How to Restore a Rusty Truck Frame – An Expert Guide

Rebuilding a truck and restoring it to the original beauty is a dream that many people have. Taking a rusty heap of metal and converting it into a beautiful automobile is not an easy job, but it is a rewarding job. You can take a rusting vehicle and restore it, and the value of the vehicle triples or better.

The main consideration when you are restoring a vehicle is getting rid of the rust that has begun to develop. The iron that is in the steel that makes up a vehicle returns to its iron oxide form if it is introduced to large amounts of moisture or oxygen. Exposed metal will rust even if the metal never gets wet because oxygen causes rust.

In order to restore a rusty truck frame you must:

  1. Effectively remove any visible rust
  2. Stop further rust from occurring

Removing Rust from a Truck Frame

Sandblasting

  • You can sandblast metal and that will eliminate rust you can visibly see. Sandblasting requires specialized tools and talents to do properly. The equipment is not very difficult to use but it takes time and experience to learn how to properly use a sandblaster so that you remove the rust and do not compromise the integrity of the metal the rust is growing on.
  • You must wear protective eyewear to keep metal fragments or debris particles from getting into your eyes. You should also consider gloves and long sleeves to protect your skin while you work.
  • Once you have finished sandblasting the metal you must then prime it or coat it with a substance that will protect it because you not have exposed another layer of the metal to the elements of oxygen and moisture.

Grinding

  • A grinder will effectively remove rust from a vehicle frame but like the sandblaster a grinder requires you to practice with it so that you do not grind too much of the metal away when you remove the rust. You must either purchase, rent, or borrow an electric grinder to do this work with.
  • A grinder does require you to wear protective eyewear to keep particles of rust and metal from getting into your eyes.
  • Grinding sloughs the rust off of the metal surface but it removes a layer of the metal along with the rust.
  • It can be very difficult to get the grinder into all of the nooks, crannies, and crevices so that all of the rust is removed and eradicated
  • Once you have finished grinding the metal you must then prime it or coat it with a substance that will protect it because you not have exposed another layer of the metal to the elements of oxygen and moisture.

Sanding

  • Using sandpaper to remove rust is hard work. If you have an electric sander the job of sanding away rust can be made easier but be prepared to use a lot of pieces of sandpaper, and be sure that you wear protective eyewear to keep the metal fragments from injuring your eyes.
  • You must use sandpaper that is specifically designed to be used on metal surfaces and you start with a large grit paper and traditionally work your way down by using lighter grits to create a smooth finish
  • You will also need a wire brush and a scraper to help you remove rust from some of the areas
  • It can be difficult to get the sander into all of the crevices and connections to adequately remove all of the visible rust
  • Once you have finished sanding the metal you must then prime it or coat it with a substance that will protect it because you not have exposed another layer of the metal to the elements of oxygen and moisture.

When you are doing any of these three types of work to a vehicle frame you are using equipment that is electrically powered, and anytime you use electrically powered equipment on a vehicle frame there is a risk of fire. Be careful and be sure that you have taken all safety precautions prior to starting the work.

Safety precautions include

  • Drop the gas tank or completely empty the gas tank
  • Keep all flammable substances cleaned away from the area where you are working
  • Have a fire extinguisher on hand
  • Have someone else present in case a fire occurs so they can help you extinguish the fire quickly

Best Way to Remove Rust from a Truck Frame

To remove visible rust you can use a sandblaster, a metal grinder, or heavy grit sandpaper and rub away the rust particles to expose the unpainted metal beneath the rust. When you do this you also remove minute amounts of the metal so you effectively thin the metal and decrease the strength and stability the metal originally had.

You can use a rust converter to help you remove the visible rust on a vehicle frame. A rust converter causes a reaction to occur when it comes in contact with the rust. Rust is actually iron oxide and a rust converter causes a chemical reaction that takes iron oxide and turns it into ferric phosphate.

Ferric phosphate is a hard substance that is black in color. When ferric phosphate is present it is almost impossible for moisture or oxygen to get beneath the ferric phosphate coating so it effectively removes the visible rust and it stops future rust from occurring.

Once the rust converter is applied and the conversion process begins the surface of the metal will turn black indicating that the iron oxide is now ferric phosphate. Ferric phosphate is hard and protective and there is no need for you to apply a primer or protective coating to the metal before you apply your finish paint. If the converter is applied to an area that you do not wish to pain because it will not be seen then you do not have to cover the ferric phosphate because it can withstand the elements without an additional coating.

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