The tell-tale signs of rust can turn your stomach. Once rust forms on your car, you’ve got to address it fast. Otherwise, it won’t stop until your entire vehicle is covered. And while this sounds like a dismal situation, early rust treatment for your car is both easy and affordable.
In this article, we’ll walk through the ways rust forms on your car; how to treat it if you’ve found yourself with some rust spots; and how to prevent rust from forming in the first place. When we’re through, you’ll be equipped to treat and prevent rust growth on your car.
How Does Rust Form on Your Car?
Rust occurs when a metal containing iron is exposed to oxygen and moisture for an extended period. In scientific terms, rust is iron oxide. A more basic way of understanding rust is that it’s simply metal that is rotting. Whatever way you look at it, rust is an issue that you need to treat as soon as you can.
Many factors contribute to rust formation on your car. Living near the ocean increases the likelihood that you’ll have rust issues. Saltwater speeds up the oxidation process and cultivates rust growth. You’ll find similar problems if you live in cities that use road salt to melt ice and snow. The salt sticks to your vehicle and breaks down the metal, causing rust to form.
But salt isn’t the only culprit contributing to rust formation. A simple ding in your car, if left untreated, can expose your car’s metal body to the elements. The smallest paint chip gives moisture a way to find this metal. Over time, that small blemish will rust, then grow. And by that point, you need professional help to prevent serious corrosion.
What Happens if Rust is Left Untreated?
A neglected rust spot won’t stay small for long. If left untreated, rust will grow and spread until it overtakes your vehicle and causes serious cosmetic and safety issues.
Giant patches of rust never start out that way. They all begin with an area of exposed metal. And unfortunately, even the smallest paint chip can lead to significant rusting. At first, you’ll likely notice rust forming around the edges of a paint chip or scratch. As time passes, the rust will spread to cover the entire damaged area. And past that, rust will continue to penetrate your paint and eat away at your vehicle.
Rust can destroy a car no matter how luxurious or expensive it is. If left untreated, rust will ruin your vehicle. For that reason, we urge you to take care of rust as soon as you see it forming and take preventative measures before damage is done.
When it comes to cars, you typically run into three types of rusting: surface rust, scale rust, and penetrating rust. Each rust type varies in severity and treatment. Below, we’ll explain how to identify and treat each of these rust issues.
- Surface Rust
The initial stage of rust on your car is also known as surface rust, as the issue exists only on the surface of your vehicle. You can easily remove the rust, treat the area, and repair your car to a like-new condition.
To begin, sand down the paint until you can see the shiny metal body. Then, prevent further rusting with rust inhibitors and removers, following the package directions. Allow the surface to cure for 24 hours before priming and painting.
- Scale Rust
Scale rust poses more serious problems than surface rust. As rust penetrates the metal of your car, you’ll see bubbles or rough, pitted areas on your vehicle: scale rust.
To treat scale rust, first use a wire brush or grinder to remove it. Follow up with sandpaper to ensure there are no flecks of rust left on your car. At this point, you’ll have spots that need smoothing with a body filler. Once the filler hardens, you can continue with priming and painting.
- Penetrating Rust
At its most severe, rust will create holes in your vehicle. When scale rust is never addressed, your car will have penetrating rust problems. If it comes to this, you’ll need professional body work done. You might be able to replace the damaged panels. But if the rust has damaged your car’s frame, in some cases, nothing can be done, as a rusted-out car is not safe to drive.
We hope you never see rust on your car. Once you have penetrating rust, the treatments get especially costly. That’s why we emphasize good rust prevention practices, which we’ll explain below.
How to Prevent Rust on Your Car
Rust forms quickly with just water and exposed metal. Because a rust spot can grow so easily, it’s important that car owners regularly check their vehicles for rust spots or areas of concern. Thankfully, rust prevention is easy, and it’s the most affordable way to “treat” your car for rust problems! Below are the three main ways you can prevent rust from forming—and spreading—on your vehicle.
- Wash Your Car
Regularly washing your car is one of the most effective methods of rust prevention. As grime and dirt build up on your vehicle, your car’s paint weakens, leading to breaks and chips. And as we discussed above, once your paint chips, your vehicle’s body is exposed to the elements and is especially susceptible to rusting.
But when you wash your car, you’re removing the grit, grease, and grime that break down car paint. Sand, dirt, and other debris create tiny scratches that, over time, will cause significant rust issues. By removing these factors, you’re eliminating at least one contributor to car rust.
- Check for Common Problem Areas
You can only fix a rust issue if you know it exists. That’s why we recommend giving your car a thorough inspection and searching for rust spots. Every vehicle is different, of course, but most cars develop rust in specific areas. To get ahead of severe damage, check these common problem areas for rust:
- Exposed, bare metal
- Areas where water gathers
- The trunk
- Trailer Hitches
- Your car’s frame, underneath your vehicle
Catch rust early, then you can take the proper steps to treat the area and prevent spread and further damage.
- Use a Touch Up Paint for Scratches
As we’ve explained, rust usually starts out small, as a seemingly harmless little scratch or ding. Left alone, it will spread and cause real mechanical and cosmetic issues. When you see a scratch, divot, or any other issue with your paint, use a touch up paint immediately.
Touching up cosmetic imperfections on your car help restore its original beauty, sure. But utilizing a professional touch up paint does much more. By repairing those minor dings, you’re forming a new seal between your car’s metal body and the outside world. And when you do that, you create a barrier that prevents rust from forming.
Stopping rust before it starts is the cheapest and easiest way to approach rust issues on your car. Touching up those road rash spots saves you time, money, and heartache down the road!
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