Rust on a car is a serious problem. Not only does it look terrible and lower the value of your car, but it’s also a “silent killer.” Left untreated, rust can cause major safety issues. Luckily, it’s also entirely preventable.
The following guide will discuss the different types of rust that can develop on the car, explain how to prevent it, and debunk some of the most common urban legends about rust on cars. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to keep rust at bay so your car continues looking great for years to come.
What Is Rust?
When learning how to prevent car rust, it’s helpful to understand what it is and where it comes from. The word “rust” is actually short for “red dust,” named after its color and texture. It’s caused by a breakdown of iron-based materials, called oxidation. This happens when iron comes into contact with oxygen and water.
Rust on cars typically happens in stages. If it’s not taken care of when it first occurs, it will continue to progress, causing more damage. Let's take a look at the types of rust that can form on a motor vehicle:
You’ll often experience surface rust when your car’s paint breaks down over time. This can be caused by a prolonged over-exposure to the sun’s UV rays or by mechanical damage such as scratches, scrapes, and dents. It's also important to note that bird droppings are acidic, so leaving them on your car can also lead to rust.
It’s often possible to remove surface rust using high-grade sandpaper or an abrasive wheel to grind it down until the paint and rust are gone, and shiny metal is exposed. Then, you’ll need to prime the area before applying new paint.
Left untreated, surface rust often creates “scales,” also called “bubble rust.” This happens when surface rust expands and flakes, exposing the metal underneath. When that metal starts to corrode, the rust will continue going deeper, creating “scales.”