How to Prevent Rust on a Car or Truck

Rust weakens metal and ruins the appearance of your vehicle. Take these steps to help prevent rust on your car...

March 23, 2021

In August 2020, I picked up a 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 with a 5.9L Cummins engine. These older Dodge trucks are known to have rust issues, especially in northern climates where salt is used on the roads throughout winter. I had rust problems with my 1997 Dodge Dakota, so with my new truck, I want to do everything I can to avoid rust. Here’s how to prevent rust on your car or truck.

Clean road salt to prevent rust on a car.

Avoid road salt as much as possible

Rust is a chemical reaction that involves the exchange of electrons between atoms. Some chemicals, like salt, increase the conductivity of moisture, accelerating rust. That’s why you see so many rusty cars and trucks driving around in northern climates. Try your best to avoid exposing your vehicle to salt. If you’re trying to protect a prized show car or hot rod, store it until spring. But that’s impossible for your daily driver, which means you should…

Washing car to help prevent rust.

Wash your vehicle often to prevent rust

This helps remove salt in the winter. It also helps remove caked mud, dirt and other contaminants that can trap moisture against the metal and speed rust formation.

Detail the vehicle in the spring and fall 

After buying my truck, I cleaned every exposed inch prior to winter. I’ll do the same thing in the spring and again before the snow flies. This provides the benefits of washing the vehicle, but allows for a little more detail when it comes to getting in all those hard-to-reach areas.

Apply a professional undercoating 

You can do this yourself or visit a professional. The pros have specialized coatings that hold up better than many over-the-counter products. After having an undercoating applied to my truck, I touched up a few areas prone to road grime with AMSOIL Heavy Duty Metal Protector. It forms a durable wax-like coating that helps lock out moisture and prevent rust.  

Use touch up paint to help prevent rust on a car.

Repair nicks, dings, dents or scrapes that expose bare metal

Your vehicle’s paint isn’t just for show – it protects the bare metal from rust. Rock chips, scrapes and dings that expose metal are an invitation for rust formation. If you don’t want to go to a body shop, cover bare metal with touch-up paint; it looks far better than rust. Good mud flaps and a bug guard can help protect against dings and scrapes from flying debris.

Lay-in bedliners can cause rust.

Remove lay-in bedliners

They can trap moisture and debris against the truck bed, accelerating rust formation. Go with a spray-in bedliner or nothing at all.

Use rubber or plastic floor mats

Carpet can hold water, dirt and salt, speeding rust formation. Invest in a quality set of rubber or plastic floor mats to help protect the vehicle’s floor. They also do a great job protecting the carpet.

Puddles in winter can contribute to rust on a car.

Avoid puddles in the winter

These puddles won’t help “rinse” your vehicle clean. Instead, they are thick pools of salt water that will only add to the challenge of preventing rust on your car or truck.

Treat your vehicle with AMSOIL cleaners and protectants

I use AMSOIL Metal Protector to help clean the doors, tailgate and other exposed metal. Wipe the area clean, then spray it wet with MP and let it dry to help prevent rust to your car or truck.

As said earlier, Heavy-Duty Metal Protector is great on areas that the undercoating didn’t get or that see a lot of road grime. It sprays as a liquid, so it can get into tough-to-reach areas, and cures as a wax-like coating. Its corrosion-inhibitor additives give the product an amber tint, so use it only where color isn’t an issue.

True, plastic doesn’t rust, but I use AMSOIL Mudslinger® on plastic wheel wells, trim and bumper components to help repel mud, dirt and water while protecting against UV rays. I also apply it to the back of the mirrors to help keep bugs from sticking. This helps keep the vehicle clean overall, which serves my larger goal to prevent rust.

Hopefully these 9 tips will help prevent rust on your car (and my truck) for years.