When Should I Worry About Rust On My Car?

Like most things you use, cars wear with time and have certain issues; one of those issues is rust.

While many people may not bother about this and see it as something one can ignore, it may call for concern.

On average, you should worry about rust on your car when corrosion becomes visible in certain areas of your car, including the body panels, spot welds on the floor, the car frames, engine, gearboxes and more. Rust on these areas indicates that the car may not be safe to drive anymore, until you fix it.

Generally, you should worry about any minute rust spot on your car, or it could become a nuisance when ignored.

You would want to look out for surface, scale, and penetrating rust on your car. Surface rust isn’t as serious as the rest.

It only appears and affects your car’s upper layers, and early detection and fixing can save you the cost and time of more serious problems in the future.

This is the early stage you need to look out for.

Scale rust affects the metal on the body panels, which occurs when you ignore the surface rust.

Lastly, the penetrating rust is very damaging and may render your car parts beyond saving. 

Rusts are sometimes inevitable, so you can’t always trust your car to look perfect.

In that case, you need to be ready for any signs of rust on your car. If the rust on your car doesn’t bother you, then you will find the rest of the article fascinating.

How Big Of A Problem Is Rust On A Car?

While you may be tempted to ignore the rusts on your car, it isn’t the best thing to do.

Asides from the fact that rust defaces your car and makes it unattractive, it can be problematic and ignoring it could bring results you don’t want.

As a whole, rust on cars is a very big problem that can pose safety hazards to you or your car, because excessive corrosion can cause certain car functions to fail when driving, leading to serious car accident.

Once rust appears on your vehicle, the proactive and best thing to do is to contain it and ensure it doesn’t worsen.

However, if you don’t do that, you should be ready for some consequences. As earlier stated, rust can be problematic, and here are some things that you would have to bear when it gets out of hand:

Increased Repair Costs

Rusts can be so damaging that you may spend more on repairs later than now.

Once the rust is beyond the surface level, it may affect some of your car’s components, including the drive train, suspension system, or transmission system.

To detect the extent to which the rust has eaten deep into your car, you would need to pay a professional technician to examine your car.

And most often than not, it doesn’t end there. 

Fixing rust may require that you need to replace some of your car’s body parts.

In the end, you would be paying more for neglecting it.

Destroys Car Aesthetics

You’d agree that rusts on cars don’t look good. While causes of rust can sometimes be beyond control, the results tarnish the car’s outlook.

It damages the paint coating on your car and makes it look uncared for and maybe older than it is.

Rusts can escalate from a minor scratch on your car to an unplanned costly problem.

This is one reason you should always monitor your car. 

Moreover, when rust messes with the car’s aesthetics, it devalues the car. You would hardly find anyone wanting to buy a car with visible corrosion.

This leaves you with a not-so-pleasing car with no one to buy it and huge repair costs.

Compromised Structural Car Integrity

Rust can eat deep into a car’s internal structure and compromise its stability.

This affects car parts like the fuel tank housing, wheel wells, chassis, engine mounts, and other integral areas.

Consequently, your car’s ability to handle impact will dwindle, thereby causing accidents and endangering lives while driving. 

Nevertheless, surface rust isn’t enough to endanger lives.

However, once that transcends to scale or penetrating, that’s an indication that you need to fix the rust before you can comfortably ride your car again.

According to research by the Swedish group Villaägarnas Riksförbund, rust in cars can weaken the vehicle’s structure and severely harm the person driving it after crash testing with a dummy.

How Do You Know If Car Rust Is Bad?

If you look close enough, car rusts are visible, even the tiniest ones. While even the smallest rust on your car doesn’t look good, not all are crucial or life-threatening.

As mentioned earlier, surface rusts are an eyesore but are not as damaging as scale and penetrating rust.

They are easily repairable and don’t call for so much concern.

There are several ways to know if car rust is bad, and they are:

  • Visible holes in the sheet metals of the cabin
  • If the car part flakes off or flexes easily
  • Corrosion on engine and gearboxes
  • Corrosion underneath cars
  • Corrosion beyond 30 cm of a structural mounting
  • Visible rusted metals on the car
  • Visible holes that exhaust gases

You need to watch out for the above-mentioned signs.

Generally, no rust is good rust. You need to handle the undisturbing ones before they become a problem.

These will guide you on when to hire a professional to help you fix the problem.

In addition, this will help you determine whether a car is worth buying depending on the rust damage on the car. You ought to be even more cautious when buying a used car because the rust can sometimes be hidden.

You can check for damaging rust by pulling up the trunk carpeting, checking the doors, areas around the rear glass and windshield, exterior paint bubbling on the car, underneath the car, and other areas.

Generally, you should thoroughly check under sunlight, so you don’t miss anything.

Is A Little Bit Of Rust In A Car Okay?

Rust doesn’t go to full-blown in a heartbeat. It progresses from little to much.

Some little bits of rust can be hidden from eyesight, and others are sometimes visible. Dealing with any type of rust, small or big, isn’t an issue for people who can’t bear it.

But is it okay to leave that tiny rust?

As a general rule, a little bit of rust in a car is okay, provided it is just on the surface, because surface rust doesn’t affect any structural part of the car; however, once the frame or engine starts to rust, it becomes a big problem.

Surface rust is not damaging and can be easily controlled and fixed.

In fact, fixing this isn’t as costly as waiting till the rust eats deep.

At the surface stage, there is minimal or no safety compromise. Therefore, you can still drive your car with that little dent.

The only thing you may worry about is the aesthetic appeal of your car. Regarding safety, you are good to go up until the rust elevates to another stage.

While it is okay to drive a car with a little bit of rust, you should definitely monitor the rust’s progress.

You need to act when you notice that the rust is beginning to eat deep into your car.

However, you shouldn’t wait that long to fix car rust to ensure your safety and save you some money on repair costs.

Can You Stop Rust Once It Starts?

Car rust can tamper with the vehicle’s aesthetics and engine integrity. As mentioned, a little rust on a car can be negligible; but should you neglect it throughout its lifespan?

This may leave people wondering what to do when rust appears on their cars.

On average, you can stop rust on your car once it starts, because at this stage, it isn’t critical enough for your car to be beyond saving; however, the effort, time, and money that will go into stopping it depends on the rust stage and the damage done.

Stopping rust helps to manage it, prevent it from spreading and worsening, and ultimately save some money on your car’s repair costs.

However, when rust is on the critical stage, like the scale and penetrating rust, stopping it can be a bit tasking.

Of course, you can fix it and coat it with paint, but the rust never leaves.

Even when it disappears for a while, it keeps coming back.

As a result, you would need to keep spending on car maintenance to curb the rust’s effects.

Thankfully, you can stop car rust once it starts. The following are some ways you can do that:

Sand The Surface

This is a DIY method to remove rust from the car’s surface. Sanding the rust is only effective for surface rust and helps to curb it from spreading.

Then, you can use a rust inhibitor on the surface and a rust converter.

Finally, you should prime the surface and, after 24 hours, paint the rusted area.

This will stop the rust and prevent it from worsening.

Use Rust Treatments

You can also stop rusting on cars by using rust treatments. But of course, you need to prepare the place before applying the treatments.

This also works for scale rust. 

First, you need to use a wire brush to get to the rust, then use sandpaper and a grinding wheel to even the surface.

Afterward, you can apply the rust treatments to the area.

Hire A Professional

For more critical rust situations, you need to ask a professional for help. This is advisable for penetrating rust.

You can ask the professional if you can still save your car or if you have to let it go.

Then, they can go ahead and fix it for you; afterward, you can focus on maintenance.

Final Thoughts

The best way to deal with car rust is through prevention. Sometimes, car rusts stay permanent and add immensely to the car’s maintenance cost.

Little or critical rusts on cars shouldn’t be neglected, so they should be treated as soon as they appear.

On the other hand, you can prevent rust by washing your car often.

Moreover, waxing it at least twice a year, protecting your car from frequent exposure to sun, rain, or snow, and repairing and applying a rust coat immediately after you notice rust. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Visible holes, rusted metals, and corrosion underneath the car are flashing red signals that the rust situation is critical
  • Surface rust is okay, while scale and penetrating rust are critical
  • Sand rust surface, use rust treatments, and hire a professional to treat rust
  • Prevent rust by shielding the car from harsh conditions, washing the car, waxing, and fixing tiny visible rust


















Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge