How to Stop Rust on a Truck

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Rust is more than an unsightly problem on your truck. It can spread and cause serious damage to the body and frame of your vehicle. It’s possible to get rid of rust spot and protect your truck from further corrosion if you use the right products and techniques. Here is what you need to know about how to stop rust on a truck.

It’s important to remove rust and prevent it from spreading because it can eat away at your vehicle’s steel parts. Rust can cause structural damage to the frame of your truck. It can also weaken the body of your vehicle and reduce protection in case of a crash. You can easily fix small rust spots as long as you are dealing with surface rust. Larger spots with deeper corrosion typically require you to replace parts or body panels.

If you own a truck, you need to learn to recognize the difference between surface rust and more serious issued caused by rust. You should also figure out which products and techniques are best to protect your vehicle from rust. Make rust repair and prevention a part of your truck maintenance routine to prevent damages.

How Does Rust Form?

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Rust forms when steel, water, and oxygen come together. An acidic reaction takes place when water meets oxygen, and this reaction can attack the iron present in the steel used to make truck parts.  Exposure to salt and ice can worsen this reaction and cause rust to spread faster.

Oxidation happens, and iron oxide forms once iron reacts with oxygen and water. Iron oxide is the chemical term for rust.

The problem with rust is that it’s a very flaky and brittle substance. While steel is a sturdy material that protects you in case of a crash, the iron oxide will easily fall apart. The brittle characteristic of rust is why you will often find holes in the parts where corrosion is present.

Is Rust a Serious Problem?

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Surface rust is a fairly common problem. It looks bad from a cosmetic viewpoint, but it’s something you can easily fix. Surface rust affects paints and surface layers of a part or body panel. It’s not a serious problem because there is plenty of steel left untouched. Surface rust doesn’t compromise the structural integrity of a vehicle, and body panels will still protect you in a crash.

However, rust spreads. It can affect the entire frame of your truck, the undercarriage, and spread to different moving parts. It can set deeper into body panels and render them brittle and flaky.

Rust can become a serious problem if it eats away at the steel and reduces the structural integrity of your truck. A rusted frame might not be able to support the weight of your vehicle, and a badly rusty panel could come apart in a crash.

How to Fix Surface Rust 

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If you want to learn how to stop rust on a truck, the first step is to learn how to fix surface rust. There is a quick fix you can use to get rid of unsightly rust spots and prevent oxidation from setting any deeper into the affected parts or body panels.

You will need:

  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Clear coat
  • Buffer

Start by using sandpaper to remove as much of the rust as possible. Fine sandpaper will work best. Remove paint around the surface rust spot since oxidation has probably started spreading.

Keep sanding and polishing the rust spots until you can see a clean steel surface. If you fail to remove all the rust, it will keep spreading under the new layers of paint and clear coat.

Once you have removed rust and paint, you can apply a primer to protect the area. Let the primer dry, paint over it, and finish by applying a clear coat.

You can then use a buffer to polish the area. Using a buffer will make the repairs invisible as long as you were able to match the paint to the color of your truck. Use a polishing product with the buffer to get better results.

I recommend using aluminum oxide sandpaper with a 180 or 220 grit to get rid of rust spots. I like this 180 grit sandpaper from Mercer Industries and this 220 grit sandpaper from 3M. Start with the 220 grit sandpaper to remove as much rust and paint as possible, and switch to the 180 grit to get a smooth surface where you can apply primer.

If you have a lot of surface rust spots to fix, it’s worth it to invest in a buffer. Wen makes a variable speed polish for less than $50 that is very easy to use

How to Fix a Hole in Your Truck’s Body

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Rust can cause holes to appear in body panels. If there is significant damage, it’s best to replace the part. However, you can fix small holes with a body filler kit.

Here’s what you will need for this repair:

  • Body filler kit
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Breathing mask
  • Protective clothing
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Clear coat
  • Buffer

Start by prepping the area with some sandpaper. Get rid of as much rust as you can and eliminate paint around the hole. If there is a lot of surface rust to remove, a grinder will be a more effective tool.

You can apply primer around the area you need to fix. The primer will protect the area and prevent rust from spreading in the future.

Depending on the size and shape of the hole, you might need to use a small hammer to widen it. It’s easier to work with a regular shape. If the steel around the hole shows signs of damage and looks brittle, use the hammer to remove it. Widen the hole until you have sturdy steel around it.

You can then use the body filler kit to fix the hole. Body filler kits typically contain volatile chemicals. You need to wear protective clothing, gloves, and goggles while working with those products. A breathing mask will prevent you from accidentally ingesting volatile elements, especially when sanding over the area.

Body filler kits typically come with a metal plate or mesh that you can place behind the hole. The plate or mesh helps you apply the filler paste evenly. Your kit should come with a plastic applicator to make this process easier.

Wait for the body filler to dry, and use sandpaper to create a smooth and even surface. Remember to wear goggles and a breathing mask when sanding the dry body filler. Sanding will release fine particles that could be dangerous to inhale.

You can apply a primer, paint, and clear coat once you have a smooth surface. Use a buffer to hide the repairs.

Bondo makes a great body filler. The product is affordable and easy to use. For small spots, Bondo’s self-adhesive patches might be a more convenient option since they are much easier to apply.

Can You Always Fix Rust Spots?

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The answer is no. Large holes or advanced corrosion are enough to weaken the structural integrity of your truck. A badly damaged body panel wouldn’t protect you in a crash. It’s best to replace the parts that show signs of advanced corrosion.

It’s also best to replace moving parts with rust spots. Sanding those parts isn’t an option since it would affect how they work.

Rust can spread to the undercarriage of your vehicle. If you notice rust under your truck, it’s best to replace those parts. The undercarriage of your truck protects you and your passengers from exposure to exhaust fumes. Rust and other types of damage can expose you to exhaust fumes.

Replacing parts and body panels can be expensive. However, you need to replace those parts since driving a truck with advanced rust problems isn’t safe. Besides, rust will keep spreading and will cause more issues.

In some cases, it might not be worth it to fix the truck. If the frame of your truck shows signs of advanced corrosion, it might no longer be sturdy enough to support the weight of the vehicle. Replacing the frame of your truck would probably be too costly.

How to Prevent Rust

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Now that you know how to stop rust on a truck, you also need to learn how to prevent it. I recommend inspecting your truck regularly to look for new rust spots. Oxidation won’t spread if you fix small rust patches and holes as soon as you notice them.

Check the rockers, fenders, wheel openings, and bed of your truck. Those are areas where rust often appears. You should also look under your vehicle since you might not inspect the undercarriage of your truck regularly and might miss some rust spots.

Don’t forget to inspect the inside of your truck. If you live in an area with precipitation, wet shoes can cause humidity to set in the carpets and mats. Eventually, humidity can cause rust to appear under the carpets and mats.

Wash your truck regularly. Washing your vehicle will remove salt and prevent rust from spreading. Use a manual car wash so you can wash the undercarriage as thoroughly as possible.

Reducing exposure to humidity will prevent rust from forming. Use a truck cover if you leave your vehicle parked for long amounts of time. A bed cover can protect the bed of your truck, especially if you often haul items. If possible, don’t park your truck in a humid garage.

Salt buildup can become a problem in the winter. The same thing is true if you live by the ocean. Wash your truck often, and pay attention to salt and ice buildings in the wheel openings.

What Are the Best Products to Prevent Rust?

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You can use different products to prevent rust. I recommend getting rid of surface rust and fixing holes before you use any of those products.

Using a rust prevention spray is an easy way to protect your truck. These sprays form a protective film on the surface of your truck. It’s very easy to apply a rust prevention spray since you can use these products on top of the factory paint.

Rust coating sprays typically form a layer that lasts for months. You can find sprays with a clear finish or apply a black spray if you have a black truck. Most sprays have a weatherproof finish that will protect your truck from other types of damage.

Waxing your truck is another option to explore. Wax forms a protective layer that is similar to rust prevention sprays. However, wax takes more time to apply. Waxing your truck is an option worth considering since the wax will protect your truck from scratches and dents besides preventing rust.

15 oz. Pro Matte Black Undercoating Spray Paint

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You can also protect your truck with an undercoating spray. Rust-Oleum is a popular option. This product is a rubberized spray that you can paint directly over. The downside of undercoating sprays is that you need to apply those products under a layer of paint. It lasts longer than other options, but the application process is more involved.

If you are thinking about painting your truck, you can protect it from rust by using rust prevention paint. This product is a convenient option since it doesn’t require you to apply multiple layers or multiple products to get results. Rust prevention paint forms a protective seal on the body of your truck and keeps moisture out.

I also recommend investing in a liner or mat for your truck bed. You can find truck bed coating sprays that repel water and prevent rust.

The best way to stop rust from spreading is to get rid of surface rust as you notice it. There are additional steps you can take to protect your truck, such as limiting exposure to humidity and protecting your truck with a special spray. Keep in mind that there are cases where it’s best to replace parts and panels if rust has spread too far. 

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