How to Paint a Rusted Car

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A car pocked with rust spots doesn't have to remain branded with these unsightly signs of age and decay. It's possible to successfully give your rust bucket a stellar paint job by removing rust and priming your car for a whole new look and feel. Painting your rusty car will take a little patience and grunt work, but it's more than possible to accomplish this task without an expensive trip to the body shop.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Metal sanding wheel or grinder
  • Metal paint primer
  • Car paint sprayer
  • Buffer
  • Painter's tape
  • Tarp
  • Rust remover

Remove the Rust Spots

  • Use the painter's tape to section off the rusted parts of your car's body, then cover the surrounding surface (at least one side of the car) to ensure dust particles and paint remain localized to the rusted area.

  • Use a metal sanding wheel, to slowly sand down the rusted area and a few inches around it right down to the metal, removing all paint and primer.

  • Apply rust remover (available at most auto or hardware stores) to the sanded-down area and, if necessary, continue slowly sanding until you have a smooth surface.

  • Use the metal sander to remove the rest of the paint if you're painting your entire car.

Prime and Paint

  • Be sure each area you are repainting is properly sectioned off with painter's tape and a covering for the surrounding car area if you are repainting the once-rusted areas of your car to match already-existing paint.

  • Use the paint sprayer to apply a coat or two of primer. Allow to dry for at least 12 hours.

  • Spray on the paint color of your choosing as many times as it takes to achieve a smooth finish. Let dry for at least a day.

  • Remove the painter's tape around the former rust spots and, using the buffer, buff the edges to achieve a clean blend with your car's original paint finish.

Tips & Warnings

  • While it's understandable if you don't want to paint outside due to the weather, perform all tasks in an open garage to ensure proper ventilation and a good environment for speedy drying.
  • Applying rust remover to the sanded-down rust spots will ensure any minute rust particles don't remain to cause havoc on your brand-new paint job later on.
  • Always wear safety goggles and a face mask, especially when sanding. Microscopic particles will fly into the air, and if you are not protected, they can enter your lungs and eyes, causing major irritation, an allergic reaction or serious breathing problems.

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