How to Keep a Truck from Rusting (7 Easy Steps)

Rusted pickup truck

A lot of truck owners know that rust can be a death sentence for their vehicles. It’s a shame that trucks are more reliable than cars, but a little bit of rust can completely ruin the vehicle. If you’re anything like me, you’re willing to try anything to keep your truck from rusting.

The best way to prevent your truck from rusting is with routine washing and parking in the correct location. Once you spot rust, you should do your best to prevent it from getting worse because it can destroy your truck. Practice parking in a garage, keeping your drain plugs clear, and avoid parking on grass, dirt, and snow.

In this guide, I put together a list of 7 easy ways to keep your truck from rusting. I’ll also spend some time explaining why your truck might rust, what’s so bad about rust, and areas to keep an eye on when it comes to rust.

What Causes Trucks to Rust?

When oxygen and iron interact, rust forms. The bad news? Almost all of the metal on your truck contains some iron. The oxygen is coming from the air around you.

The process is dramatically sped up when moisture is introduced. Otherwise, rust is a pretty slow and subtle process. Some people might not realize their truck is rusting until a hole has been chewed out.

The Problem with Rust

Rust is a nasty thing on any surface. For your truck, it’s also incredibly dangerous.

Most people realize that rust is an eyesore, but did you know that it also weakens the metal it attacks? If rust gets enough time, it will completely chew through metal and leave massive holes.

When it comes to an engineered truck that has to operate a certain way and carry certain weights, rust can be lethal.

If your truck has bad enough rust in certain spots, it might not pass a car inspection. That’s how serious rust is — it can make people question the structural integrity and safety of the vehicle.

Severe rust above the vehicle wheel arch
Severe rust above the wheel arch

What Areas are Susceptible to Rust?

Any metal part of your truck can be susceptible to rust. In general, there are a few areas where you’ll see rust more often than not:

  • Frame
  • Bed
  • Fenders
  • Wheel wells
  • Cab corners and floors
  • Exhaust
  • Rocker panels

With that said, you can get rust basically anywhere on your truck. If you spot something that seems like rust, you’re probably right (even if it’s not found in one of the 7 spots mentioned above).

If You See Rust, it Might Be Too Late

Just like maintenance on your vehicle, preventative measures always work better than trying to fix the problem after it occurs. When it comes to rust, you always want to catch it before it gets too bad. Ideally, you would prevent it entirely.

Rust is a chemical breakdown of your truck. It happens exponentially — that means that once you see rust, it might be too late.

This is just another piece of proof that preventing rust is a huge deal. There are some chemical solutions that will stop rust dead in its tracks. These chemicals basically prevent any further spreading of the rust. However, the existing rust will still have to be addressed.

I highly recommend using a chemical treatment like the ADCOAT Rust Converter and Primer to stop the rust from getting worse.

Early Signs of Rust

There are some secretive early signs that rust might be settling in. If you can spot it this early, you can completely eliminate the damage that the future rust can do.

All of the signs can be found by looking at your vehicle’s paint. Here are the four things to look for:

  • Bubbling
  • Flaking
  • Sweat marks
  • Cracking

If you notice your paint doing any of these things, it’s time to take some steps to avoid rust.

Rust bubbling on the car fender
Rust bubbling on the fender

Does Paint Prevent Rust?

The paint on a vehicle does a really good job of preventing rust on a truck. However, it doesn’t work in areas where paint is chipped, scratched, or worn away. After getting a deep scratch on your truck, that area is likely to become rusted over time.

 If you get into a fender bender or find deep scratches in your paint, you’ll want to correct it as soon as possible.

7 Easy Ways to Keep a Truck from Rusted

To help keep the rust away from your truck, here are 7 easy ways to consider. Try them out and let me know in the comments how well they worked for your truck.

Keep it Clean

First and foremost, a clean truck is resistant to rust. This entails keeping the inside and outside of your truck clean.

To do this, you can either get a professional detail every so often, or you can handwash your truck. Personally, I stick to washing the truck myself.

For one, it lets you see if any rust is starting. On top of that, you get to ensure your truck gets the clean it deserves. I have plenty of car washing products that I suggest in order to make your life a little easier.

For the interior, it’s just a matter of vacuuming and cleaning up any messes that you have. On top of preventing rust, it also keeps mice out of your car.

Store it Indoors

Rust happens when your truck is exposed to the not-so-great outdoors. If you want to avoid rust, then you need to avoid storage outdoors.

This means using a covered garage or carport to store your truck between uses. This option isn’t available to everyone, but I’d highly suggest using your garage for your vehicle if you have one.

If and when you do park outdoors, make sure you pick the right spot for your truck.

Car Stored in the Garage - Jeep

Avoid Parking on Grass, Dirt, and Snow

Speaking of the right spot for parking, there are definitely some “wrong” spots for parking. You never want to park on top of grass, dirt, and snow whenever you don’t have to.

The moisture associated with these three surfaces will start eating away at your truck and causing some serious rust.

I have an old ’93 Sierra that I have to park outdoors. I poured a nice little slab to park on and it’s been rust-free for more than a decade (knock on wood). Meanwhile, my cousin parks his truck on the grass next to his driveway and it’s rusted to heck.

I know this is just anecdotal, but it’s proof enough for me.

Keep Drain Plugs Clear

Did you know that every car has drains in different spots? These little drains are designed to prevent water from pooling up.

As you probably guessed, when water pools up and sits around for too long, your vehicle is prone to rusting in that spot.

This typically isn’t a problem thanks to the drain plugs. The problem occurs when these plugs are clogged, and water can’t drain.

The most common spot to find these drains are towards the bottom of your truck’s doors.

Avoid Puddles

Have you seen those videos where a road is insanely flooded and some “brave” driver decides to just plow through the water? Whenever I see something like that, I can only imagine the damage they’re doing to their vehicle.

One form of lasting damage that can be done is rusting. Whenever the underbelly of your truck is exposed to water, the unprotected components can start to rust. This is where rust becomes an expensive and dangerous problem.

You should avoid puddles at all costs. Maybe that means swerving a little and driving more attentively when it rains, but it’s critical when it comes to the longevity of your vehicle.

Clean After Driving Through Salt or Brine

Salt and brine on the road can be a death sentence for trucks in the wintertime. My rule of thumb is that once I break out the snow tires, I start routinely cleaning my vehicles.

Salt and brine are both corrosive chemicals that will speed up the rusting process on your vehicle. If you allow your truck to sit around too long with road salt around the wheel wells, you’ll probably notice accelerated rust in those areas.

You don’t have to do a full wash, just a quick rinse, and soap on the affected areas.

Add an Undercoat

The undercarriage of your truck can actually be protected with an undercoat. This is a protective layer that gets sprayed on the exposed metal under your truck to prevent rusting.

In the old days, farmers would just use leftover oil and hose the underside of their trucks. They are sprayable coatings that add a layer of protection to the exposed metal on your truck.

Getting it coated with a professional product will cost upwards of $150. You could instead use a product like WAXOYL which is an aerosol can that you can spray yourself. Just make sure you give the undercarriage a complete and even coating.

Conclusion

Hopefully, my 7 tips will help you keep the rust away from your truck. If you want some more tips and tricks for owning a vehicle, check out the rest of my website. I also have some products that I think can help you.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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