
To determine whether you want to spend money and effort on rust removal on your car, you have to figure out if the rest of the car is in good condition or not, and how much rust there is.
The severity of the rust will also impact your decision, so consider that any rust holes that are roughly the size of a quarter will need a cosmetic repair or replacement the size of a basketball.