1980 Isuzu 117 XC Coupe with rust

Image Credit: Flickr user Riley

Rust isn’t just unsightly- it can radically depreciate your car’s resale value. But understanding how to prevent rust means also knowing how it begins and what to look for.

How Rust Forms

Rust forms in chips and nicks in your car’s paint. These can be extremely small, such as nicks you get through daily driving. But the key to rust is that bare metal oxidizes, painted surfaces don’t. When these chips and nicks expose your vehicle’s bare metal in an unnoticeable location, it’s just a matter of time until rust forms. Left unchecked, rust will eat its way through the metal. It’s also important to note that once a rust hole starts, it can’t be stopped, only slowed down. This is why we want you, fellow vehicle-owners, to take notice and take action right away!

What to Look For

Rust typically forms in and around the wheel wells, on the exterior flooring under the driver and passenger seats, on the fenders and on the front of your car. Corrosion Doctors call these “war zones” because these areas are most prone to catching flying stones/pebbles.

If you are looking at a used car for sale, use a flashlight to look underneath the car behind the front and rear tires on both sides to check for a rust repair job. You’re looking for excess body filler, which will look and feel like hardened putty. The reason to check for repair jobs is because eventually, rust will come back through the paint. As a side note, fresh paint on a used car usually means that it was involved in an accident or had a rust problem- both red flags which should be avoided.

How to Prevent Rust on Cars

To prevent rust on cars, you need to protect your car from the elements and regularly check common areas for rust. Below, we’ve listed some tips to keep your car’s body in check:

  • Keep some touch-up paint on hand and periodically go over your car’s exterior, looking for chips and nicks in the paint. If you find a chip where surface rust has already weaseled its way in, use sand paper (220 grade or finer) and carefully sand it down to bare metal. For tiny nicks, wrap the sand paper around the tip of a small screw driver and try not to damage the surrounding paint.
  • If you chip the paint on your car, clean promptly and apply touch-up paint or clear nail polish to the area.
  • Periodically visit your local Valley Car Wash on a monthly basis to wash the undercarriage and inside the wheel wells.  A build up of dirt can hold moisture and allow rust to form- Keeping it clean will allow surfaces to dry quicker, making it less susceptible to oxidation.
  • Over the winter, salt accumulates on the carpet in your vehicle, creating the perfect environment for rust to form underneath the carpet. A good rug shampoo can help remove the salt from the carpet fibers.

Whether you are searching for a used car or just trying to maintain your current vehicle, practicing the steps above can prevent rust from eating away at your vehicle as well as your pocket book.


Image Credit: Riley, Creative Commons License