Cars today are more expensive than ever. Many cost more than the average Americans paycheck. Most Americans have car loans that average over 60 or even 72 months. That's basically 6 year car loans with very hefty payments, so if we are going to invest that much money, not to include taxes and insurance, in our cars than we best protect them and make them last as long as possible. One area of grave importance is rust protection and treatment.
Rust is like cancer for a car. Once it starts it will only get worse and grow. Being that every car manufacturer except Saturn uses sheet metal and all use metal frames and undersides, rust is a major problem. Rust isn't just a northern state problem. It can happen anywhere that there is moisture, extreme weather, salt (road salt used in winter weather and salty air and spray from the ocean). Rust can be prevented and treated, however.
We have seen commercials showing us what extreme weather and conditions can do to our cars and trucks. Your vehicles sheet metal is coated by a thin protection of primer paint and clear coat. All it takes is a small nick, a chip, road debris, even hail to cause this very thin protective layer to become damaged. Even the smallest damage like a little cut can let in moisture and this will start the oxidation of the metal commonly called rust. Rust is basically a loss of electrons which weakens the metal and allows oxidation to occur. Every car gets door dings in grocery parking lots, rock chips from trucks and vehicles on the road (tip, never follow a construction truck too closely as they are always throwing rocks), etc.
It is a good practice to clean and wax your car at least every two weeks and while doing so, look for any possible areas where rust could start. Look for nicks, scratches, dings, anything that breaks through the paint. It is important to notice these areas as early as possible so you can prevent rust from ever starting. To treat a deep nick or scratch, it is important to cover the spot and seal it from moisture.
Touch up paint matched for your cars exact color will of course look best and give good protection. If touch up paint is not readily available you can use a clear touch up or even clear nail polish. Be sure to use a toothpick instead of the included brush for application. The included brush will put on too much and actually make the repair standout. It will build up both sides of the scratch or nick. A toothpick works better as it will put the touch up paint directly where it is needed, inside the cut, nick or scratch.
For best results either go to an automotive dealer or an automotive parts store whom can easily locate your particular cars paint. The exact paint will look best and help hide the repair. Some cars have clear coats and will look best with a clear coat touch up after the initial repair. This will help seal out moisture and keep your car rust free.
If rust has already started than there are treatments available for this. It is a little more involved, though. You must sand the area until the rust is gone and there is just bare metal. Wal Mart carries a scratch repair pen that works great for minimizing the area affected. Next a product like NeutraRust is added. This will actually chemically alter any rust that is left and prime and seal the surface for paint.
It is a good idea to check the underside of the metal where the rust occurred to make sure it hasn't penetrated to the other side. If it has then treat it the same way, but instead of touch up paint there are under car spray treatments that will give thicker and longer lasting protection.
For surface area repairs follow up with touch up paint. This also works with larger areas, but it may be easier to have a body shop do the job as the results will be much more noticeable. A good idea that will save you some money is to stop by your local car dealers used car department. Ask for the paint touch up guy that they use or what days he comes. He will do the repair for you at a fraction of what a body shop would charge and it will be very professional.
There you have it, how to treat and prevent rust from little nicks to bigger problems. A little proper care really can make your car last that much longer.