How to Repair Rusted Auto Panels

Written by mason howard
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How to Repair Rusted Auto Panels
Restore rusty panels to restore your car. (Rusty Chevy image by Daniel Toliver from

After an accident, when one of your car's exterior panels is damaged, it is often more economical to find a replacement part from a junkyard than buying a new part. For older cars, new, replacement panels may not even be available. Junkyard cars are typically left to succumb to the elements, and once you get your hands on the requisite panel, it may be rusted. Nonetheless, a few rust spots are still easier to repair than a badly damaged panel.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Dish soap
  • Scrub brush
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Organic rust remover
  • Towel
  • Auto body filler
  • Nylon mesh
  • Epoxy
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Body filler file
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Automotive primer
  • Automotive paint

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  1. 1

    Clean the panel with warm water and soap, using a scrub brush, to remove dirt, grime and any loose rust.

  2. 2

    Sand the rusted areas with 150-grit sandpaper to remove as much rust as possible, as well as any loose and flaking paint.

  3. 3

    Apply a thick layer of organic rust remover to remove remaining rust, using a paintbrush. Don't work the rust remover into the rust. Just lay it over and allow it to float on top. Leave the rust remover to dissolve the rust for the time indicated in the manufacturer's instructions.

  4. 4

    Blot the rust remover away with a wet towel.

  5. 5

    Fill any areas where the rust has eaten through the metal with auto body filler. For holes larger than the size of a coin, adhere pieces of nylon mesh to the back of the panel, over the holes, with epoxy. The mesh will provide support for the filler. Leave the epoxy to dry. Fill the holes with the filler, using a putty knife and pressing the filler into the mesh. Use a plastic putty knife to prevent scratching the surrounding area.

  6. 6

    Leave the putty to dry until it is only barely soft. Smooth down the putty using a body filler file.

  7. 7

    Sand the patched area with sandpaper. Start with 80-grit then switch to 150-grit sandpaper. Finish sanding with 220-grit sandpaper.

  8. 8

    Prime and paint the repaired areas using automotive primer and paint.

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