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Do Car Scratches Always Rust Over Time?

Car scratches are one of the frustrating parts of owning a vehicle. However, it’s always best to deal with them as soon as possible.

Man applying something on car scratches

Car scratches don’t always rust over time. However, scratches that penetrate more than the clear coat are likely to rust. The deeper the damage, the quicker rust will set in.

This article explains which car types of car scratches rust, what factors encourage rusting, and how you can prevent car scratches from rusting.

Which Types of Car Scratches Rust Over Time?

Car rusting so hard

There are different types of car scratches depending on which layer of paint it penetrates. The layers, starting from the outermost, are as follows:

  • Clear Coat
  • Color Layer/Paint Layer
  • Base Coat/Primer
  • Metal/Plastic Panel

The deeper the scratch, the greater the possibility of it rusting. However, scratches that only penetrate the clear coat layer of your car are easily repaired and will not rust, no matter how long they are left untreated.

Only scratches that penetrate the color layer or deeper have the possibility of rusting. Scratches that damage the metal panel rust quickly. In fact, these scratches can take only a few hours before visible rust develops.

Many modern cars use plastic panels instead of metal or aluminum ones. These, no matter how deep the scratch, will not rust.

Aluminum panels won’t rust typically either. When exposed to the elements, aluminum will degrade over time, but it won’t display the usual brown blotches of rust.

Conditions That Cause Scratches to Rust More Quickly

Car is starting to rust

Now that you know which scratches on your car can develop rust, here are some factors that can speed up the formation of rust in car scratches:

  • Wet or humid weather. The presence of water is a catalyst for oxidation and speeds up the formation of rust.
  • Presence of standing water accumulating in scratches. Moisture can get inside exposed scratches, even without rain. This is a possibility when you drive into a puddle or perhaps a gutter. Even when you wash your car and miss drying a spot—especially one with a scratch—rust can start to develop.
  • The presence of salt in the air. Salt is often corrosive. When you live near the ocean, salt in the air can cause rust to form more quickly in a car scratch.

Preventing Car Scratches From Rusting

Applying products on car scratches

The most effective method to prevent rust from developing into a scratch is to take your car to a body shop to have the damage repaired as soon as possible. You may also decide to fix the scratch yourself to save some money. The key is dealing with it quickly.

First published on Sep 10, 2022 by

However, not everyone always has the time to have a car scratch repaired immediately. So, to slow down or prevent any rust from forming before you can have the scratch fixed, here are some things you can do:

  • Use a temporary clear coat to protect the scratch from other contaminants and outside elements that could encourage rust. Remember to wash and dry the damaged area first to remove any existing debris. This Toyota Clear Coat Touch-Up Paint Pen uses a pen-type format that makes it very easy for anyone to address finer scratches without accidentally spraying the product onto undamaged paint.
  • Suppose you don’t have a temporary clear coat on hand. In that case, you can also use other materials to cover the scratch, like fabric or plastic liner. Be careful not to seal the scratch entirely from the outside. Temperature changes can cause moisture to develop within your protective cover, facilitating rust instead of preventing it.
  • Park your car in your garage or use a car cover. Doing so also protects your vehicle from contaminants.

This iCarCover 18-Layers Premium Car Cover will protect your vehicle from a variety of rust-causing factors, including debris that can cause scratches, unfavorable weather, and UV rays. It’s made of non-abrasive light cotton that is also dust-proof. It comes in a wide variety of sizes, so you can find one that fits your car.

What To Do if Your Scratches Start Rusting

Car scratches on wheel starts rusting

Sometimes, you don’t have the time to deal with a scratch immediately. Rust can start forming before you know it. You need to deal with it as soon as you can before you end up spending hundreds of dollars. If you allow the rust to get out of hand, you’ll pay much more than the cost of repairing just a scratch.

If you can’t take your car to a body shop to deal with the surface rust forming in your car scratch, here’s what you can do:

  1. Wash and dry your car thoroughly to remove as many contaminants as possible.
  2. Sand away the surface rust and a bit of the surrounding clear coat and paint coat with 150-grit sandpaper.
  3. To smooth the scratch, use 600-grit sandpaper. Using a clean microfiber towel, wipe away any dust that’s accumulated.
  4. When the surface is clean, apply a rust protector or converter as an extra layer of protection from the rust.
  5. You can now apply primer, touch-up paint, and a clear coat. Wait 10-30 minutes between each layer. You may need to apply multiple coats of each layer before the next.
  6. Wait a day for the paint to cure before polishing it to blend the previously damaged area to the rest of your car’s surface.

Protecting Your Car From Scratches

Man pointing the car scratches

The best way to prevent car scratches from rusting is to avoid car scratches in the first place. To help prevent the headache of dealing with rust, protect your car from scratches using the following tips:

  • Park your vehicle in a sheltered area. Parking your car in your garage or in the shade, or using a car cover can protect it from any unnecessary scratches. Avoid the elements and protect your vehicle from debris, contaminants, bird droppings, etc.
  • Park away from other cars whenever possible. This helps you avoid scratches that may result from accidental bumps and grazes from other vehicles.
  • Wash and dry your car regularly and with suitable materials. Doing so removes contaminants that have built up on your car’s surface, eliminating possible causes for scratches. Car shampoo (not household soap), high-quality microfiber towels, foams, and sponges help ensure that scratches and swirls don’t form during the process.
  • Wash your car with pH-balanced car shampoo. One product that’s easy on your vehicle’s paint and wax job is Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Foaming Car Wash Soap. Dry and polish your car with a plush and edgeless microfiber towel like CARECAREZ Microfiber Towels.

Final Thoughts

Not all car scratches rust, but any damage penetrating past the clear coat has the potential to rust. Immediate scratch repair is the best way to prevent rust. If you can’t bring your car to the body shop in a suitable amount of time, protect the scratch from further exposure to the elements.

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CarCareReport dot com first published this article on Sep 10, 2022..

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