- Oxidation Remover for Metals & Cars - Tips & Tricks
The Oxidation Proclamation
Rust is everywhere. It creeps silently throughout your car, under the paint, inside the frame and just about everywhere there is metal. If you catch it early, you can stop it from spreading, but far too often by the time you see it, it is too late for stop-gap measures. Rust is hard to kill, however Eastwood has the ammunition to help cull the beast. Lock and load, gearheads, it’s time to eradicate some oxides.
While oxidation is a process that most metals are subject to (yes, even aluminum and cheap stainless), none are as prone to the detrimental effects like iron-based metals. If left untouched, rust will render steel back to the earth, and it happens faster than you may realize. The environment around the car plays a significant role in rust formation. If you have ever been to Michigan, you understand just how fast metal can rust away. On a recent trip to Detroit, we saw a 4-year old vehicle with fully-rusted rocker panels. In the southern states that takes 15-20 years of regular use. The difference is the salt exposure; salt adds an electrochemical reaction, which speeds up the process. The key to stopping rust is to seal it off from oxygen. Pure, dry oxygen doesn’t rust metal, but the combination of moisture and oxygen is a deadly mix for steel. Adding a barrier is the best way to protect the metal. Once that barrier is compromised, then the oxidation begins almost immediately.
You have to get rid of the rust in order to stop it. Even a single tiny spec of rust can lead to more, even under shiny paint. There are several methods of rust removal: media blasting, chemicals, and the classic cut-and-replace. We are going to look into each method and share some tips and tricks along the way using some Eastwood products.
Cut and Replace- Once the metal has holes in it, you just have to bite the bullet and replace it. Whether it is a pinhole or the entire quarter panel, the process is the same; cut out the surrounding metal and weld in some fresh metal. The trick here is to remove enough material to get rid of the weak rusted metal. Where there is a hole, there is a lot more thin metal ready to crumble. One trick we use is a metal pick. Tap the surrounding metal with pick and a hammer. If the pick goes through the metal, its junk, if it dents really easy, it may be getting thin, consider going further. Once you have removed the offending metal, you need to prep the rest of the metal to kill any existing rust and protect it for the future. That is where the next two methods come in.
Eastwood Tech Tip- before welding, spray the joints and any areas behind the weld with Eastwood Weld-thru coating to protect the fresh welds from rust.
Media Blasting- A personal favorite, when done well, rust has no defense against the abrasive power of high-pressure blasting. However media blasting comes with a great many caveats that you need to know about before attempting on your own. The first one is safety. Always wear a respirator or fresh-air hood when doing any media blasting. Protect your skin by wearing long sleeves, long pants and gloves. A faceshield is the best way to protect your eyes from ricochets.
Often referred to as simply “sandblasting”, media blasting these days should not be done with sand. Sand releases free silica when it is crushed or broken, which is what happens when the crystals hit the parts under high pressure. Free silica gets into your lungs and causes a condition called silicosis. Never use sand in anything other than an enclosed blast cabinet. For automotive use, there are several much more suitable for blasting; these are baking soda, walnut shell, aluminum oxide, and crushed glass.
Baking soda is the least aggressive of all blast media. Soda blasting is generally reserved for delicate parts and where you need to remove paint while not damaging any of the surrounding areas, such as painted portions of chrome trim. Soda will not harm rubber, glass, chrome, but it also won’t touch rust. Soda is gentle; it can be used to blast fully assembled engines without fear of damaging the bearings or gaskets. Baking soda is softer than bearing material; it will crush into powder and be absorbed into the oil, and removed by the filter. Baking soda is the only blast method that should be used on fiberglass , everything else it simply too aggressive. Anything blasted with baking soda must be neutralized with either Eastwood Fast Etch or vinegar and water (10:1 water to vinegar mix is sufficient). If this neutralizing step is not taken, the paint won’t stick. Fast Etch has the added bonus of protecting the metal from flash rusting. Another benefit of soda blasting is the cleanup. Other media types have to be swept up, whereas soda simply washes away with water, doing no harm the environment. When blasting greasy parts, the soda actually encases the grease, allowing for an easy sweep up of the gunk, it won’t smear on the ground.
Eastwood Tech Tip- While all baking soda products are chemically the same, blasting soda is different from the stuff you buy at the grocery store. Blasting soda particles are larger, more uniform in size, and there additional components that aid in the flow and cleanup. Besides, it would take a lot of those little boxes to fill up a blast pot!
Walnut Shell is a great alternative to the more expensive baking soda. It works very well for internal engine parts, blocks and aluminum. Grease doesn’t stand a chance against walnut shell blasting. Walnut shell is more aggressive than soda, but less aggressive than crushed glass. It is reusable and safe for the environment. The biggest drawback of walnut shell is that is very dusty. Walnut shell blasting won’t remove rust, but it does remove the scale associated with rust. This is great for using products like Rust Encapsulator and Rust Convertor.
Crushed glass is the preferred method of stripping paint and rust off metal. Crushed glass comes in different sizes, but the optimum sift size is a #4, or 40-80 mesh. This is small enough to get into the pits and large enough to get the job done quickly. Crushed glass has low dust, can be recycled and it’s cheap. Crushed glass is made from recycled glass and it does not release free silica, making it safe for the environment. Rust is quickly stripped with crushed glass, leaving only clean white metal. #4 glass leave a 80-120-grit profile on the surface, which is perfect for spraying paint and primer.
Aluminum Oxide is another excellent media for autobody rust removal. It is reusable far beyond what any of the other media types are capable of and is low dust. It is not cheap; so blasting an entire vehicle with Aluminum oxide is an expensive proposition, especially if you don’t have a way to recollect it. Aluminun oxide in a blast cabinet is very economical however, as it lasts a long time without a loss in effectiveness.
Chemical Rust Removal has been around just about as long as rust itself, but the methods have changed greatly in the last few years. Most chemical rust removers involve soaking the parts in a liquid that eats the rust, leaving clean metal at the surface. There are different types of chemical rust removers, many of which are highly acidic and can damage sensitive parts. Eastwood offers a few alternatives for safe rust removal.
Eastwood Rust Dissolver is an acid-free chemical bath that removes rust while not attacking the metal itself. Lightly rusted parts can be cleaned in a few hours, while heavily rusted parts can take up to 48. After soaking, a quick rinse with fresh water gets the parts are ready for primer or powder coating. The cool thing about this product is that it is reusable, so you can get a fair amount of mileage from one purchase. The parts must be dipped in the solution and left there until the process is completed, so the larger the part, the more you need. For body panels and really big parts, Rust Dissolver is available in a gel, which uses the same chemical formulation as the standard Rust Dissolver, but formulate as a clinging gel. Simply brush it on, let it sit for 24 hours and then clean it off with Eastwood PRE prep cleaner.
Eastwood Tech Tip- Remove any loose, scaly rust BEFORE using Eastwood Rust Dissovler. This will speed up the process and reduces the amount of work the chemicals have to do. A little elbow grease goes a long way.
Eastwood Rust Convertor doesn’t remove rust, rather it converts it using a proprietary formula to stop the oxidation process and protect it from future rusting. It is literally a rust killer in a rattle can. It can be used on any surface and is compatible with most topcoats. This product is perfect for areas such as under the hood, the frame, wheels, etc. You need to remove any loose scale before spraying the convertor on the part; it needs to be clean, just like any paint-type product. Grease, dirt and other contaminants will hinder the convertor’s ability to seal the rust.
One of the best-selling products that Eastwood has to offer is Rust Encapsulator. Similar to Rust convertor, Rust Encapsulator seals the rust, converts it, and provides an excellent primer for top coating. We use this stuff like it grows on trees. Available in several finishes, RE works for just about any metal surface that needs rust control. It can be used as a preventative as well, filling the tiny pinholes in fresh welds like floor pans. When used with Eastwood Rust convertor, rust simply doesn’t stand a chance.
Rust is a never-ending demon that plagues all gearheads. While prevention is worth its weight in gold, eventually, rust always rears its ugly head. Kick it in the teeth with some of these great products from Eastwood and save the hard work for something fun.
Contributing Eastwood Rust Expert: