How to Fix Rust Around Your Wheel Wells




About: A high school kid who likes to do a lot. I like to build, invent, blow things up, and fire. If you need help on a project or need a new idea just message me. I regularly check instructables so I will probabl...


This is more of account of how I got rid of/ hidden/ covered up the rust on a 1996 Toyota Camry. The rust was around the wheel wells on both of the rear wheel wells.

This is the first time I have done anything like this. I have never used Bondo, I have removed rust and some minor metal working before but nothing like this.

There was a total of 20 man hours or so working on this.

All the car experts are probably going to say I didn't do so and so right or so and so. You can give me encouraging comments and pointers and I will remember them the next time I do it.

intoon has a good Instructable I have read through I recommend that you do too.

I am entering this into the Metals Contest so please vote for me.

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Step 1: Materials/Tools

You need quite a bit of things for this task:

First of all you need the car you are working on.
A work space is necessary, I did it in a two car garage so I had space on each side of the car. If you did it outside, you would have to make some walls for when you paint that nothing gets on the paint job.

Electric Sander
Dremel(with multiple bits)
A grinder would really help(which I didn't)
Sandpaper(a lot of different types)
Good lighting( a couple different lamps)
Shop Towels
Cleaning agent(i just used water)
Safety Glasses
Gas Masks

For Bondoing:
Bondo(mine came with a little spreader)
Bigger spreader
Place to mix it
Wire Mesh(my Bondo came with a little but I also got some at the same place i got the Bondo)

For Painting:
Gas Masks
Paint to match your Car
Clear Coat

Oh and a nice stool, soft blanket or knee savers are very helpful because I did a lot of sitting on the floor and those really helped.

Step 2: Starting-Remove Rust

Just sit down and start removing rust. 

First I picked at all the paint and took off all the paint that came off easily and than removed the paint about a quarter of an inch all around the rust spot.

You can use:
Electric Sander
Dremel with grinding wheel and steel wire brush
Or a grinder with a sandblaster wheel

Just keep going at it. This part takes a long time to do and is really annoying. 
You have to do this right or the rust will come back.
Cut off the big pieces that are rusted through.

Step 3: Rust Gone + Wire Mesh

Keep taking off the big chunks than take off the surface rust.
All we want to see is sheet metal.

Make sure to wear a face mast, rust dust and metal dusk is harmful.

Sorry some of these pictures have take and newspaper in them, i coated  the inside with a black paint that prevents rust from coming up. The paint was almost like truck bed lining.

Once you have all the rust gone, add the wire mesh to anyplace you took big chunks on metal out so the bondo has something to attach to. (Pic. 9 and on)My wire mesh was sticky on one side so i had to flip it over and stick it to the inside of the metal. My wire mesh also was easily cut by scissors so cut to to what ever shape you need. Try to fallow the curvature of the vehicle. Look up pictures of the car online if you need to get and idea.

Step 4: Bondo...

Now comes the fun part! BONDO.
Make the bondo per how the container says to.
Add more where you cut out big chunks, and where there was surface rust not so much bondo.
Apply more Bondo.
Apply more Bondo if needed.

When first sanding the bondo, start with rough sandpaper, than as you get to almost done, switch to a softer sandpaper to make it smooth.
Like before, you want it to match the curvature of the car.
This is where you really need to wear a face mask, gas mask, the little bondo particles get everywhere! If you are sanding you could set up a shop vac to up the dust right away.

Step 5: Get Ready for Painting

Once you have the Bondo sanded exactly how you want it, and remember once you paint its hard to go back without a lot of time and effort (and possibly starting this Instructable over again), you are ready to get ready for paint.

1. Use an air compresser with about 40-60 psi and spray down anything within 3 feet of where you are painting to remove the dust and stuff.
2. Clean up the area or get the vehicle in a paint booth.
3. Start taping newspaper everywhere, i did basically anything within 3 or 4 feet on the car. Tape it tight to the vehicle. Even put newspaper on the wheels.
4. Put a lot of tape around the areas you want painted, I tryed for about 3 or 4 layers going up around it.
5. Shut the garage door or the paint booth because you don't want a breeze moving dust on the paint.

Step 6: Prime+Paint+Clear Coat

All you have to do is fallow the instructions on the paint container.
First prime, I think I did 2 or 3 coats of primer.
Second paint, I think I did 3 or 4 coats of paint. Make sure you get a paint that matches the vehicle's color. You should be able to find that out on the internet.
Third clear coat, I did 2 coats of clear coat.

*Make sure no one walks by them while drying and touches them.
**Make sure you allow adequate drying time between each step and each coat based on what the paint containers tell you.
Right before I went to paint or prime, i opened the garage a little to allow some of the fumes to escape and get oxygen in there.

Step 7: Admire

Take off the tape and newspaper.
Pull the car into the sunlight and admire.

Buffing and waxing is a good idea too.

Step 8: After Winter

Winter took a hard tole on it. Some of the rust is coming back and showing through the bondo. So I am going to have to do it again.
To add onto that, someone was pulling out of the parking space next to the car in a high-school parking lot and made a small dent where the bondo was/is on one side and scratched black lines down the back end. So I might update this Instructable when I fix that or make a new one.

Any suggestions, questions, confusion, comments or anything is greatly accepted and welcome, either comment on this or inbox me.


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    17 Discussions


    1 year ago

    You forgot the most important step. Sell the vehicle as fast as possible before the rust reappears with a vengeance, which it certainly will. Rust is like cancer and it must be sand blasted or cut out. Naval jelly is a joke. The navy actually sandblasts their ships to keep rust at bay. Anyway, you got some cardio by sanding the heck out of your wheel wells, so all is not lost!


    1 year ago

    I did the same thing. I used navel jelly to get rid of the last bit of rust. I even coated the metal with zinc rich primer. Over the winter it rusted out again.

    I thought "That was a lot of work for nothing" as I looked on in the spring. I have found that factory paint does not rust through and my paint does. I know no why.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have a similar Toyota with the same color. The color is the most difficult one to match since it has been fading in the sun since 1997 and the "exact" color match is really the un-faded original mix. Any ideas on how to get a better match to the existing color? I could repaint the whole car, but that would be more than the car is worth.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    tape off the area with the new paint on it and hit it with uv light for a few hours. (high intensity) should fade it closer if not exact match


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    if you could mix the paints, you could add a really small amount of gray, that would make it match better, or after you painted it, leave the tape on it and put a uv light on it over night.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    You missed some really important steps and it shows. You never rubbed out and polished the paint. Those are critical steps and it really shows that you didn't do those steps. Also, you didn't glaze although sometimes you don't have to. You can see the bad matching clearly even from a distance. I mean no disrespect but there are too many people telling others how to do things when it's obvious they don't know how to do the very things they are instructing others about.


    4 years ago

    Oh this is something I've become very familiar with over the years particularly rear arches.
    It is possible to do a good as seamless job with filler and rattle cans but it so much work involved.I'm fine with the rust removal and the repainting but the endless sanding the filler back to match as the original curves as flawlessly as possible is trying beyond despair at times lol.Personally I prefer cutting out and welding new wheel arches in but that's not what this article is about lol.
    The only things I'd add is if you're going to leave pitted metal behind,I much prefer removing back to rust free new metal but if you do then thoroughly treat the area with rust killer/eater first


    4 years ago on Step 7

    I switched from Bondo which cracked over time to fiberglass in a can which never cracks and sticks like a mother. Also, prefer to blow the dust outdoors with a big fan open all windows, the dust & fumes will kill. Prefer fresh air to a mask.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the info. Car and especially body work is not part of my skill set but my truck definitely needs this sort of attention before I loose the fenders!


    5 years ago

    Thanks for posting. That's a lot of effort. Will try that this coming spring on my camry


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i think you did a pretty decent job. The most interesting part is that you actually took the courage of learning on the job. Many of us would not have. However, make sure to update, I'll be thrilled to work on my own car in the coming months.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Doing bodywork there is no right and wrong. Only what looks good, and holds up. I've gone through all kinds of trouble, only to have rust come back up, and I've done lousy jobs that have held up. There is no figuring it.

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Some of it is for safety. I knew a guy that took a car to vehicle inspection, and the inspector ripped his pants on a bit of rust, well, then the inspector broke out a book about a foot thick and proceeded to fail that car for everything he could!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, that's crazy! that inspector either had a really expensive pair of pants on, or was having a really really bad day.

    Phil B

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Some who view this may wonder why and how a car ever rusts. We have lived in places where rust was a real problem and where very old cars are on the road with no rust. If you live in a snow belt, chances are quite a bit of salt is used to make the roads safe in the winter. Salt spray gets into cracks and recesses. When you actually see signs of rust, it is not just on the surface; but, is eating through from the other side. Many people in those places who want to keep their cars up may use pop rivets and roof flashing that they cover with body putty as you did. Sometimes the structure of the car body is affected by large amounts of rust, so that the driver's seat moves when someone sits in it, or you can see the road while driving. One of the best things in a snow belt is to have a new car treated with a rust preventative process before the car leaves the dealership. People buying a used car in those places usually carry a magnet to see how much body putty has been used on a car.