The word “rust” can strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned classic car enthusiast. If too much rust has accumulated over a long period of time, it may be best to just turn and walk away no matter how attractive the make and model may be. The biggest question is, “does this rust present a structural problem?” If the answer is “no.” then you are in business. Here we will discuss various aspects of rust and classic cars, including how to prevent it in the first place, how to repair it and how to maintain your car once rust has been removed.
First things first, avoid moisture at all costs. When moisture gets trapped in your car’s crevices (chassis, doors, sills, etc.), rust is sure to follow. A solid solution is using rust-resistant wax or oil-based fluid in these areas. If you’re not comfortable applying it yourself, consider consulting a reputable restoration specialist. Also, mud and road salt buildup can cause rust, especially in your car’s wheels and undercarriage. A simple garden hose can easily wash away debris from these areas. Pressure washers, however, can damage protective coatings. Steer clear of these.
When a repair is necessary, it’s imperative to identify the severity of the problem. Surface rust that hasn’t penetrated into the pores of the metal is easily fixed. In this case, simply sand off the rust then apply a non-porous primer.
If the rust has penetrated the pores, but has not yet rusted through the metal, materials containing phosphoric acid can be an effective remedy. Brush it on the corroded area and it will turn the spot black. Once dry, apply a non-porous primer which seals moisture and air away and suffocates the rust.
Finally, if the metal is completely rusted through, you’ll have to decide whether a panel repair or replacement is the best way to go. The good news is there is no shortage of patch and replacement panels and it’s perfectly acceptable to cut up an entire panel for just a couple of patches. Many professionals prefer to patch as much as possible rather than replace for fear of an entirely new panel not fitting up perfectly.
After the Repair
Once the repair is complete and the new paint is dry, proper storage of your classic car is vital. The best space is dry and airy like a brick garage or a wooden barn. Crack the windows a bit to keep the interior dry and airy as well, and don’t be afraid to use fans in the space to keep the air moving. Start the engine at least once a month and in dry conditions take it for a spin pumping the brakes frequently. Your classic car wants to be driven.
Remember, a friendly relationship with a classic car restoration specialist is always a good idea. You’ll get expert advice from someone who cares as much about classic cars as you do.