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So you just bought a used vehicle and the first thought that goes through your head is “frame rust repair and prevention” …right?… Probably not, you’re probably too giddy enjoying it and taking it on joy rides; but if you intend on keeping the vehicle for awhile, rust should be a thought that crosses your mind early on – especially if that vehicle happens to be one you offroad because mud loves to rust out parts.
Last summer I picked myself up a 1999 Jeep Wrangler TJ that I intended to use as both an offroad vehicle as well as my winter vehicle. Overall the maintenance and upkeep of the vehicle was pretty good, but you could start to see area of rust on the frame that if left “unaddressed” would result in me needing to replace it in the years to come. So I opted to look into some frame rust repair for the current surface rust forming and future protection for years to come.
Below is a how to guide on how you can repair surface rust and restore your frame on any vehicle, not just Jeeps and you can do it all for under $100
What you’ll need:
- Drill (I recommend corded because you’ll be using it quite a bit and batteries die rather quickly in extended use scenarios)
- Assorted wire wheel brushes (for the drill)
- Your choice of rust reformer spray. I used 5 cans of Iron Armor for $5/can available at harbour freight in the USA (link here)
- Your choice of rubberized Asphalt under coating I used 4 cans of this stuff here for $3.57/can from Canadian tire (link here)
- N95 mask to keep your lungs free of a lot of bad stuff you don’t want to breathe in
- Face shield to keep rust bits and other debris out of your eyes (I recommend a face shield over goggles as I was still getting rust pieces going into my eye with goggles
- Dawn soap and a bucket of water with a cloth
- A hose or better yet a power washer if you have one.
- A case of beer / beverages of your choice
- ***Optional- Ramps/Jack stands. It makes things easier with more height!
- ***Optional – Jack to get your vehicle onto Jack stands (only needed if you use Jack stands)
- ***Optional – Wheel chocks if you are on jack stands / ramps (100% needed if lifting the vehicle)
- ***Optional – Socket set and basic hand tools if you are taking off trim pieces for better access to your frame.
***A couple of side notes: the rust reformer from harbor freight works phenomenal. I sprayed every area of my frame and underbody with it and then I actually only coated half of my Jeeps frame with the rubber undercoat just to see how the rust reformer would hold up over the harsh winter. I admit I had concerns with the bare metal underneath and it being only $5 a can. My findings? Not a spot of rust developed- and I washed the Jeep maybe once over winter and anyone who has experienced Canadian winters knows that they are no walk in the park! (Remember we live in Igloos…) I then further left it exposed into the spring/summer to see how it would hold up against spending a number of consecutive weeks caked in mud- Still looked the same as the day I applied the stuff (I posted pictures at the end) – no new rust and no additional rust in the areas where it “locked up the old rust”. That being said, in areas where I had sprayed over existing coated metal- the reformer started to flake off after about 8 months or so- which is why I recommend applying the asphalt undercoat in the steps below to protect everything as the other half of the frame looks brand new and has held up just phenomenally for over a year now. The Asphalt undercoat I used is great as well- it dries hard and isn’t tacky (after it dries) so it won’t pick up rocks and debris and hold it there. You can use any rust reformer and undercoat out there, I just want to give my experience with what I used to everyone since I had great results and both products were super cheap in price making this a very affordable project.
Alright let’s get started. This guide will span over the next 2 pages as there are many pictures and I want to keep the pages loading as quickly as possible for users- so I apologize in advance.
Step 1) Get your vehicle up higher off the ground if needed (some of you will have a big lift on your Jeep / truck and can sit underneath without this step, for the rest of you- either drive it up on ramps, or jack it up and get it on stands and chock the wheels for your safety. You’ll want to remove the plastic wheel well covers by your back wheels (in the fender well) if you have a Jeep or if they are present on any other vehicle. You want access to as much of the frame as humanly possible- so take this time to remove any plastic guards / side steps that may prevent you from spraying / cleaning an area
These are some shots of what my frame looked like when I started out- you can save these and compare them to the end result.
Shot of the frame / control arm area with all the surface rust.
Not the best shots of the frame, but you get the idea of the surface rust present on the frame and gas tank skid plate.
The back frame with the plastic barrier still in place- notice all the surface rust along the rail?
Step 2) get your drill and wire wheel assortment brushes out and start with the largest of brushes. I recommend you start on one side of the vehicle and do a section at a time. Your objective here is to get your wire wheel to touch every part of your frame that you can possibly get it on. You won’t be able to take off all the rust, but you need to get rid of anything loose and the more the better. This is going to take awhile to do every inch of your frame and it is going to be really dusty, so make sure you have your mask and face shield on. I ran the brush until there wasn’t really any debris flying out from the section I was working on.
The picture below is showing me running the wire wheel across the frame area taking off rust and caked on clay that the power washer didn’t clean off earlier in the car wash.
Just working a section at a time – it cleans up nicely.
Step 3) Once you have run the wire wheel across your entire frame, you’ll need to wash it down to get rid of the dust and grease that remains. I used dawn dish soap and water and washed down all the areas with a cloth and then sprayed it off with power washer. Before you move onto step 4 you’ll also need to dry off the entire frame either with another cloth or let it air dry in the sun for a little bit.
All the debris cleans up so much nicer after you spray it down. Now is when things look like they start shaping up a bit. Don’t mind the scratches from the wire wheel- you won’t see that shortly.
Please continue onto page 2 as this article is too picture heavy to be on one page.