How Can I Fix the Rust on My Used Car?

close up rusty bottom edge of vehicle

Rust is a common occurrence in many used cars that results from the electrochemical breakdown of iron-based metals. This is caused by oxidation, a chemical reaction in which iron surface molecules react with oxygen in the environment and produce iron oxide, aka rust. Dirty, salty water from the road can expedite rusting when particles get trapped in different areas of the car’s body.

Since rust forms in stages, it’s important to know what type of rust your vehicle has so you can properly address it. If not addressed immediately, rust can spread and potentially do long-term damage to your vehicle.

Here are the three different types of rust and how to fix them on your used car:

  1. Surface Rust
    When paint nicks, cracks and scratches pop up on your vehicle, surface rust can form if you go too long without correcting the problem. Thankfully, this is usually an easy fix. Popular Mechanics suggests using an abrasive wheel or sandpaper to cut through the paint and corrosion before using a rust inhibitor to prevent the rust from spreading. Finally, apply rust treatment to restore the metal. More instructions can be found in this article.

  2. Scale Rust
    If you go enough time without correcting surface rust, it can penetrate the surface and cause a rough, pitted type of damage on your vehicle called a scale. To correct this, you must get through the rust with a wire brush, knocking down roughness with a grinding wheel and smoothing out the surface with sandpaper. Check out Popular Mechanics’ article for further instructions.

  3. Penetrating Rust
    If scale rust has been exposed for too long, it will eventually eat through your used car’s metal, causing holes to form. Once this happens, there is not much you can do on your own. Your best bet is to take it to an auto repair shop to get checked out for any structural damage.

Now that you know the types of rust that can form on your vehicle, how can you prevent it from happening?

  • Wash your used car regularly to keep it clean of dirt, road grime and salts that lead to corrosion.

  • Check drain holes along the bottom of the doors and rocker panels and use a pipe cleaner to clean these holes out.

  • Add rust-protective sealant to the underside of your vehicle.

If rust has taken its toll on your used car and you’re in the market to purchase a new ride, Credit Acceptance can help. If you’re a car buyer with bad credit or no credit and need help getting approved for financing, fill out the form on our website and we’ll connect you with a car dealership in your area that can help you get started!

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