Auto Body Rust Repair Made Easy

April 5, 2012

Find out the 6 steps of auto body rust repair, and learn when rust repair should be handled by a professional.

Auto Body Rust

Auto body rust repair has become more important in recent years. The present economy has more people keeping their cars longer for an average of 9.4 years. Not only should you be concerned about how well your car runs, but it's important that you keep a handle on rust to preserve the body of the car.

When to Do Your Own Auto Body Rust Repair

If you live in an area with ice and snow removal, your car will experience winter damage. Your car will rust because of the materials used to clear ice and snow from roadways. Road salt and other materials will accelerate rust damage to your car's surface.

You will need to determine whether you can treat the rust on your car yourself or if you will need a professional car body expert to take care of the problem for you. Your decision will depend greatly on how extensive the rust damage is and what kind of results you are expecting.

If the rust damage has not corroded through the metal and is no more than two to four inches in diameter, you can repair the area yourself over a two-day weekend. The basic tools needed are sanders, primer, paint to match the color of the car, old newspaper, and masking tape.

DIY Auto Body Rust Repair

Rust Removal

Your first step is to remove the rust. You will need a sanding disc fitted with sandpaper, with a texture of 100-grit. Proceed slowly when removing paint and rust so that you don't remove or cut into the metal. You want to sand beyond the rust area to create a solid area free of rust.


When you have removed the rust you will need to sand the area by hand with 120-grit sandpaper and then move to 150-grit paper. Tack cloth is used to make sure the metal is clean and dirt-free.


Cover the area surrounding the sanded metal with newspaper and masking tape.


Apply self-etching primer in very light coats. It works best to wait between 5 to 10 minutes between each application of primer. Waiting a few minutes between coats allows the primer to set up and helps stop the paint from running. You will need to apply three to four coats of self-etching primer. When you've applied the fourth coat, you will let it set up until the next day.


Apply the matching color paint sold at the local auto parts store. You will apply the paint the same way you did the primer—in several coats. Patience in applying five or six light coats will pay off in a good-looking job that lasts longer. When you've applied the fifth coat, let the paint dry for 10 to 12 hours and then remove the newspaper and masking tape.

Wash and Wax

Wash the entire car with a mild soap for cars and apply a light coat of wax after 48 hours. This repair process will not result in a new car finish. However, it does keep the rust from spreading.


It is best to seek professional help if you have frame damage from rust corrosion or if the rust has corroded the body of the car. Minor battery corrosion can also be removed with sand paper.

If you're not very concerned about the results, you can use this DIY auto body rust repair system to stop the progress of rust.

Related Questions and Answers

Where are the Most Common Places for Auto Body Rust to Occur?

There are many examples of wear and tear on a car, but auto body rust is the most visible. While it is treatable. auto body rust  occurs from living close to the ocean, or from ice and snow from roadways. Road salt and sea salt contribute to auto body rust but the car never rusts uniformly. The roof and doors are susceptible as well as areas that have been damaged previously from a chip in the paint, are at risk. Slight auto body rust can be removed at home, but a bigger job should be done professionally, as there should be no color differences in the car after repairs. Rust should disappear completely as if it never existed.

What Type of Car Paint do You use Over a Car Body Rust Repair?

Before applying paint, it is important to follow all the steps of car body rust repair. A high quality auto body primer is used in thin coats, at ten minute intervals, as the layers will prevent further rust. A successful car body rust repair requires three thin coats of primer and an overnight wait before applying the paint in several coats. After applying six light coats, the paint must dry for half a day before removing the masking tape. Two days later, wash and wax the newly painted car with a mild car soap. MAACO has 10,000 auto paint colors, and many other auto shops can offer this paint.

Which Auto Rust Removal Products are Regarded as the Best?

There are many auto rust removal products on the market, but consult your insurance company or a reputed auto dealer for the most effective. Rust Bullet rust inhibitor coating is popular, and guaranteed to prevent rust for 10 years. Rusterizer is an organic rust remover that is newer on the market. Auto rust removal contains acid to convert rust to black oxide, but it is critical to remove rust before painting or spraying on the auto rust removal such as POR-15. Phosphoric Acid has a unique property of dissolving iron oxide quickly and is used in auto shops for auto rust removal. Though, if you are doing this DIY auto rust removal project at home, it is best to use a purchased product mentioned previously.