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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Classic Rust Free

There are a lot of different elements that can damage a classic car or truck.  The sun can fade your paint, low humidity can deteriorate seals, tubes and hoses, but without question the worst natural element your classic car faces is rust, a.k.a oxidation.  Natural cause or not, rust is the number one enemy when it comes to keeping your classic in top shape.

It doesn’t take much.  The slightest crack or chip in the paint is all it takes to allow the process to begin.  The undercarriage and even the interior metal in your vehicle are also at risk.  Proper care is essential to preserving your prized possession.

Keeping your car rust free seems like a never-ending battle, but with a little effort and a good maintenance plan you can easily stop your vehicle from becoming victim to a rusty demise.  Depending on where you live there are certain steps you will need to take to ensure your plan is a success and we have some great tips to keep your street machine safe.

We feel that this should go without saying but keep your classic clean.  Regularly washing your ride will keep mud, salt and other impurities away that can otherwise cause rust to begin to form.  Start with the upper body of your car and be sure to remove any signs of impurities.  The use of a high-pressure sprayer can easily remove any unwanted debris but take care not to use too high of water pressure.  Extreme water pressure itself in rare cases can remove paint if applied incorrectly.  If this is a concern for you then use the old-fashioned method of a bucket and soapy water to get the job done.

After you have thoroughly cleaned the fenders and upper body you need to make sure that the underbody receives the same amount of attention.  Rust will begin to form when air and moisture meet unprotected metal.  There are plenty of places that moisture and impurities can hide underneath your car.  We recommend washing your car top to bottom at least twice a month to ensure that any nasty rust causing elements are removed before they start to do their dirty work.

You will also want to apply a good coat of wax at least once every 4 months.  Wax is an excellent way to add an additional layer to your paint job to assist in preventing rust.  Buffing out the wax can be a time-consuming task to get a great shine.  Use that time to also inspect for bubbling, cracks, scratches and chips in the car’s paint job as you are buffing out the wax.  Be sure to address any damages to your paint job as soon as possible.  Any exposed and unprotected steel is obviously susceptible to oxidation.

There are also underbody sealants that can be applied to help prevent rust, but only if the underbody is completely rust free.  Sealing in any rust will only help it to grow undetectable to the naked eye.  So unless you are part of the Rat Rod Culture where rust is the look you are trying to achieve, then a proper top to bottom cleaning and waxing schedule is a must.  An don’t forget to care for the chrome.  Chrome like any other metal can become susceptible to rust and we have all probably seen those unsightly rust-pitted bumpers before.  There are plenty of techniques to keep chrome rust free and shiny.

The interior of your car is also vulnerable to rust.  Spills on the floor should be dealt with immediately.  Otherwise moisture can seep through the carpeting and begin to damage your floorboards.  If you have a significant spill and are concerned with getting out all the moisture, then remove the carpeting to inspect the floorboards.  Doing this is a lot easier and cheaper than dealing with the rust that may occur down the road.  You may also consider a rubber floor mat instead of a carpet mat to help stop any spills, snow or water from getting down there in the first place.

Speaking of snow, you should probably try to avoid driving or storing your car in any wet winter conditions.  With snow comes ice and ice usually means that there will be salt and sand on the roads.  Both are harsh abrasives that can damage the paint and salt is a rust accelerator making the oxidation process happen even faster.  If you live near the ocean, then avoiding salt is going to be impossible.  If your car is living in either of these environments, then we suggest upping your washing schedule from twice per week to once per week to help keep the salt at bay.  You may also want to consider a rust preventing spray like Jig-A-Loo to help repel salt and moisture.

Other interior areas of your car are also vulnerable to rust.  Moisture will often accumulate in enclosed sections of your vehicle like the inside of the doors which can result in rusting from the inside out.  These areas can be next to impossible to paint but there are waxes and oils that can be applied to do the trick.  They typically require the use of a hand pump or a spray gun.

Specific lances and numerous spray tips are available for the application of anti-rust oils and waxes. In many cases factory-made apertures can be used for feeding the spray lance where it’s necessary, but if you find that you need to drill an access hole, be sure to finish all the edges with paint and a plastic or rubber grommets to plug the holes after the application process.  When treating the insides of doors or sill assemblies ensure that all drain apertures are unclogged before and after applying the wax or oil.

Keeping your car clean, dry and protected from elements is the name of the game in combating rust.  However, it can sometimes be impossible to avoid if undetected.  If this is the case we have an excellent article on rust removal tips for classic cars and trucks.

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