Dustin Hawley | Apr 02, 2021
Truck beds have a difficult life. They live out in the elements, they have things dropped and thrown on them, and generally get beaten up while being the reliable, utilitarian vehicles that they are. Inevitably, this means your truck bed can start rusting out years before the rest of the vehicle begins to show any serious wear.
You are reading: How To Fix A Rusted Truck Bed
In a perfect universe, you could simply weld a metal plate over any holes and call it a day. But welding is dangerous and challenging work if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s also expensive to hire a professional to do it for you.
Thankfully, there are some ways you can employ to fix your rusted truck bed without having to come out of pocket too much. Here’s a brief overview of the process.
Prep The Area
The first step to fixing a rusted truck bed is prepping the area and removing all the rust. Only then will you be able to assess the true extent of the damage.
Begin by masking off the area that is unaffected by the rust. Use paper or masking tape, and use a few layers for added protection. You’re going to be using a wire brush and some sandpaper for the rust removal process, and you don’t want to scuff any of the surrounding areas.
Remove The Rust With Wire Brush Wheel
Once you have fully covered the truck bed zones that have remained intact, use a drill and a wire brush wheel to begin removing the rust. This is an aggressive method that requires quite a bit of elbow grease and manual labor, but the goal is to get the bulk of the rust off as quickly as possible. If you break through the bed or widen a hole a bit in the process, don’t worry. You want to continue until you can no longer take off any more rust.
Sand Down The Remaining Rust
After taking off all that you can, follow up and use some 80-grit sandpaper on any zones where rust remains. Keep in mind; rust can creep under the surface and also affect painted zones. Take off some paint around the edges of the sanded area to ensure you’ve removed the entirety of the rust.
Now, smooth the area through 150-grit sandpaper. This will help paint and patching material to adhere more effectively.
Wash Off The Dust & Sediment
After you finish sanding, wash the truck bed to remove all sediment and dust that has accumulated, inspecting the truck bed thoroughly to ensure who there is no remaining corrosion.
Use A Chemical Rust Remover Or Rust Restorer
For an added layer of confirmation that you have removed all the rust, you can use a chemical rust remover or rust restorer to be confident the work is complete. If you choose to do so, be sure to follow all the manufacturer’s instructions, especially as it pertains to appropriate protective gear.
Weld Any Needed Patches & Paint The Truck Bed
With the truck bed clean and dry, paint any exposed metal with a rust preventative primer. Make sure you apply an even coat, making sure not to miss around the edges of any holes, including on the bottom of the bed where paint may have gotten chipped off.
If you were going to weld a patch in place, this is the point in the process where you would do that. However, a safer and more accessible alternative for most people is to use body filler.
Apply Body Filler
Body filler is an effective compound for patching holes created by rust and corrosion. But before you mix the filler, you’ll need to apply any patching mesh or other materials that may have been included in your patching kit. Once you have applied the patching mesh, you can begin mixing the filler, ensuring you are doing so according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You must follow these instructions to a tee because if the proportions are wrong, the filler may harden too quickly, or may not harden at all.
Similarly, you’ll want to be aware who the filler will begin setting immediately after you have finished mixing. That means the clock is ticking, so you’re going to want to work quickly. As long as the hole is completely filled, you should be ok. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about it looking esthetically pleasing just yet.
Sand The Patch Down Smooth
It typically takes the filler roughly 2 hours to fully set, but it can vary by material. Once the filler has hardened, sand it smooth with your 150-grit sandpaper. As you work your way down to the body level, usage finer grit to smooth the surface further.
When the patch is smoothed out to your satisfaction, apply an car primer to the patch and all exposed metal. The primer takes about an hour to dry, at which point you will want to sand down the area with 400-grit sandpaper. After you finish sanding, apply a second coat of primer and allow it dry before smoothing again with the same paper.
Restore The Finish
After applying both coats of your primer and smoothing the surface out, let the primer sit overnight, and then wash and dry the truck bed again. Now that you have correctly primed the truck bed, it’s time to repaint it.
For best results, you will want to apply a total of three coats of paint, sanding with 400-grit in-between coats just as you did with the primer. After finishing the third coat, sand the area smooth again, but use water on the paper to ensure a more delicate finish.
Once the final coat is dry, apply a clear coat to the painted area. This coat is much harder than the paint layer and protects the lower layers from weaken. Additionally, it gives your truck bed a slick, shiny appearance.
With the clear coat dry, you can then remove your masking tape and clean the area thoroughly. You can wax the area for added protection and esthetic, but it’s completely optional.
In most cases, a repair of this nature will last for at least five years before needing to be touched up again. That said, it’s wise to check the repaired area periodically to ensure that no new rust is forming, especially during the first year.
Fixing your rusted truck bed is a relatively simple process, but as you can tell from reading this guide, it’s a very time-consuming project. You may have to give up a weekend to complete this task, so keep this in mind when preparing to embark on this endeavor. If the process seems too complicated and you’re unsure of your capabilities, you should take it to a professional body shop. But if you feel up to the task, this basic outline should get you off and running with your rust removal.