Skip to main content

How to Repair a Rusty Fender on Your Car, Truck, or SUV

Charles does a lot of things himself, including remodeling houses and RVs.

Rust is Not Your Friend!

Rust on your vehicle is a common occurrence, especially if you live in the Northeast like me. With the changing of the seasons and harsh winters, the use of salt to combat icy roads and sidewalks wreaks havoc on your daily driver. The salt, if not rinsed off after driving around on the salt-covered roadways, will quickly eat away at the metal panels that make up your vehicle. I created this article to assist folks with the proper selection of tools and materials needed to restore a rusted fender or body panel. I'm pretty sure you will be able to save yourself some time and money if you are handy and can follow simple instructions. Follow along with me and you will find a tutorial that will enable you to repair that rust and make your car look like new again.

Rusty Fender on a 2008 Ford Edge Pre-Repair







The Repaired Fender





Step by Step Tutorial

1. Start by cleaning the area to be repaired with soap and water followed by grease and wax remover applied with a soft cloth. I used Restoration Shop Custom Shop Series KW-901. Allow to dry.

2. With the 1” blue painters masking tape, tape off the area, keeping the repair area as small as possible.

3. Sand the rusted area with 180-grit sandpaper until all signs of rust are gone and you are left with shiny, bare metal.

4. Mix the body filler according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

5. Apply a thin coat of the mixed body filler to the repair area. You will have to move quickly as the body filler will begin to harden.

6. Allow the body filler to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the package.

7. Once the body filler has dried completely, sand the filler with 80 grit sandpaper until mostly smooth.

8. Continue sanding the area with 180 grit sandpaper to remove heavy scratches from the 80-grit sandpaper.

9. Finish sanding with 800 grit sandpaper applying water this time to remove the scratches left by the 180-grit sandpaper.

10. Rinse down the area and allow to dry. At this point, everything should be smooth and ready for the application of the sandable primer.

11. Apply the primer in 3 thin coats allowing a few minutes in between coats to prevent drips and runs. Allow to dry for 30 minutes.

12. Lightly sand the primer with 800 grit sandpaper, applying water with the spray bottle until the area is smooth.

13. Rinse the area and dry completely. Apply the wax and grease remover to the area with a soft cloth and allow to dry completely.

14. Apply the color match paint in 3 thin coats or until the primer is completely covered and no primer is showing. Allow the paint to cure for at least 30 minutes.

15. Apply the clear coat in 3 thin coats making sure to allow a few minutes between coats. Allow the clear coat to cure for at least 48 hours before moving on to the next step.

16. Once the clearcoat has had time to properly cure, sand the clearcoat with 3000 grit sandpaper. Ensure that you sand in one direction, this will help when removing the fine scratches left behind.

17. With a DA polishing machine and a soft foam pad, apply a small amount of the rubbing compound and make three passes over the repair area and the adjacent areas as well.

18. Now apply the polishing compound in the same manner as above.

19. Wash and dry the entire vehicle and apply a coat of your favorite wax or sealant. This should complete your repair and leave your vehicle looking new and protected for the next 6 months. Remember to apply wax or sealant every 6 months to a freshly washed vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for following along with me! I hope that your repair went well, and your results are stellar. Please feel free to share your comments below and include anything you feel I might have missed. Look for more exciting vehicle repair articles in the future. Happy travels!