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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Rust Removal Tips for Classic Car or Truck Restoration Projects

Rust Removal Tips for Classic Car or Truck Restoration Projects With any classic car or truck from decades past there is a great chance that rust will be present prior to restoration.  If you live near the ocean with salty sea air or in the northern states where it snows and salt trucks are used, then we can almost guarantee that rusting parts and body panels will be
an issue.

Don’t despair!  We have some great techniques to help you remove and even help prevent surface rust from returning to your classic project.  Let us be clear that we are discussing surface rust and not rot.  If you find rot on your automobile you will probably need the assistance of a fabricator or will need to replace the part or panel all together.  If you are unclear as to what type you have, a simple test may help.  Place a strong magnet on the infected area and if it doesn’t stick well you may have rot.  If you can easily poke or flex the area, you probably have rot and should seek the help of an expert.

There are 4 basic ways to remove surface rust.   The first involves using good ol’ sand paper and possibly a grinding wheel.  This was the go-to method back in the day and can take a considerable amount of time, precision and elbow grease to get the desired results.  Abrasive blasting is another technique using high pressure air and fine abrasives made of garnet, glass, steel, soda or even walnut shells.  However most of us don’t have access to the necessary equipment.  With that said we usually prefer to use one of the other two methods if there is more than just a light layer of corrosion.

1. Rust Removers:  There are many environmentally safe solutions available that can do an amazing job at removing rust.  They are also safe to handle with normal ventilation and can safely be disposed of without hurting anyone or anything.

Orison’s Rust Bomb is a thick gelatinous gel that easily applies to rounded corners in comparison to its leading competitors.  Other rust removers can tend to be a little thinner and is not as easy to apply to vertical panels and corners where rust may lie.  Apply an even amount to the rust and allow it to work its magic overnight.  Heavier rust areas may require a second application but the end results are a rust-free classic car ready to continue with the rest of its restoration.

2. Rust Converter:  Corrosion or rust is created by a reaction between iron and oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture. Science has given us a new alternative.  Rust converters cause a chemical reaction that basically turns rust into a polymeric, ready-to-paint ferric tannate which is a more stable material to work with.

While this stuff is amazing you will want to work in a well-ventilated area and handle the chemicals with care by using gloves and wearing eye protection.  The reaction also works best in an environment between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit.

You will want to ensure you apply it to a clean surface.  Remove any loose rust flakes and debris thoroughly and degrease the area with denatured alcohol or mineral spirits.  Once the surface is rid of any fine particles and is completely dry you are ready to apply the converter.

Eastwood’s is a trustworthy converter that works well and is easy to apply. It comes in an aerosol spray or in liquid form that can be painted on with a brush or roller.  The final step of the reaction process leaves the metal sealed to help prevent any rust from coming back.  If you would like to take the extra step you can use Eastwood’s Extreme Chassis Black to add another layer of protection to the underbody. Rust will be a thing of the past.

Any of the four methods we mentioned will get you to the same result and that is a rust free classic car or truck that is ready for continuing your project.  Sanding by hand can be time consuming and is very physical labor.  Air blasting can be costly and needs to be done by a professional to avoid causing any damage to your vehicle.  We would surely suggest trying one of the two alternative methods.  They are both relatively inexpensive, can save you the hard work and will deliver results that will amaze the first-timer.

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