How Much Does It Cost to Repair Rust Damage?

How Much To Repair Rust Damage - Featured Image

Rust is a common issue for many automobiles. It is often difficult to prevent because cars contain the ideal conditions for rust to form. The three primary components that need to exist for rust are cathode, anode, and electrolyte. The metal in cars satisfies the anode and cathode requirements, while water serves as the electrolyte. In humid climates, cars can get tarnished by rust damage.

But how much does it cost? How can you prevent or treat rust? In this article, we provide you a full rundown on the financial impact of rust, how to inspect for it, and how to properly prevent it.

What Causes Rust to Form on Your Car?

Rust arises when the metal in your vehicle encounters moisture. The metal in your car’s frame contains iron, which is the primary ingredient of the steel. When excess water consistently sits and mixes with the metal, it will begin to oxidize and cause rust.

Salt can also induce a chemical reaction that results in oxidation. It is a critical electrolyte in the rust equation that is found in both hot and cold climates. This combination is much more prevalent in the winter when the roads are salted for ice. If you live in colder weather, then the metal in your car is much more prone to damage from rusting.

Colder areas are not the only places where salt can cause rusting. If your car gets driven near an ocean, the vehicle’s metal could be at risk because of the humid ocean air with higher salt content.

The manufacturer of your vehicle usually implements paint and primer that protects it from rust. But if dents and scratches compromise the coating, then moisture can still get through to the metal frame underneath the paint. Without adequate protection on this layer, your car will slowly begin to rust and lead to potential damage.

The Severity of the Rusting Impacts the Repair Cost

The financial impact of rust is often hard to quantify and relies on a lot of different factors. The overall cost to repair rust damage will most likely depend on the amount of rust, the area of your car affected, and the model and make of your vehicle.

Minor Rust Repair Costs

If you have a smaller rust mark on your vehicle’s body or side, this is usually a straightforward fix. These spots are not more than a couple of inches in diameter. If you are comfortable with doing the work, you can repair them on your own. Many YouTube videos will walk you through the step-by-step process.

You can usually get a DIY rust repair kit anywhere between $15-$25. These kits are easy to utilize on minor rust damage and spots on your vehicle’s body. If you have extensive damage to your frame, you may want to investigate more advanced cleaning solutions. If you seek a mechanic’s services, the overall cost, including labor, will usually come out to double, around $50-$60 for a minor repair.

Medium Rust Repair Costs

Larger patches of rust will demand much more maintenance and resources to fix. These medium-sized rust blemishes will sometimes appear with a flaky texture. Underneath the initial layer of flakes, there will usually be more rust layers. When you have multiple sheets of rust, you can classify this as a medium rust repair issue.

You may be able to use a DIY kit from your local AutoZone, but more substantial rust damage may require a much more focused solution. If your frame gets severely impacted, then the patchwork will look much tackier when you are finished. If you decide to fix this yourself, the cost of resources of the kit will likely come out to $60. If you elect to get medium-scale rust damage fixed at the mechanic, it will be $80-$100.

Major Rust Repair Costs

The worst case of rust damage will usually be the issues that impact your vehicle frame directly. The major rust patches will sometimes eat through the frame to the panels on the floor. The repair process could include the entire replacement of the rusted panel. You may also need to get an in-depth welding repair of newer materials to get the job done.

In comparison to more minor rust repair costs, this type of work is much higher. If you are getting a newer quarter panel for your car, this could cost between $400-$1000. Rust damage on your bumper could cost you up to $2000. If you think the rust damage is not worth fixing anymore, you always have the option to get salvage value from the vehicle by selling it to someone as a junker.

How to Inspect a Car for Rust

How do you know where to look for potential rust damage on your vehicle? A great place to start would be the frame rails, which line the underside of your doors. Rust also inhabits the interior wheel wells and the outside your car’s exhaust system.

New cars will protect themselves against rust much more effectively than older vehicles. But because of the ideal circumstances for rust, no car is entirely immune. When you take an in-depth look at your vehicle, you may need to place it on a lift. If you do not have the resources to do this, you can always slide under the car for a better view.

Not only should you check your frame rails and doors, but you should also inspect every inch of the trunk hinges and hood. Try to think of the places where moisture gets trapped. These susceptible molding areas will also be likely places for rust to appear.

Strategies to Prevent Rust

The most straightforward method to prevent rust is to apply rust coating to the surfaces of your vehicle. You can either get this done at the body or shop or order your product online. This rust-proof solution is sprayed underneath the car to shield the bottom from rust exposure when driving. Your car’s underside is exposed to the most water as the car moves, so this is the best place to start.

Permanent Rust Proofing

If you are going with the long-term preventative route, you can invest in a permanent rust proofing solution. There are black, rust-proof sealants that you can spray on yourself. Companies like 3M make rubberized undercoats, which are made from asphalt. These sealants are designed to make your car rust-proof, but they also limit annoying road noise.

There is also another effective long-term permanent anti-rust solution called ZeeGuard. This paraffin sealant will combat key sources of rust like salt, water, and mud. A vital advantage of this solution is that it lasts many years, so you do not need to worry about reapplying frequently.

You can get permanent rust damage sprayed on by a mechanic for up to $500. This price might be steep, but it can offer up to 10 years of protection for newer cars.

Annual Rust Proofing

The regular methods of rust proofing, such as Penetr-Oil, are also useful in combating rust. This solution, which usually costs around $100, is dripless and applied to the car’s underside. Its goal is to halt the growth and spread of rust. You can also prevent the possibility of future rust spots. Sprays like Penetr-Oil should be applied once per year, and they do not leave behind any streaks on your car or driveway.

DIY Rust Prevention

There are also small steps that you can take to prevent rust at home or on the go. You should try to park inside as much as possible if you can control that. When your car is not exposed to as many elements, it will reduce the chance of rust build-up on all areas of your vehicle.

Another quick prevention method is getting a wax job done before the winter months arrive. Although it is a small task, it offers an additional layer of protection against rust. During the winter months, there will be much more salt content on the ground. If your vehicle has a fresh wax job, it will combat the flying salt particles while driving on the road.

Consistent car cleaning can also be a useful measure against rust build-up on your vehicle. If you wash your car every other week, especially in the snowier months, you can spray into the crevices and cracks where the dirt and mud will be. Spraying in these areas will stop the corrosion process of getting carried out. The cleaner your vehicle is, the less likely it will experience future damage from rust.

Another subtle way that moisture causes rust is through your vehicle’s floor mats. If you neglect to maintain your rugs, they will stay wet and damp for a long time. The water will eventually soak through and then rust out the floor of your car.

How to Fix Rust On your Own

If you are adamant about saving money for your rust repair, you can always get the job done. You must know what you are getting into before you begin the process. First, the initial set of supplies that you will need include:

  • Filler and primer
  • Wax and grease remover
  • Masking tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Poly sheeting
  • Paint for any touch-ups
  • Polishing compound
  • Clearcoat

It is important to note that you should get the exact paint color that matches the current one. You can refer to your vehicle’s paint code, and then purchase the correct product store. When you have gathered all your tools, you can follow this simple and straightforward process to fix the annoying rust spot:

  1. Utilize the poly sheeting to mask the surrounding areas of the rust spot
  2. Begin scraping off the flakes of rust, and then use sandpaper to wipe down to the metal layer
  3. Clean and wipe the area down with a clean cloth
  4. Using a body filler, fill up any pits that were created by the rust
  5. Wipe down the area again with a soapy, lint-free cloth
  6. Following the directions on the packaging, spray on the filler primer and epoxy primer
  7. Sand over the epoxy primer with sandpiper, and then rinse it with water
  8. Paint two or three coats of lacquer filler primer
  9. To eliminate any uneven or dry drips, sand down the primer with a 320-grit sandpaper
  10. Spray on three layers of the car’s base paint color
  11. If there are any uneven drips of paint, sand down these areas
Brett Gordon

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.