How to Remove and Prevent Rust On Your Car & Best Products in 2024

Prevent and Remove Rust on Your Car

Whether you like new cars, vintage cars, or just want to learn how to fix your current car you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’m going to break down how to prevent and remove rust on your car. We’ll also dive into what causes rust, as well as the different types of rust that occur on vehicles so you know how to take on each one. 

Sometimes rust isn’t obvious, but there are things you can look out for that will save you in the long run. Have you ever seen the paintwork on a car bubbling up? As moisture and air spread between the metal and the paint, the paint will begin to separate from the rest of the car leaving an unsightly, lumpy appearance. 

Additionally, if you’re purchasing a used car and see irregular spots or strips of paint that don’t quite match the rest of the car’s color it could be a sign that rust removal and paint touchup occurred. It’s important to note these things because if the panel wasn’t properly cleared and sealed, the rust could come back up.

What causes rust on your car

If you regularly park in the open, your car carries microdamage from stagnant water like rain or even sprinklers. When water sits on your paintwork oxidation begins. This process will break down your clear coat allowing moisture and air to work their way down to the metal panels. When water and iron come into contact they create an atomic reaction. This turns into oxidation, and oxidation causes rust.

Additionally, if you live in a climate that experiences significant rain, driving through flooded streets will eventually cause rust on your undercarriage. This is an area where we don’t commonly look.

During winter most places have salt added to the roads. While this is good for safer driving conditions, it’s highly corrosive and undesirable for your car’s frame. If you have spots on your car that are starting to show signs of rust, know that salt adhering to these spots will speed up the process. This is another reason why it’s important to wash your car even during winter when it seems pointless.

Is it hard to remove rust?

Is it hard to remove rust?

Light rust removal isn’t too complicated. If you have minimal surface rust you can treat your vehicle at home. Your local auto shop likely carries everything you need to take on the task. Since surface rust sits on top of the metal, it can be scrubbed or sanded away. As long as the metal surface is still smooth underneath, you can proceed with priming and painting. 

Undercarriage rust can be difficult and time-consuming to remove. We all wash our cars, but have you ever washed your undercarriage? Most people haven’t even thought about it. Neglecting your underbody and allowing rust to form can weaken the structural integrity of your car. It can be difficult to remove undercarriage rust as you would need to jack your car up, scrub, tape off sensitive components, pressure wash, and blow dry the underbody.

Scale rust and penetrating rust are where things take a turn for the worst. After scrubbing away scale rust, there is a good chance you’ll need to grind and sand the metal surface down to smooth it out before you can prime and paint. If you have penetrating rust, you’ll likely need a professional to replace that panel altogether. 

How to remove rust from your car 

There are three types of rust to look out for surface rust, scale rust, and penetrating rust. While surface and scale rust can be remedied, penetrating rust might leave you with no choice but to replace entire panels on your car. This is why it’s so important to take care of rust at the first sign, and even more so to prevent it from happening in the first place.

How to remove rust from your car 

Surface rust is the most common type and the easiest to manage. This usually occurs when you have nicks in your paintwork. Look at the front end of your car for paint that has chipped away from little things hitting your car at high speeds. When those knicks are left uncovered the paint will slowly peel away, water gets trapped in the groves and leads to little patches of rust. Taking care of the damage at this early stage will give you the best chance of beating rust and restoring your car’s integrity. 

Common Surface Rust Locations:

  1. Front bumper where paint has chipped from small debris hitting at high speeds
  2. Hood 
  3. Roof
  4. Contours over the hood or trunk where water may sit
  5. Anywhere you have bumps or knicks in your paintwork

How to Remove it:

  • Start by removing the surface rust and surrounding paint with fine-grit sandpaper to unveil the bare metal underneath.
  • Once you have the area clear, start on the paint touch-up.
  • You’ll need to apply a primer, a color to match the current color of your car, and finish with a clear coat.
  • While it may sound daunting to sand part of your car down to the metal, it’s really not that difficult once you get started.

Scale Rust occurs when surface rust has been neglected. It’s the next step towards corrosion on the metal panels of your car. This is rust that has begun to penetrate the surface of the metal. As the rust begins to break down the metal you’ll start to see etching or pits. On the surface, your panel will feel and look rough. 

Common Scale Rust Locations:

  1. Same as above. This is untreated surface rust.
  2. Front bumper where paint has chipped from small debris hitting at high speeds
  3. Roof
  4. Contours over the hood or trunk where water may sit
  5. Anywhere you have bumps or knicks in your paintwork

How to remove it:

  • Start by scrubbing the rust away with a stiff wire brush
  • Once the rust is cleared away you’ll need to feel the metal to see if it’s corroded or smooth.
  • If you take action quickly enough, the metal will still be smooth to the touch and you can move on to priming and painting
  • However, if the scale rust has progressed to the point where the metal feels rough, you’ll need to grind the material down to make it smooth.

Penetrating Rust is the most advanced type of rust. If you leave surface rust untreated long enough, it becomes scale rust. If you continue to neglect the scale rust you now have penetrating rust. This is the most damaging and difficult type of rust to fix on your car, and sometimes the only solution is to replace entire panels of your vehicle. Penetrating rust is the easiest to spot since the damaged metal looks like it’s started to disintegrate. 

Common Penetrating Rust Locations:

  1. Undercarriage
  2. Frame Wells
  3. Wheel Wells
  4. Exhaust 
  5. Suspension

How to remove it:

  • If you have penetrating rust you’re limited on what you can do. Unfortunately, this can’t be repaired at home. It’s best to call a professional and determine whether or not the body is worth rebuilding. 

Best rust removers and how to use them 

Several items claim to remove the rust on your car. They all claim to be the toughest and most effective. Below I listed 2 of the best rust removers, as well as a breakdown of why I chose them. I’ll also provide some quick details on how to use each one properly. Although, I recommend checking the labels on your own in case the manufacturer changes the chemical makeup at some point.

There’s a good chance you’ve already guessed what product #1 is, and there’s also a good chance that you already have this tucked away in your toolbox. WD-40 is the most obvious choice for safely removing rust and costs just over $10 per can. This is cheap, easy to find, and won’t damage the surrounding paint on your car.

WD-40 Original Formula
•Drives out moisture and quickly dries out electrical systems to eliminate moisture-induced short circuits
•Acts as a corrosion inhibitor to shield against moisture and other corrosive elements to prevent rust
•Frees sticky mechanisms, loosens rust-to-metal bonds and helps release stuck, frozen or rusted metal parts
•Removes grease, grime, gunk, gum, tar, sap, super glue, sticker residue, and other sticky stuff from multiple surfaces

How to Use:

  1. Spray onto the rusted area
  2. Wait 10 minutes
  3. Gently scrub away rust with a light abrasive brush or sandpaper. 
  4. Follow with paint correction steps to seal and protect the clean metal.

Rust Kutter doesn’t just loosen and clear rust. The chemical makeup converts rust into phosphate, a more stable compound that will stop the rust from spreading. What’s left behind is a stable compound that creates a primed surface that you can now paint over. I should also add that Rust Kutter kicks out a harsh scent and will make your eyes feel like someone is cutting onions by your head. That being said, wear protective gear.  

Rust Kutter
•Rust converters work by chemically reacting with the rust, breaking it down into a stable, black compound that can be easily painted over.
•This product is ideal for use on metal surfaces that have rusted, such as car bodies, metal tools, and outdoor equipment.
•Rust converters can also be used to help prevent further rust formation by creating a protective barrier on the surface of the metal.

How to Use:

  1. Scrape loose paint with a wire brush
  2. Spray or brush on Rust Kutter
  3. Allow the product to dry
  4. Brush away any leftover residue
  5. Continue with paint touch up

Equipment you will need

The list of rust removal tools can get a little lengthy and varies depending on the severity of your rusty situation. You should wear protective gear, like goggles and gloves. Don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry that can interfere with your tools or any chemicals you plan to use.

Start by cleaning the area with your regular auto soap, rinse, and dry it. It’s a good idea to tape off the area you’ll be working on. This will help prevent any scratches or chemicals from touching areas that aren’t being treated. 

If you’re using a rust converter, scrape away any loose paint chips, then proceed using the instructions listed on the converter. However, if you’re using a product to clean the rust off, like WD-40, you’ll need to use a stiff wire brush to scrape away as much rust as possible. 

  • Protective goggles and gloves
  • Masking tape
  • Various grits of sandpaper 
  • Rust remover / Rust converter
  • Stiff wire brush
  • Wheel grinder or a Wire Brush Wheel Cup
  • Primer
  • Paint that matches your car
  • Protective clear coat
  • Wax or spray ceramic coating 

When cleaning rust, you’ll want to have a few different grits of sandpaper on hand. You would start with a course sheet, then work your way down the line to fine grit. Once you get down to the metal you need to assess the damage. If the metal is smooth you can move on to priming. However, if the metal has scales or feels rough you will need to grind it down until it’s smooth before you can properly apply a primer. 

If you’re wondering how to get the paint to match or how to blend, don’t worry. Open the driver-side door to view the informational placard on the door jamb. If you can’t find it, or you happen to drive a less common car, you can simply do a web search for “How do I find my car color code”.

5 Tips to Prevent Rust on Your Car 

Prevent Rust on Your Car 

The best advice I can give you is this: If you take care of and clean your car, rust won’t be much of a problem. Rust is the result of neglect. Maybe you didn’t notice the chips on your paint, or maybe you park your work truck outside year-round. If you catch rust early enough you can choose products to remove rust. Better yet, if you take precautionary steps you can prevent rust altogether. 

  1. Use wax or spray on ceramic coating
  2. Parking in a covered area so rain doesn’t sit on your car
  3. Touch-up chipped paint
  4. Wash your car during winter to remove salt 
  5. Keeping the interior clean. Spills will soak through the carpet and sit on metal

Products you can use to Prevent Rust 

There are a lot of products on the market that one could use to help prevent rust. I’m going to highlight two products that make a big impact but are completely different. First, protect your paintwork before it starts to break down. Secondly, when you see chips and scratches fill them in. 

Nexgen Carnauba Spray Wax is one of my favorite products to prevent rust. Using quality wax on your exterior creates a protective barrier so the paint can’t be broken down by water oxidation or salt degradation. What sets this spray wax above the others are the nano-polymers and amino-functional polymers. Not only does it protect your car for months, but it gives a mirror-like shine. Another feature is that it’s mess-free. Since it’s a spray, it’s really easy to quickly and evenly cover the entire exterior surface of your ride. 

Touch Up Paint for Cars is basically a marker used to fill in chips in your paintwork that you’re not ready to properly repair. The markers are cheap and easy to use. If you frequently drive on the highway or through dirt roads you probably collect little nicks on your front bumper and hood relatively fast. Cleaning and filling them in regularly will help prevent rust from forming in those little holes until you’re ready to repaint the area. The product comes in basic colors and won’t match perfectly, so it’s a good idea to use it as more of a bandaid than a permanent solution. 

Can you prevent rust naturally?

The best thing you can do to prevent rust naturally is to keep your car dry. A lot of us tend to let our garage get a bit cluttered, and we end up parking in the driveway. Pushing “clear out garage” to the top of your to-do list will make your car squeal with joy. If you don’t have a garage or covered parking pad, get a car cover to prevent water from sitting on your panels. 

Cleaning the car so wet spots don’t seep down to the metal framework will help prevent rust in hard to see areas. Make sure kid’s drinks are in spill proof cups and keep a few towels under the seat to soak up any spills before they have a chance to seep under the fabric. If you regularly shampoo and extract your seats and carpet, make sure you’re taking the extra time to extract as much moisture as possible. 

If you’re lax about washing your car, try to get on a regular cleaning schedule. Hand washing your car and keeping up with wax will prevent contaminants from breaking down your clearcoat and chipping your paint. Once your metal panels are exposed rust will start to form slowly. 


We’ve all seen abandoned trucks, old and covered in rust. If you’ve ever driven through farmland, you see them regularly. What was once a shiny red pickup is now sitting next to a barn rotting. Auto maintenance isn’t something we’re all taught and so a lot of people see a car that they think is starting to fall apart and they give up on it because they think it’s become worthless.

Rust on your car can be a complex issue. It can be remedied quickly, or it can grow into an expensive project. There are plenty of ways to stop rust from spreading on a car. If you don’t have rust now, take preventative steps to make sure you don’t get rust later on down the road.  

Working and cleaning under your car is a hassle and it’s time-consuming, but a corroded metal frame is expensive and can be life-threatening on the roads. You can prevent rust under your car by cleaning your underbody, or at least giving it a good rinse to get rid of any salt that may be clinging on.

car care reviews logo
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.