For some people, a car is an important mode of transportation that makes their many responsibilities—going to work, dropping kids off at school and more—possible. For others, their vehicle is a hobby that they have put dozens if not hundreds of hours into. No matter which camp you fall into, understanding how rust can impact your car or truck is a valuable skill that can save you money and hassle in the long term.
If you are dealing with a rusted car frame, there is no shame in taking it to an expert to be fixed, but it is also possible to do work on it yourself if you have the proper knowledge.
How Rust Occurs On Your Car Frame
A car’s frame is its skeleton—it supports the structure and weight of the rest of the vehicle and serves as a framework onto which the rest of the machinery is affixed. As such, your car’s frame is exposed to a lot of wear and tear as you drive, including the elements that you encounter on the road, like rain. Rust occurs when water touches the iron and other metal components of your car’s frame; a chemical reaction changes the atoms in the metal to iron oxide, which is much weaker.
This also produces the characteristic brown or red material that you know as rust. Driving in frequently rainy areas can contribute to rust, but vehicles in the “Rust Belt”—sometimes also called the “Salt Belt”—are particularly at risk. This area of the country spans much of the Northeast and Midwest, where year-round exposure to dampness in the form of rain and snow can contribute to rust. These areas also rely on road salt to melt snow and provide traction, and such chemicals hasten the rusting process.
How To Tell If Your Car Frame Has Started To Rust
The easiest way to tell if your car frame has begun to rust is to visually inspect it. Your frame is visible from underneath your car, so getting under with a flashlight and checking your frame for visible rust is the first step. You may also begin to notice unusual behavior from your vehicle, such as sudden jolts of the wheels that cause you to stop going straight or a car door that does not quite close as seamlessly as it did before. These indicate bending or warping of your frame, which may have resulted from advanced rust problems.
Repairing Car Frame Rust Damage Yourself
Rust will continue to spread for as long as it remains untreated, so it is critical that you begin remediation as soon as you notice rust. You can use sandpaper, a wire brush or a grinder to remove the surface layer of rust, which should be your first step. Next, treat the affected areas with a rust converter that relies on a chemical process to once again transform the material—this time from iron oxide to something more stable and tough, like phosphate.
These treatments can be hazardous for your health, so be sure to wear personal protective equipment. Finally, repaint the area so that your frame benefits from additional protection from further moisture. A glossy finish works best here to repel water.
When You Need To See A Professional
Repairing your car frame can be an engaging DIY project, but your frame is a vital element of your car’s safety, and there are times to leave that job to the pros. If your frame is warped or bent, if rust has eaten large holes into it or if you see or hear clear signs that your frame is not operating as intended, it is best to contact the experts.
If your frame fails while driving your vehicle, you could become a hazard for other drivers or even suffer injuries yourself, so repairing severe frame damage is an important part of maintaining your car.
In addition to the improper door closures and other evidence of severe damage mentioned previously, pay attention to sudden grinding or scraping sounds, as well as a vehicle that operates differently after it has been struck—such as after hitting a deep pothole or knocking into a curb.
Trust The Experts To Help You Keep Your Car Frame In Working Order
Whether you are sure that your car is suffering from rust or you would like help ascertaining the state of your frame, you can rely on the experts. The professionals at Robs Customs and Restorations would be happy to help you understand the current state of your car and even tackle rust repair if you do not have the time, expertise or interest to fix the problem yourself. Reach out to Robs Customs & Restorations to schedule an appointment to get started or to ask any questions that you have.