How to Remove Rust & Restore Body Panels

Written by steve smith
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How to Remove Rust & Restore Body Panels
Rust on cars is repaired using special kits. (rust and light image by John Sfondilias from

Rust on body panels will eat away at the exterior of your car until there is nothing left. That is why restoring rusted body panels is a big part of car restoration. There are several ways to complete this task, but one solution works well no matter how much rust is on the car. It requires some special skills but overall the project is one any able-bodied amateur will accomplish successfully.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Degreaser
  • Towels
  • Grinder
  • 80-grit sandpaper disc
  • 200-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Abrasive pads
  • Automotive primer
  • Top coat

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  1. 1

    Apply a degreaser to the panel and wipe the panel down with a towel, removing dirt and grease from the surface metal.

  2. 2

    Sand off the rust with a disc grinder and an 80-grit metal sandpaper disc. Apply light pressure on the rust spots to sand away the rust until the bare metal is showing. Wipe away the rust flakes and residue with your towel.

  3. 3

    Thoroughly clean the panel with an alcohol cleaner and towel to remove any additional grease and dirt from the surface of the metal. Allow the panel surface to dry completely.

  4. 4

    Apply an automotive grade primer to the surface of the panel. This comes in a spray can and is applied simply by depressing the spray-can nozzle and moving the can across the surface of the panel. Allow the primer to dry completely (usually two to four hours--check your label for drying times).

  5. 5

    Sand down the primer using a 200-grit sandpaper sheet and sanding block to knock down the texture of the primer. Wipe the panel clean with a towel and then apply a second coat of primer over the first using the spray can. Allow this coat to dry completely.

  6. 6

    Apply the top coat paint to the panel. Top coats are also available in spray cans, and this is the easiest method of application. Aim the spray can at the panel holding the can about eight inches from the metal and then apply the paint in an even, fluid motion, overlapping the strokes as you work across the panel.

Tips and warnings

  • Apply a rust and corrosion neutraliser to the panel after you sand away the rust spots to prevent further rust from occurring.

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