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A Guide to What Causes Rust on Cars [And How to Fix It]

August 17th, 2023 |

If you’ve owned a car for a while, you might have already felt the heartbreak of seeing your once-shiny vehicle develop unsightly patches of rust. Rusting is an all-too-common problem that can appear all over the vehicle—on the exterior, chassis, rims, and other metal parts. Understanding what causes rust on cars is essential for keeping your vehicle in shape. But what causes cars to rust? How does rust form on cars, and more importantly, how can you prevent it? We’ll delve into all these questions, providing comprehensive answers for every concerned car owner.

What Causes Rust on Cars?

While some manufacturers build cars using fiberglass, carbon fiber, or plastic bodies, most are constructed of steel and metal alloys and are susceptible to rust. Oxidation causes rust via a chemical reaction in which water and oxygen interact with the steel. This reaction is prevalent in humid or coastal areas with high moisture and salt content. An unprotected metal surface allows oxidation to turn your shiny car into an unsightly, rusty artifact.

Cars generally have paint and other protective coatings to shield their exteriors from direct exposure to moisture and oxygen. However, damage such as scratches, dents, or chips in the paint exposes the metal beneath. This exposure initiates the rust formation process.

So, what causes cars to rust is the external environment and the condition of the car's protective layer.

How Rust Forms on Cars

Rust begins as tiny bubbles or blisters in the car’s paint. Over time, these bubbles increase and eventually burst, revealing a reddish-brown spot underneath. These spots are the visible result of the oxidation process. The rust can spread, eating away at the metal and compromising the car’s structural integrity. If not addressed promptly, rust can lead to substantial vehicle damage, resulting in costly repairs or even making the vehicle unsafe to drive.

How to Stop Rust on Cars

Understanding what causes rust on cars and taking proactive measures can help keep your vehicle looking good and running well for years. It's a small investment of time and effort that can pay off enormously in the long run.

Inspect and Maintain

Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial for keeping rust at bay. Be vigilant about checking your car for minor scratches, chips, or dents. Repair the damage promptly, as these blemishes can become the starting point for rust. Minor paint touch-ups often do the trick. There are also rust arrestors available on the market that can stop the oxidation process when applied to minor rust spots.

Keep the Car Clean

Routine car washes can prevent oxidation, especially during the winter when slush and rust-accelerating salt cover the roads. Ensuring your vehicle is clean and dry will help stop the rust before it begins. Also, waxing your vehicle as part of regular maintenance can protect your vehicle against factors that can cause rust. However, don’t get a car wash until 90 days after getting a new paint job, as doing so could void your warranty.

Take Precautions

Prevention is always better than cure. Using rust-proofing products offer your vehicle a significant defense against rust. Manufacturers design these products to provide an extra protective layer, preventing moisture and oxygen from directly contacting the metal.

Hire a Professional

If your car is already affected by rust, you’ll likely need car rust repair. This process involves several steps:

  • Sand and remove the rusted area to reveal the bare metal.
  • Fill and bond the damaged area of the vehicle’s exterior with body filler.
  • Sand the filler so the bonded area is flush with the surrounding surface.
  • Repaint the entire panel to match the vehicle’s original color.

Most people aren’t cut out for this job. It's often best to leave it to professionals, as improper treatment can lead to recurring rust issues. Professionals have the training and equipment to complete the job quickly, safely, and to a high standard.

Get the Upper Hand on Rust

Rust on your automobile isn't simply an eyesore; it's a real threat to your vehicle’s durability and safety. As a car owner, it's crucial to understand how to stop rust on a car, maintain its appearance, and keep its structural integrity intact. Don't let rust drive your car to an early grave. Make the right choice today to prevent, manage, and repair rust on your beloved vehicle. Turn to the professionals at Maaco for automotive rust removal and other repairs. Get an estimate online, or visit the nearest Maaco for service today.

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