Rust is the enemy of every classic car. Unless you are in the business of bodywork, rust is a major annoyance that if left untreated can turn into an expensive repair. Let’s take a look at how to prevent rust, and how to repair your vehicle if it has minor rust issues.
First though, you might be asking “Why does my car rust in the first place?” Good question. Rust is the result of a chemical change in the metal. Basically, exposure to oxygen and water causes iron and steel to give up electrons, which slowly turn the metal into a weaker hydrated iron oxide, or what we know as rust. Some factors that increase the speed of the chemical conversion are salt water and acid rain. Knowing this, you can probably see a few ways to prevent rust.
Simply put, there is a reason cars stored in a garage every winter look better than those left outside. If you can’t leave your car in the garage all winter, do what you can to limit its contact with the elements that cause rust. You can’t really limit exposure to oxygen, so try to limit the vehicle’s contact with water, especially the salty slush kind. Wash your vehicle after driving on a salty road. A power washer, or a car wash is an easy way to blast that corrosive junk off the undercarriage. Since it will likely be cold outside, just spend your time cleaning the parts that came into contact with the salty crud. The goal is to get the part out of contact with salt and moisture, as a clean and dry part is much less susceptible to rust.
While some old timers will tell you to slather the underside of your vehicle with used motor oil, the EPA generally frowns on such actions, and honestly it’s not that good at preventing rust. Since the goal is to prevent contact with moisture, the answer is some sort of coating on the metal. Chrome, powder coat, paint, wax, zinc, rubber, and anodizing offer varying levels of protection, at a wide range of costs. At the low end are basic spray paints and rubberized coatings. 3M makes a well-reviewed rubberized coating that goes on easily and costs about ten bucks. Chrome plating is on the opposite end, as the process takes a while and is usually sent to a professional shop. Expect to pay around $100 to chrome something the size of a 15 inch wheel.
If you do discover rust on your ride, take care of it before it gets serious. Light rust is easily removed with a variety of home remedies, including sandpaper or a vinegar and lemon juice soak. WD40 makes a non-toxic rust remover soak that can handle tougher jobs. If you can’t wait and need to kill rust now, head to a parts store or home improvement warehouse and find Naval Jelly. It can tackle serious rust issues in just a few minutes. Finally, when you think the part may be beyond saving, check out POR-15’s line of excellent rust killers. Your treated part will actually be stronger than when it was new.
With prevention and care, your ride can remain rust free for many years to come. Have a great rust prevention tip? Let us know.