We’ve all seen the unsightly results of rust eating away at a vehicle. Rust can not only ruin the appearance of your car, but it can also cause lasting damage. Luckily, rust is not uncontrollable so there are many ways you can keep it in check. If you’ve started to notice the signs of rusting on your vehicle then it may be time for some restorative maintenance. Use the information below to help get you started on recognizing and mitigating rust issues.

How to Remove Rust


Safety first

This project is going to require you to use safety googles. Always make sure your car is parked on a flat level service. Do not wear loose fitting clothing or loose jewelry. Make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area.


Tape it off

Isolate the section you’ll be working on, the same as if you were painting the vehicle. You’ll want to make sure the non-rusted sections are protected. The rust job will put a lot of rust and paint particles in the air, so keep those off the healthy paint. Make sure to use real masking paper rather than newspaper.


Remove paint and primer

Start low and work your way up. We advise using a dual action sander for better control, starting with 80 grit and ending up at 150 grit. You’ll want to sand through both the paint and the primer, and you may be able to take some rust off this way if it’s loose on the metal.
Shop our large selection of sanders and accessories for this step.


Remove rust

For this you’ll need to use a metal grinder or “metal rescue,” and make sure to wear eye protection and a dust mask. Use the grinder carefully to remove the rust while taking care to avoid damaging the car sheet metal. If you use a chemical type rust remover, apply with a paint brush to concentrate your approach. Read the directions on the chemical bottle to determine the amount of time the chemical needs to work before re-cleaning the area. Chemical-based rust removers are good for removing rust and any microscopic remains.

Why Is Your Vehicle Rusting?

Rusting is a chemical process that happens as your vehicle ages. While rust is generally an unavoidable side effect of the passage of time, there are a few conditions that can cause it to appear earlier than you might expect. If you keep your vehicle outside, the extra exposure to the elements can lead to early rusting. If you live in an area that experiences a lot of snow and ice during the winter, driving your vehicle through wet roads that have been deiced with salt can also cause rust damage to be much more likely. Rust can sometimes be hard to notice at first, showing up as a little warping in your cars paint job or as dark spots, but it can spread over time.

What Damages Can Be Caused by Rust?

While rusting may seem like little more than a surface deep issue that affects your vehicle’s appearance, it can actually be a serious problem that you don’t want to ignore. Rust on the outside of your vehicle can eventually cause it to deteriorate. If left unremedied rust damage may eventually make its way to the frame of your car, creating serious structural damage that you may not be able to repair. If you want to keep using your car for as long as possible, then rust is something you can’t ignore.

Preventative measures, such as storing your car in a garage can be a good way to keep your car rust free. While it can sometimes be unavoidable that your car will be exposed to water and other rust-causing factors, a little rusting is not the end of the world. There are many ways you can work to restore a vehicle even after some rusting has occurred.

Can Rust Be Removed?

It’s all well and good to know that rust is not an issue you want to leave unaddressed, but you’re probably asking yourself how to get rid of rust on your vehicle. While almost any vehicle will eventually begin to rust as it ages, there are still ways to mitigate rusting in order to keep it from permanently damaging your car.

Rust restoration involves using rust removers to get rid of existing rust formation and stop it from spreading. In most cases, you will need to cover the surrounding, undamaged area with tape that won’t damage your vehicle. Once you have used a rust removing product to get rid of the existing rust you will need to paint back over the restored area with primer. To keep rust from returning you should plan on putting on at least a few coats of primer. If the rusted area is too damaged, it may not be worth trying to restore. In some cases, it can be better to simply buy a replacement part for a rusted area.

How Difficult is the Removal Process?

Since the extent of rusting will be different in every case, it can be hard to gauge the exact amount of time you will need to spend to get rid of it. Sometimes it can be a simple task that only takes an hour or so, while in other cases serious repairs may need to take place over the course of a couple of days. You should try and pick a time to work on maintenance when the weather is good and allows you to work in an open area outside where you will get plenty of ventilation. You don’t want to get caught in the rain in the middle of repairs, so it’s worth tuning in to your local weather before getting started.

While not the easiest DIY car repair, rust removal is something that you can do on your own. If you’ve never done similar maintenance before then you may want to find additional information and tutorials to help give you the know-how to get the job done right the first time.

What Products Can You Use?

As you start thinking about how to remove rust from car it can be helpful to compare a couple of different options for products that can help you. A good rust remover can make a world of difference during the restoration process.

A few rust removal products you can consider are:

  • Metal Rescue Concentrated Rust Remover Soak
  • Metal Rescue Rust Remover Gel
  • Rust-Oleum Rust Dissolver

While there can be many other options for rust removers, these products can be a good place to start. You should find that you can buy them in different sizes so that you only get as much as you need to repair the damaged area. Buying the proper size for the job you’re doing can be the most efficient way to get what you need while saving money.

Restoring a Rusty Vehicle

Once you notice rust damage on your vehicle you shouldn’t wait to get it fixed. It may not be the easiest repair process, but if you feel comfortable enough to try you should find that removing rust on your own is worth the work you put in. Doing the job yourself can be a great way to ensure that it is done with as much care as possible, and even with the products you will need to buy it can be a much cheaper option than hiring the work out. Shopping online can be a great way to compare a lot of different products that can be used for rust removal without ever having to leave your home. Browse products online or head to your local AutoZone and get rust under control as soon as possible.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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