5 Tips On Keeping Your Car Rust-Free

Rust can form pretty much anywhere there is metal and moisture. These quick tips can help protect your car from rust.
Written by Patrick Price
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Rust is a serious problem for car owners. It usually forms when your car has been exposed to excessive moisture, inclement weather, or prolonged periods of inactivity. Once it takes hold of your car, rust can be hard to eradicate. Left untreated, it will gradually degrade and eventually destroy the metallic components of your car. 
Rust most commonly forms in the winter but can crop up any time—so you’ll need to be on the lookout year-round. Fortunately, there are some great strategies you can use to keep rust at bay. If you’re vigilant and take the right precautions, rust is an avoidable issue.
To help you be prepared and protected against rust, the
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1. Park inside

One of the best ways to protect your car from rust is by parking in a garage whenever possible. Outside, your car is vulnerable to rain, snow, hail, fog, mist, and other types of inclement weather that can lead to rust. 
Sometimes, parking inside simply isn’t an option. When that happens, it’s a good idea to have a tarp or cover for your car. Keep it stored in your truck so that you’ll have it whenever it’s needed. This should reduce your car's exposure and risk of rust. 

2. Use a liquid polymer ceramic coating or wax

Another great way to keep rust at bay is by coating your car with a protective substance. Traditionally, car owners used
for this purpose. While effective, wax needs to be reapplied every few months so it can become quite costly. 
In recent years, many drivers have been using liquid polymer ceramic coating instead of wax. Ceramic coating lasts much longer and only needs to be applied every few years, which will make it far cheaper in the long run. Ceramic is also far more effective at protecting your car than wax. 

3. Keep your car clean (especially if there's salt on the roads)

The main cause of rust is excessive moisture. However, other factors can increase the chances of rust forming. If there is dust, grime, or salt on your car, you’ll be at increased risk—salt especially is notorious for causing rust.  
That’s why it is so important to regularly wash your car—especially in the winter when the roads are salted. Ideally, you should wash your car at least twice a month
MORE: DIY car wash: a step-by-step guide

4. Don’t leave your car sitting 

If at all possible, avoid letting your car sit unused for extended periods. The longer your car sits dormant, the greater the risk that rust will form. How long it takes for rust to form on a stationary car varies. The condition of the car, the quality of its paint, and the amount of moisture where you live all play a part. 
If you live somewhere wet, especially by the sea, where there’s salt in the air, rust can form incredibly fast. 

5. Keep your gas tank full

This is one tactic that is often overlooked. Car owners are often so concerned with protecting the outside of their vehicle that they don’t stop to consider how rust could form inside. 
A particularly vulnerable area is the interior of your gas tank. If it is constantly sitting near empty, rust is likely to form because of the amount of air and water your gas tank is exposed to. Simply keeping your gas tank as full as possible should greatly reduce the probability of rusting. 

What do I do if my car already has rust?

If, despite your best efforts, rust has already formed on your car, don’t panic. If the rust isn’t very extensive yet, you should be able to clean it off. Assuming that the rust is only on the exterior, here’s what you’ll need to do:
  • Tape: Tape off the area with rust using masking tape. You’ll want nearby areas that you’re not working on to be covered while you work. This should help prevent rust from spreading to other areas. 
  • Scrape: Paint can’t stick to rust. Anywhere there’s rust, you’ll see bumbling and pitting in the paint. Anywhere you see this, you’ll need to scrape all the loose paint off with a paint scraper or razor blade. 
  • Clean: Thoroughly clean the area with soap and water, then let it dry. Some car owners suggest spreading on a layer of vinegar after cleaning. 
  • Spray: Once the area is dry, it’s a good idea to use anti-rust spray or other chemical rust treatment. This will make removing the rust much easier and reduce the chances of it coming back.
  • Scrub: Scrape off the rust. Depending on how extensive it is, you might be able to use steel wool. For more extensive cases, you might need a grinder. If you used an anti-rust spray, depending on which one you used, you might even be able to wipe it off with a microfiber cloth. 
  • Paint: Once the area is free of rust, clean it one more time. Then paint over the area to blend it with the rest of the car and help prevent future rust. 
If, on the other hand, the rust is inside the vehicle’s internal components, things become more complicated—and expensive. You’ll most likely need to have any affected parts replaced. 

Does car insurance cover rust damage?

Unfortunately, most car insurance will not cover rust damage, as insurance companies view rust as normal wear and tear.
However, many car warranties include coverage for rust. If your car’s warranty is still active, it’s worth checking to see if it will cover the cost of rust-related damages. 

How to save money on car insurance 

The best way to save money on your
car insurance
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Keep your car clean, especially from salt. Park your car inside a garage when possible. Keep it covered with a tarp when not in use. Keep the gas tank full.
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