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How To Fix Minor Rust Spots On Your Car or Truck

August 13, 2021 4 min read

How To Fix Minor Rust Spots On Your Car or Truck

Assaults on your vehicle are unfortunately unpreventable. You can park as far away from others as you'd like, but someday, a door edge, shopping cart, or hail is likely to come into contact with your vehicle, and it may leave serious damage to automotive paint. These battle scars are more than an annoying cosmetic problem; however -- they can cause real damage to your vehicle in the form of rust.

Left unchecked, minor blemishes like dings and dents on your vehicle can lead to severe rust. Bare metal spots left exposed on your vehicle will rust unless you paint them, and it can happen very quickly. Rust can start to form in just a matter of hours, especially in humid areas. And once rust starts, you can’t stop it -- only slow it down.

It's always a good idea to touch up even minor dings and dents as soon as you notice them. That’s much easier to deal with than rust repair. While some vehicle owners may prefer just to learn to live with them, it's a smart idea to get them filled in as soon as possible. Repairing dings with touch-up paint can protect your vehicle's finish and prevent any rust from forming and eating away at your vehicle's body.

Stopping the Growth of Rust with Touch Up Paint

Dings and dents are unpreventable, but you can do something about them: fix them withtouch-up paint. Applying primer and paint to your vehicle will help keep air and water away from the metal, and this should prevent rust from forming, assuming you get to it quickly. Follow these tips for getting the best rust protection with your touch up paint job:

  • Choose the correct touch-up paint and clear coat: Selecting amatching paint shade using your vehicle’s paint code is the first step. Be sure to order clear coat to protect the paint. 
  • Do it quickly: Remember that rust can begin to form in hours, so you'll need to find and repair dings and dents as soon as you see them. It's even a good idea to regularly inspect your vehicle for areas that need repair. Consider adding this task to your checklist each time to change your oil.
  • Clean out the chip or ding first: Before you start painting, get the area clean. If any surface rust has already grown, use a dental pick to scrape away as much as possible. Don't skip this step because if you fail to remove all of the rust, your paint won't stick very well -- and you may have rust spread under the paint anyway.
  • Remove loose paint: If you have any loose paint around the damage, clear it. It's already exposed underneath, threatening rust, and it will eventually fall off on its own anyway, undoing your repair. Go ahead and chip it off.
  • Add body filler: If you’re dealing with a deep cut, it might be time to order a paintedreplacement part. But if it’s a small, deep area that needs touching up, body filler can get it even with the rest of the area before you paint it.
  • Sand down to the bare metal: It might feel counterintuitive to sand down your paint, damaging it more than it already is. But you want a smooth surface to put new paint on. Smooth things down and remove any remaining rust by sanding first. Use fine-grit sandpaper, such as 600-grit sandpaper. Of course, you'll always need to sand the edges for a feathered look that will make your touch-up job seem less obvious.
  • Clean the area: Clean the affected area with CLR to remove any remaining rust. Follow up by wiping it down with rubbing alcohol and a lint-free cloth and allow it to evaporate.
  • Mask off surrounding painted areas: Use masking tape to protect the area around where you’ll paint. While touch-up paint is easier to control than spray paint, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.
  • Use a rust inhibitor: If you're really concerned with stopping rust, it's a good idea to use a rust inhibitor as well. Using a rust inhibitor before you apply touch-up paint can further slow or even effectively stop the growth of rust on your vehicle. However, most don't use it unless there's an obvious rust problem already.
  • Use primer: Apply a coat of primer to help protect and seal the metal. Remember to allow it to fully dry and cure before you start to paint. 
  • Apply touch-up paint with light layers: Get your blemish covered by applying paint. For a more natural look, use thin layers of touch-up paint and blend. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time between coats – usually at least 10 minutes for each layer of paint to dry. The layer should be dry to the touch before you add another layer.
  • Use clear coat: Put an extra protective layer over your blemish with clear coat. Using clear coat can further protect your vehicle's finish from the weather and reduce the risk of rust.

While dings and dents are an inevitable part of vehicle ownership, you don't have to let them eat away at your car. Stop rust before it can start with a well-done touch-up paint job, and you'll protect your vehicle for years to come.