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How to Treat Rust on a Van (2024)

Rust is a van-killer. A little bit is manageable, too much of it could lead to the demise of your van. It's important to deal with rust at the outset. It's one of the very first things you need to do when you buy a van for conversion. In this guide I will show you how to rid your van from rust to help it last much longer!


I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for years; I'm the author of Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan,writer of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course over at Udemy. And full-time vanlifer for 4 years!


Now let's jump in and have a look at how to treat rust on a van!

how to remove rust from a van

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not. By using these links, you are helping me to continue writing free educational content!

 

Note: Did you know that you can get a free electrical wiring diagram by signing up to The Van Conversion Newsletter 🙂

 
roaming home

Supplies List 🛒

Bosch power drill

​Bosch power drill (800W)

For driving and drilling


​Hammerite metal paint

For protecting bare metal from rust

Wire brush drill bit

Wire brush drill bits

For physically removing the rust


Assortment of sandpaper

Metal epoxy putty

Metal epoxy putty

For repairing holes in your van

White spirits

​White spirits

For cleaning surfaces

Rustins rust remover

Red oxide primer

4 ways to repair rust holes in a van

Excess rust can frequently leave holes dotted around, it is important you fill in these holes before starting your conversion.

How to remove rust from a campervan with metal epoxy putty

There are four ways to repair rust holes in a van:

  1. Welding

  2. Fibreglass

  3. Body filler kit

  4. Metal Epoxy putty

In this article, we will look at how to repair rust holes using metal epoxy putty - it's a really easy and really cheap van rust treatment.


For effective rust removal, you will first need to strip your campervan bare. This means removing all interior and exterior panels / plastic trimming and the flooring that came with the van.

After removing all the rust from your van, you will never look at a painted vehicle the same. There’s so much rust under all that paint!

Now then... Let's dive in!


How to remove rust from a van with metal epoxy putty


Step #1: Sand down the rust

To remove the rust, you will need a drill with a wire brush bit. Whilst you could do the job with sandpaper alone, it would probably take a very, long time and leave you with a rather sore back!

Sand back a centimetre or so on each side of the rust spot to ensure you erase any trace of rust.

wire brush drill bit rust

Step #2: Apply Rust remover

To remove any remaining rust, apply some Rustins Rust Remover. This is a rather pungent liquid that is excellent at dissolving surface rust from steel and iron. Rustins and Hammerite are the two best-known brands of rust remover.

The duration of time it takes to dissolve the rust using rust remover depends on the severity of the rust on your van. Light rust takes around 30 minutes to dissolve, while heavy rust can take up to 24 hours.

Apply the rust remover to a microfiber cloth and wipe the metal with it. The rust remover will remove surface rust and stop it from spreading and doing any further damage.

Safety note: Always wear gloves, mask, and protective glasses while applying rust remover. It's a flammable vapour that can damage your eyes and burn your skin.

Step #3: Repair the holes

Once you remove the rust, you may have a hole in the place where the rust once was. You can fill up these holes using metal epoxy putty.

When mixed, the epoxy forms an industrial-strength polymer compound that you can mould into any shape. You can use it to repair or patch up any steel or iron component. Think of it like metal playdough!

To apply it, mould it in your hands until it’s warmed up, then apply it on the inside and underside of the campervan. Leave it to dry for 24 hours.

Safety note: Again, wear gloves and a mask. Make sure that your protective wear covers your skin to safeguard you from epoxy. It’s toxic and many people find they get faint-headed if they don't wear a mask.

Applying metal epoxy putty
Applying metal epoxy putty

Step #4: Sand the metal epoxy putty

metal epoxy putty rust

After 24 hours, the epoxy will harden and become rigid. When this happens, smoothen the metal surface by sanding down the excess putty with sandpaper or with a random orbital sander.

Step #5 (Optional): Use a primer

Now that the rust is gone, you need to repaint your campervan. Before painting it, add a primer layer to the metal. It will protect against future rust. This step is optional because many metal paints (next step) already come with primer in the paint.

red oxide primer van
Some people have even painted their entire van with red oxide primer! @vdubxs

Step #6: Apply metal paint

Painting the metal epoxy putty with metal paint
Painting the metal epoxy putty

For excellent results, use Hammerite white metal paint (or similar). It provides a smooth finish and protects metal from further rusting. Make sure to paint both the top and underside of the epoxy putty.

Step #7 (Optional): Apply Underbody Seal to the bottom of the van

If the bottom of your van is in poor condition, you might want to do a proper job with an underbody seal. It gives heavy-duty protection for the underside of your campervan and other high-impact areas that are exposed to the elements.

If the bottom of your van is in poor condition, you might want to do a proper job with an underbody seal. It gives heavy-duty protection for the underside of your campervan and other high-impact areas that are exposed to various things like stones, water, and corrosion.


Note: For effective, long-term rust removal, carry out regular checks to maintain a rust-free campervan.


Conclusion

I hope you found this guide to remove rust from your van conversion useful! You are well on your way to a beautiful self-build campervan!


Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you join).


If you're looking for some guidance with your van conversion, you might be interested in Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. In the 380-page book (or ebook), you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!

van conversion book

Until next time,

Shane ✌️

1 Comment


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