Can Surface Rust Be Removed (And How To Do It Yourself)

Rust deals with cars in different forms, which can sometimes be inevitable. It could be surface rust, scale rust, or penetrating rust.

The less severe one is surface rust, and it’s best if you can deal with it before it escalates to something worse and costs you more money.

But can you remove surface rust before it worsens?

Quick Answer

As a general rule, surface rust can be removed because it only affects the topmost layer of your car and hasn’t caused the metal to corrode. Hence, you can quickly treat it and restore the car’s body part to its original look.

Surface rust doesn’t affect the car’s structural parts, so you can easily fix it at home without visiting a repair shop.

Since surface rust is the early stage of rust in a car, you can remove it with sandpaper or a grinder and cover the body with paint.

To know more about how to remove surface rust on cars, keep reading!

Can Surface Rust Be Removed?

Moisture and air are the major causes of rust on cars, and often, there is little to do to prevent your car’s contact with them.

However, that isn’t the problem. The problem is when there’s an exposed part on your car; these two can easily penetrate and cause surface rust.

Can you remove rust at this early stage?

Quick Answer

As a whole, surface rust can be removed since it is the opening stage of rust on the car and, therefore, hasn’t damaged the car’s metal or any structural part, it’s easy for it to be removed.

The best thing for a car owner is to detect surface rust on time, so they can deal with it before it worsens. 

If surface rust isn’t removed, it will keep worsening, especially if it keeps getting in contact with water and oxygen.

Therefore, you must routinely check your car for signs of surface rust or scratches to prevent it from happening.

For example, if you notice the painting on your car has bubbles, you should treat that quickly before it peels off and exposes the car’s body.

When rust is at the surface level, you can treat it without asking a professional for help.

You can remove surface rust completely and restore your car’s metal with some supplies and tools.

How To Fix Surface Rust Yourself

Surface rust can be removed, and you can do that yourself in your garage.

To effectively fix surface rust, you must remove rust completely before treating the affected area. 

Otherwise, rust will build underneath and spread to other areas.

Once you remove the rust, you can then treat the area to prevent rust from returning.

So, how do you fix surface rust yourself? According to the 6th Gear Garage, you can fix surface rust by doing these:

Mask Off Areas

Before removing rust, you need to mask off unaffected areas, so you don’t cause damage to them unintentionally.

Rust removal involves sanding the surface, and you don’t want to scratch unaffected areas and expose them to rust. 

You can cover those areas with old newspapers or masking tapes, depending on how large the area is.

Clean The Area

After protecting other areas, you can start the prep work to remove surface rust.

Start that by cleaning the rusty area with wax and a grease remover. 

This helps to remove the layer of protection added by the manufacturer so that whatever treatment you apply to the rusty area can penetrate and work.

Then, wait till the product dries up.

Remove Rust With A Wire Brush

The next thing to do is to remove the rust using a wire brush.

Run the brush over the rusty area and clear the rust from the metal’s surface.

Ensure you have covered all the affected areas and miss no spots.

Sand The Surface

Once you’ve removed the rust using a wire brush, you need to sand the surface to remove remnant rust and even out the surface.

However, you must be careful when doing this so you don’t sand too deeply into the metal.

Sand carefully till the metal is exposed and all rusty surfaces are even. 

Apply Filler On The Surface

The next thing to do is to apply a filler on the exposed metal surface.

The purpose of the filler is to cover the exposed body of the car and fill the surfaces you sand off. 

Choose a car body filler of your choice and mix it with a hardener before applying it to the surface.

After mixing, you can apply it to the surface and even it out using any tool you choose.

Sand Off The Filler

After leaving the filler to dry, you need to smoothen it, so the car’s surface can be even. Use sandpaper to smoothen the car’s surface.

Apply Spot Potty For Missed Spots

When sanding off the dry body filler, you might have missed some spots that may look like tiny holes in the car.

Therefore, you must inspect the surface carefully after sanding it to ensure you don’t miss any spots. 

If you did, you can use a spot potty to fill it up.

Then, you can sand it, so it can be even with other parts of the area you’re working on.

Wipe The Area Clean

Once you’re sure the area is smooth and even, you need to wipe the area clean before you continue prepping the rusty area for painting. 

Using a wax and grease remover, wipe the surface clean so the next product you use on the surface works.

After applying the cleaner, you need to wait for it to dry up before proceeding to the next step.

Coat The Surface With Filler Primer

The next thing to do is to coat the surface with a filler primer. This works both as a filler and a primer to protect the exposed car metal.

After applying it, you need to leave it for a while to dry up or use a heat blower to hurry the process. 

Once it dries, you can then sand the surface. However, you should be careful, so you don’t sand off the primer you applied.

After that, clean the surface with the wax and grease remover like you’ve been doing.

Blow Out Debris And Clean

While sanding the surface, some debris may have settled around the working area, and more so, there’s a possibility that dust in the atmosphere may be on the surface.

Therefore, before you continue, you should blow out the debris. 

Another option is to wet the ground before you start working on your car.

After blowing out the debris and dust, wipe the surface clean again.

Coat With Paint And Clear Coat

Now that prepping is over, it’s time to paint over the exposed metal so as to protect it from rust-causing agents.

Start by applying a thin first coat on the metal. 

After this application, you should still be able to see the metal. Allow the first coating to thoroughly dry, then apply a second layer.

When you have applied the second coat, apply a third coat and let it dry. 

Before continuing, clean the surface to remove any dust that may want to settle because coating over dust can cause problems in the future.

After cleaning, then apply a clear coat to the surface. Continue with a second one, up till a third coat and leave it to dry.

Polish Surface With A Buffer And Cloth Pads

Once you’re done coating, the car might not be as shiny as other parts of the car, so you probably want to add that shiny touch to it. 

Therefore, you may need to polish the surface with a buffer and cloth pads.

Run that over the surface you worked on to polish it. You’ll notice a difference when you’re done.

Wax After Paint Cures

After polishing the car, you need to leave the paint to cure.

It could take hours, a day or two. Once you’re sure the paint is completely dry, you can wax the car. 

Waxing your car is an extra layer of protection over it to prevent it from rusting.

The good thing is wax can last for years on cars and protect your car. 

In fact, you should wax your car at least twice yearly for maximum protection, rust or not.

After waxing, you have completely removed surface rust and protected the car’s surface from future attacks. 

However, it doesn’t end there. Rust can appear on other parts of your car; therefore, you need to take preventive measures to ensure it doesn’t become worse.

5 DIY Ways To Remove Surface Rust

You can easily remove surface rust using some DIY methods that you try using some of your home tools. Here are some:

Paint Over It

Painting over surface rust is an effective way to remove and prevent it from worsening.

You may have to buy paint at a store if you don’t have it at home.

However, before you paint over the surface rust, ensure you remove the rust by sanding it off.

Use Salt And Vinegar

You can also use salt and vinegar to remove surface rust. Vinegar contains acidic solutions and can aid in getting rid of rust.

Mixing it with salt and applying it over the rusty area will help dissolve the rust. 

Remove the mix after some hours and thoroughly clean the surface, so the remnants don’t damage the metal surface.

If vinegar isn’t available, you can use lemon juice and mix it with salt or use just potato.

Use Fiber Wheel Abrasive Buff Wheels

This is amongst the quickest ways to remove surface rust. Run the abrasive buff wheels over the rusty surface to remove the rust from the metal.

Then you can seal the metal by using a primer, wax, or paint and polish the surface.

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is another effective household ingredient used in removing rust.

Turn it into a paste by mixing it with water or vinegar and applying it to the affected surface. 

Let it settle for an hour and clean it off with a brush. Cure the care with a primer or rust remover, paint, and wax if possible.

Sand The Surface

Sanding the rusty area will help remove the surface rust on the car.

Sand the rust off completely and cover the metal with filler, primer, and paint if you have the materials available to prevent rust from returning.


Surface rust is the easiest to remove, and you should do that before it worsens.

You can do that using household tools like sandpaper, paint, baking soda, salt, and vinegar. 

Moreover, you could also go the extra mile by using rust treatments to protect the metal.

Rust can always return, therefore always ensure you inspect your car for rust and be proactive in stopping it before it becomes a problem.

Key Takeaways:

  • Surface rust can be removed
  • Mixing salt with vinegar or lemon juice can remove rust
  • You need to remove rust before applying rust treatment on the car’s surface
  • Be wary of rust and debris when removing surface rust


Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge