Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingBodywork and Paintwork Surface Rust vs Deep Rust – What Are Its Differences (& Fixes)?

Surface Rust vs Deep Rust – What Are Its Differences (& Fixes)?

by Jordan Harris
Rust Repair Cost

Rust on our cars is the worst thing since it shows that we are not paying attention to the important details. But the truth is that there are a lot of misconceptions regarding rust. In light of this, we will discuss all about the causes of it, whether it can be controlled, and how surface rust vs deep rust affects your car.

Now that modern cars are better at resisting rust, we might not think about rust as much. Yet it still affects every machine. While some rust-related claims are simply myths, there are an equal number of rust-related facts that prove to be factual.

It depends on your local climate, if you live near the shore, and whether your municipality treats the roads when it snows. Rust can be a deal-breaker when buying a used car. We will look at some important considerations in relation to this problem. By doing this, we can prevent it from happening again and take better care of our cars.

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust

Causes Of Rust

Anyone who likes vehicles, trucks, or other machines primarily made of steel or iron must fight the adversary known as rust. Rust is frequently referred to as the cancer of the automotive industry. Understanding what automotive rust is and where it originates will help you discover how to prevent it.

The term “rust” is originally an abbreviation for “red dust,” so named for its hue and consistency. It results from oxidation, the breakdown of iron-based compounds. This occurs when iron comes into touch with oxygen and water.

Time, water, air, and factors like salt content, among other things, all affect how rapidly a certain portion of a car rusts. While water alone makes a significant contribution to the chemical process that results in rust, saltwater speeds up the process.

More rust will develop on exterior parts like shocks, struts, rotors, axles, and wheel wells on cars in sunny coastal beach cities or in northern regions where roads are treated with salt and chemicals.

While this definition of rusting or oxidation is pretty stuffy and chemistry-based, it is relevant to stopping rust from destroying our vehicles. We want to stop or slow the loss of electrons from the steel either chemically (via rust remover) or physically (by grinding it off and/or sealing it with paint or another sealant).

Car rust normally develops in phases. If it isn’t dealt with right now, it will keep getting worse and do more harm. Let’s look at the several kinds of rust that might develop on a car:

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust, Types #1: Surface Rust

In reality, practically every car has some rust. Rust doesn’t necessarily mean that a car will be destroyed, despite what many so-called experts will claim. In fact, what mechanics refer to as “surface rust” is thought to make up the great majority of rust on automobiles.

By the way, it’s exactly what it sounds like—newly emerging rust on unprotected, exposed, bare metals that are virtually often found beneath the car. In the vast majority of cases, there is no flaking, pitting, or chipping of the metal. The rust simply manifests as a reddish hue or spots on the part itself.

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust

Even a little flaking or pitting can occasionally be insignificant if it doesn’t compromise the structural integrity of the component-in-issue. Nevertheless, the metal itself is usually unharmed when this kind of rust is discovered.

Surface rust poses no structural issues and might not even require attention. For instance, surface rust can be anticipated to never advance further if you purchase a vehicle from an area where the rust formed (let’s say, the northeast) and you move it to a region of the country where it is considerably dryer (let’s say, the southwest).

The positive thing about surface rust is that it is simple to fix. Surface rust can be removed with thorough detail work. Or you can simply use a clay bar (with some pointers on how to clay bar a car) and spray lubricant to get rid of the oxidation on your own.

If you want to learn more about what ‘detailing’ work entails, do take a peek at our guide on how much to detail a car. Not to mention, our similar write-ups on do you tip car detailers, in addition to the total cost of car detailing work.

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust, Types #2: Bubble Rust / Scale Rust

If left untreated, surface rust frequently develops “scales,” sometimes known as “bubble rust.” This occurs when flaking and expanding surface rust exposes the metal beneath.

Rust will continue to spread and become deeper as the metal corrodes, producing “scales.” Similar to surface rust, you can cure this. But first, use a wire brush to remove the rough scales before using sandpaper or an abrasive wheel.

Before sealing it up, make sure you’ve stripped it down to the bare metal and there are no significant flakes of rust left. Otherwise, your sealer or filler might come off again. To ensure that your sealants and treatments adhere to the bare metal, scuff the area around it.

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust, Types #3: Deep Rust

There are situations when rust penetrates deeper than the surface. In these cases, repairs are needed rather than just wanted. But it’s crucial to think about the location of the rust and how it’s impacting the particular car. As the scale rust progresses and turns the steel into brittle iron oxide, holes start to appear.

If it’s merely a bodywork issue, you can cut off the rotten sections and weld them on patch panels to restore them. Or you can entirely replace the afflicted component or panel. Just don’t use body filler to patch up these bigger holes. Additionally, avoid attempting to patch up the rusty frame of a vehicle.

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust

Vehicles can rust through the flooring as well, making them unable to securely hold the weight of passengers. Frequently, instead of being repaired to be roadworthy, automobiles in this condition are only suited to be salvaged for their parts.

This is due to the fact that, while rust on the exterior may be removable, damage to the structure has already occurred at a far deeper level. This has weakened it to the point where it may be unable to hold its own weight.

Because structural failure can occur at any time and with any severity, drivers may be on the road when it does. This puts them in danger of serious injury or even death. Many people are hesitant to purchase a car with significant rust because of the unexpected nature of the damage caused by deep rust.

Rust Vs Corrosion

Rust and corrosion are frequently used interchangeably. There are differences between corrosion and rust, despite the fact that both are the outcome of oxidation reactions (an element mixing with oxygen).

Rust only affects iron and its alloys, like steel, while corrosion affects a variety of objects. Rust is a type of corrosion, even though it only relates to the oxidation of iron-containing metals.

We must first understand what rust and corrosion are in order to distinguish between the two. Rusting is a form of corrosion, while corrosion itself is a kind of oxidation. The fundamental distinction between rust and corrosion is that rusting is only accelerated by specific chemicals.

Rust Treatment

How often have we heard the dangerous adage, “If your car has rust, you can’t obtain rustproofing,”? However, this is a widespread urban myth. Even while the car exhibits oxidation symptoms, it is repairable.

A specialist can advise us on the best course of action based on the severity of our situation and the fact that there are several forms of rust-proofing.

According to Mighty Auto “It is possible to retouch and grind down a new rust area to make it unnoticeable. Now granted, there might not be much that can be done if a rust spot is allowed to accumulate and spread. However, rust may be fixed and an automobile can be recovered if it is discovered early.”

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust, Treatment Options #1: Surface Rust Removal

Even cars in warm, dry areas can develop surface rust. This is because the majority of it results from paint deterioration brought on by mechanical or UV damage. Surface rust poses no structural issues.

Depending on the thickness of the metal and the alloy, it may even reach a level of “passivation” that the surface rust protects the metal against further oxidation. However, it’s always preferable to remove surface rust as soon as you notice it.

The treatment is comparable to routine paint repair. Start by removing the paint and corrosion from the metal by using an abrasive wheel or sandpaper until the clean and unaffected metal is visible. Rough up the surrounding areas too so that your body treatments will stick to the car better.

Rust Remover For Cars

Next up, we need to stop the tin worm’s progress by using a rust inhibitor or converter. After removing the apparent rust, your steel may appear glossy. But iron oxide is still there. Iron oxide is transformed by rust inhibitors into a chemically stable, moisture-resistant substance that shields the underlying metal from damage.

Then put on a pair of rubber gloves and use a brush or sponge to apply the rust converter. You cannot double dip into the bottle, therefore you should pour as much rust converter as you believe you will need into a disposable container. Apply a thin coat of rust converter by wiping it onto the metal and let it dry for 15-30 minutes.

After that, add a second layer and let it cure for at least 30 minutes. Keep it dry for 24 hours and then you can apply paint primer. Apply paint and clearcoat after the primer, then buff to combine the finishes (with the right technique on how to buff a car). However, if the treated area is hidden from view, you can just leave it alone after the rust converter has dried.

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust, Treatment Options #2: Paint Over Rust

One technique to save the corroded body and give them a fresh coat of color while restoring its appearance is using paint. However, you shouldn’t start painting over rust until the project’s scope, advantages, and constraints are clear. Painting is not only doable but may also generate stunning effects only if it’s on surface rust.

Paint won’t stop corrosion and the metal’s eventual decomposition if rust has partially or completely eaten through the metal or if the piece has structurally deteriorated to the point that you can bend it by hand.

Your best bet for restoring it would be to fill the pits using an auto body filler solution, as opposed to completely replacing the metal component.

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust, Treatment Options #3: Scale Rust Removal

Scale rust correction requires using a wire brush to remove rust, a grinding wheel to remove roughness, and sandpaper to smooth off the surface. Before sealing it back up, make sure the metal is completely bare and there are no large flakes of rust left. Otherwise, your sealer or filler may suddenly come off.

Roughen up the area around it so that the sealants and treatments can adhere to the bare metal. You may just use a rust converter to seal this cleaned-up spot back up if it is in an unassuming location, such as underneath the automobile, and call it good.

Once the larger flakes have been removed by sanding, the metal surface could still be rough. Before completing it with primer and paint if it’s in a more noticeable location, you might want to think about smoothing it out using body filler.

The body filler manufacturer’s directions should be followed because they can differ. But, generally speaking, you should mix it up to a specific ratio depending on the room temperature.

Deep Rust Removal

Rust Repair

The base metal flakes away and develops holes as scale rust worsens. Now that the issue has grown, you have two alternatives for resolving it. The first option is to replace the damaged portion or panel entirely (tough). If it’s just a bodywork problem, cut off the rotten sections and weld metal “patch panels” in their place (tougher).

Either problem should be manageable by a quality body shop (check out our guide on finding the best cheap auto body shop near me if your budget is somewhat more constrained).

The appropriate pair of skilled hands can smooth down patch panel welds so they appear to have always been a part of the car. Even though it would be tempting, you shouldn’t use body filler to fix these bigger dents like you would with scale rust pits.

Rusted Frame Repair Cost

Don’t try to reassemble the rusted frame of your car (a familiar issue among Tacoma owners and its frame rust issues). An automobile with a rusted-through frame has potentially questionable structural integrity and should be inspected and repaired by a reputable shop.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to periodically check for rust underneath your car before it gets out of hand. The last thing you want is to be in an accident in a vehicle with questionable structural integrity.

You can take your car to a skilled auto technician for rusted-frame repair. The rust repair cost varies depending on the type and extent of rust your car has been subjected to. Repairing a rusty car structure often costs $1,500 and more. The time-consuming and difficult work contributes to this high expense.

You have the option to remove rust from the undercarriage of your car as well. The expense of fixing subsurface rust is not very significant. Budget somewhere between $110 and $175. This price includes the cost of the parts as well as the mechanic’s labor.

Treating Rust On A Car Professionally

Once you begin assessing the damage, rust repairs may end up costing far more than you initially anticipated. What appears to be a single spot of rust may actually be a full panel, or there may be rust in places you can’t see, like your car’s undercarriage.

The extent of the rust damage and its location on your car will largely determine how much it will cost to repair. Your car’s type and model could also have an impact on how tough it is to access specific regions of the vehicle.

Rust Repair Cost

A minor rust repair involves a very small area of rust on your car that is typically brought on by chipped paint exposing the metal to the weather. Typically, these areas have a diameter of fewer than three inches and are not very deep.

Rust of this kind is more cosmetic than structural. Repairing minor rust damage professionally often costs between $50 and $150. Moreover, you might have to account for the cost to repair a paint chip on your car. As well as, knowing how to fix chipped paint on your car, in addition to how to fix peeling paint on a car.

If you had two or three places of minor rust damage, the cost would be between $50 and $150 for each. Often, if you’re so inclined, you can fix these small rust patches on your own. Repairs for moderate to advanced rust typically cost between $150 and $350.

The size of the corroded region and the number of distinct areas that required repair would eventually determine the final cost. Many locations would be multiple charges, similar to minor rust damage.

Depending on the extent of the damage and the amount of labor needed (be wary of your local mechanic labor rate), major rust repairs might cost as little as $200 or as much as $2,500 or more. The cost of welding panels into place could increase the total cost from $50 to $250.

If a major panel or other portion of the car needs to be painted (as opposed to just being touched up), the cost of the repair will rise again.

Anti Rust Spray For Car

There are a few things you should think about before purchasing an anti-rust spray. First, it’s crucial to comprehend the three primary categories of sprays which are inhibitors, removers, and primers.

Some goods include just one of these components while others include all three. An inhibitor stops rust from developing on the metal’s surface and penetrating it deeply. Removers form a bond with rust to easily kill or remove rust.

Primers create a barrier over the rust so you can paint the car. Find out what purpose a spray serves before you buy it. Second, search for distinguishing qualities in the product. Make sure the product, above all, stops rust from occurring on your car.

Additionally, you might want to learn more about the chemical elements present in the solution as well as the drying time for the spray. The substance that you spray the solution on may be impacted by either of these.

The following are some of our best picks for anti-rust sprays:

1. WD-40 Specialist Long-Term Corrosion Inhibitor

The WD-40 Specialist Long-Term Corrosion Inhibitor is one of the most reliable products for use in severe weather. It protects your car against snow, rain, strong winds, extremely cold temperatures, and high humidity.

Even a layer of protection against hail is added with this inhibitor. Because the inhibitor protects against air and moisture, it is perfect for prolonged outdoor use.

Use the WD-40 rust inhibitor in a garage or other enclosed area and use gloves if possible. An adhesive residue left by the inhibitor might gather dust and produce stains. Otherwise, it is a top option for rust and other sorts of corrosion, either preventing or eliminating them.

2. 3M Professional Grade Rubberized Undercoating

You can use the 3M Professional Grade Rubberized Undercoating spray on practically any kind of car. It protects your undercarriage from typical road stains, chemicals, and debris. It stops rust and corrosion from developing as a result of regular exposure to the elements. Your car might be protected by this undercoating for several years.

Additionally, the 3M Pro Grade rust protection spray possesses qualities that, will deaden road noise. It dries quickly and won’t run or spread when applied. The 3M spray’s main drawback is that, in order to prevent the spray from dissolving, you must spray at a specific angle.

3. Rust Converter Ultra

Rust Converter Ultra is a popular choice among experts and customers alike. It is an inexpensive and simple solution that can be applied to any personal or commercial vehicle. The solution changes the rust into a polymeric covering rather than annihilating it. Simply clean the area you want to treat, then use a roller or brush to apply the rust converter.

The newly altered covering becomes a primer that can be painted over. The one-gallon bottle has enough solution for additional coverage if you are finishing a larger project. Use it almost anywhere where rust develops, including on metal, chrome, and fiberglass.

Surface Rust Vs Deep Rust: In Conclusion…

The good news is that most of the rust degradation may be avoided. The most obvious piece of advice is the best one. Wash your car frequently to maintain the body (you can learn more from our guide on how to wash a motorcycle) and its underside free of the salt, dirt, and road grime that promote corrosion. Many modern car washes have water blasters that may remove a lot of this dirt off the underside.

It’s not always easy to remove rust from metal on a car, truck, or SUV. You’ll have a variety of options depending on the extent of the rust, the state of the metal, and the potential for rust to develop again.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to take your time with projects of this nature. And if in doubt, take it to the professionals. But keep in mind that frames, chassis parts, and other crucial structural components should never be repaired after an extent. It is always ideal that they are replaced, rather than repaired.

In the future, it’s wiser to be cognizant of what’s causing rust on your car, in the first place. With that in mind, be sure to check out our write-up on how to prevent rust on cars to learn more. Moreover, seeing the relevance between bodywork rust and paint, we have an abundance of articles concerning car paint that can add extra insight.

Previously, we discussed matters such as how much does it cost to paint a car a different color, as well as is Goo Gone safe on car paint. We’ve also looked into the cost of a paintless dent repair, how much does it cost to paint a car, how much paint to paint a car, in general, and is Goof Off safe on car paint.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Fix Rust On A Car

The degree of corrosion to your car and the location of the damage will determine if the rust can be fixed. While more serious damage to the car’s structural components may require complete replacement, surface rust on the paintwork can usually be fixed easily.

How To Stop Rust On A Car

Iron corrosion is reversible and preventive. A metal surface that is rusting can be painted with a rust converter to stop the corrosion process. Rust converters chemically penetrate existing rust, stop the deterioration and leave behind a premium latex metal primer.

What Causes Rust

Rust is a product of the oxidation process, in which oxygen and water combine with iron to generate hydrated iron (III) oxide. In essence, the metal is reverting spontaneously to its unrefined state. Iron and oxygen are attracted to one another because they have opposing electric charges. However, this causes iron to lose electrons to oxygen atoms (oxidation), which is what causes the flaky covering.

How To Remove Rust From Painted Metal

White vinegar is a nontoxic rust-removing substance. For really minor rust on metal, it works wonders. Apply vinegar to a paper towel and press it to the rusted metal. You rarely need to rub the metal and the rust almost always disappears within a few hours.

Can You Paint Over Rust

Yes, it is possible. A primer can aid in the adhesion of paint on rusted metal. But you must first remove as much loose rust from the surface as you can. If not, the dried paint layer will be pushed higher until it blisters or peels off as the metal continues to shed loose rust.

Are You Supposed To Drain Your Car Doors

When it rains or when owners wash their vehicles, most automobile doors collect water. To enable the water that is confined in the panel to securely leave, you must drain your car doors. By clearing the water out of your car’s doors, you can prevent rust damage that may occur if moisture is allowed to build up there for an extended length of time.

Does WD40 Prevent Rust

The majority of people use WD-40 Multi-Use Product as a lubricant. However, the aerospace industry first employed it as an anti-corrosive to stop aircraft from rusting. Iron, chromium, and stainless steel can all benefit from having rust removed using WD-40. It prevents further harm from being caused to the metal’s surface or losing the paint.

Does Alloy Rust

Rust will occur in an alloy if it contains ferrous metal (iron). Any metal alloy can corrode. When we expose the metal to air and moisture, it rusts, forming an iron oxide layer. Metals corrode when they are exposed to air and chemicals. This results in the development of metal oxides or salts.

Does Rust Spread

Rust is not contagious. When a flake or two of rust is placed on an untouched metal object it won’t immediately begin to rust. Rust does not spread through contact like a biological infection. Instead, depending on the circumstances around a certain piece of metal, the iron oxidization process takes place independently.

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