Rust repair is probably one of the most daunting tasks there is in the automotive world. Most of the world would rather do the ice bucket challenge everyday for a year before fixing rust on their old jalopy. There’s definitely a time and place to repair an area to a concours level but that work isn’t always justified or maybe talent just runs out and you’re stuck with how to repair the rust as simple as possible. If you aren’t doing a 100 point restoration and just want to do an easy repair that WILL last follow the steps below.
Locate The Rust- Rust hides and the bubbling rust or flaking paint you see is just the tip of the iceberg. Tape off around the damaged area and sand from the center of the damage out until you’re into “good metal”. If the metal is pitted badly and thin you want to continue sanding until you’re past it. Once you’ve uncovered fresh, clean metal you’re ready to start your repair.
Cut out the Rust- You can now use tape or a marker to trace out the area you’re cutting out. Remember to cut past the thin pitted metal and out into good metal. You can then use your preferred method of cutting to remove the rusty metal. A 4.5″ grinder works well with a cutting wheel and you can sand paint with a flap disc or bristle disc in the step before.
Make a Pattern- Once you have your rust cut out you can now make a pattern of the area you need to patch. Use poster board or a file folder to trace and cut your patch out with. Make sure the pattern matches the shape. The better your pattern is the better your patch will be.
Flange the Metal- If you want to make your repair flush we suggest flanging either the patch panel or the existing metal. Which you flange will vary on your personal preference and the job at hand. The Eastwood Flanging Pliers work well for smaller patches or occasional use. If you want to save effort you can buy our pneumatic flanging tool and make quick work of joggles bends in metal.
Seal up the Bare Metal- Now that you have your patch fitting the vehicle you want to seal the entire area up before you permanently attach them together. If there is rust present (even just in pits or on the backside) you should coat the entire area in a Rust Treatment Coating. Our Platinum Rust Encapsulator is the best and can be brushed on or sprayed out of an HVLP Gun. If you’d like to use an aerosol our standard Rust Encapsulator will do the job as well. If all of the metal is bare, clean steel with no rust you can use our 2K Aerospray Epoxy Primer. This is a unique design that allows you to apply a 2K product you’d use in a paint gun out of an aerosol can. Coat both sides of your patch panel and also the surrounding areas on the original metal.
Attach the Patch Panel- Now that everything is sealed up you’re ready to attach your patch panel to the vehicle. The patch panel needs to be held tightly in the flange you’ve created so you will need to get a set of clamps set up to hold the panel in place. If you can’t get a good place to clamp you could also drill the panels for rivets. Once you’ve figured out your attachment method you’re ready for the Eastwood No-Weld Panel Epoxy. Apply a 1/4″ bead to the flanged area of either the original metal or the patch panel (whichever is easier) and clamp or rivet the panel in place. If you see any excess epoxy squeezing out around the seam use a plastic scraper or plastic razorblade to remove it from the surface. Once the epoxy hardens it is extremely difficult to remove and it will save you labor at the next step.
Final Bodywork- Once you’ve allowed the epoxy to cure you can remove your clamps, clecos, or rivets. You can then abrade the entire area with a block sander and apply a thin coat of body filler to the area to hide the repair. Block sand that area and repeat that step until you have a seamless repair with no high spots or ridges in the panel.
Primer and Paint- With the body work smooth you can now apply a coat of urethane primer to give an even coat over the entire area. If you don’t have a paint gun or air compressor you can use our 2K Aerospray Urethane Primer and get the same results as out of an HVLP gun. Apply a 2-3 coats of primer and block sand each to get the smoothest finish. From here you can apply the paint of your choosing or leave the repair in primer if you have more work to do on the vehicle. The finish can be taken to a professional level if you follow the steps of paint, clear, color sanding, and buffing.
Hopefully this quick tutorial gives you the basic steps for repairing rust holes in your car without special tools like a welder. This repair can be a permanent solution if you take care to follow the steps above.