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We knew that we had some rust to take care of when we brought our new baby home. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for the amount of rust repair we would be dealing with. Thankfully, we had done our research on how to treat rust in your conversion van.
We want to share our experience with you in case you’re dealing with a rusty conversion, too!
After we brought our van home, we took some much needed time to plan our next steps. It was time to start the conversion, and I had never been more ready to get my hands dirty! The first thing we did was take down the side panels from the walls and remove the floor.
Okay… I say we, but all of this was mostly Joey. Once that was complete we set out to give it a good deep clean. That’s when we found it.
*cue ominous horror movie music*
That’s right. Rust. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s that little chemical reaction that can LITERALLY eat through the precious metal that you may or may not have just spent 9K to bring home.
We expected some rust, and we were relatively pleased when we got the floor up and saw that it was much better than we expected.
We were much less pleased when we pulled back the rubber floor mat at the front to find two HOLES ranging from the size of a baseball to a golfball. My heart immediately sank, but thankfully we had a plan.
If you have found rust in your conversion vehicle, don’t worry! I have compiled a step by step guild that will show you how to handle rust repair in your conversion van. You will be on the road to being rust (and potentially hole) free before you know it! Or at least before you fall through the floor.
Buckle up and put your gloves on because you’re about to learn how to repair rust in your conversion van and make sure it’s gone for good!
Find the Rust
Before you go crazy with rust repair, make sure that you know about all of your problem areas. The last thing you want to do is get on the road only to find a patch of rust that has grown into a real, and potentially dangerous, problem.
Once you find all of the rust, you can suit up. You will be using a power tool, and with that kind of responsibility comes safety precautions. Always wear safety glasses and gloves when rust and metal are flying around in your space!
Grind the Rust
After you have properly shielded yourself, you can begin the grind. I mean literally and metaphorically! You will need an angle grinder with a knotted wire cup brush. These things come separately, but they’re pretty cheap, totaling around $35.
Once you have placed the knotted wire brush cup on the angle grinder, you can go at it! The concept is pretty simple. Place your grinder on the rust you want to target and grind away. You will notice a lot of dust and potentially flying metal, so warn any spectators. Do not forget your safety glasses! If you have a sensitive respiratory system, please wear a mask.
You want to grind the paint back about half an inch around all the rust until you get to bare metal, which is typically a silver color, or until you have ground completely through.
Sometimes, if the rust has really progressed, grinding all the way through is your only option, and that is perfectly okay. I am going to tell you how to fix that too!
Rust Repair in Your Conversion Van
Once you have ground away all evidence of any rust, you can begin treating it. It’s important to treat the metal so that the rust does not return, and the best way to do this is to use POR15. We used their kit that comes with everything you need for about 6 square feet of rust, and it also comes with two brushes.
You will start by cleaning all affected areas with the cleaner and then put their “metal prep” on. You will need to keep the affected areas saturated with the metal prep for 15 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with water and let that dry.
Before you crack open the can of POR15, keep in mind that this stuff dries like metal. Don’t get it on your hands or be faced with the reality of your new life as the tinman/woman for a few days.
The directions say to mix the converter, but don’t shake it, stir it. You don’t want air bubbles. You apply it like paint in very thin coats over all affected areas. A little goes a long way. The directions recommend 2 coats.
Pro Tip: do not put the lid back on the POR15 with any paint on it!! It will practically be welded closed. We seal it with saran wrap and keep it in the fridge so it doesn’t set and lasts even longer.
If you don’t have any holes, you can stop right here and congratulate yourself for a job well done. You have completed the rust repair in your conversion van! If you don’t fall into that category then get ready to have your mind blown!
All you need is fiberglass cloth and POR15. Cut out pieces of the cloth to a bigger size than your holes. Make sure to wear gloves. You don’t want fiberglass splinters, trust me. Go ahead and cover the edges of your hole with POR15 rust converter. After that, saturate your pieces of fiberglass cloth with the POR15, as well. Then, place the patch on the hole and add another layer of the converter to finish.
If you have a big hole that will frequently support weight, you may want to look into patching with sheet metal and rivets, or paying to have it welded just to be safe!
So far, we have had good results with a 2.5″ hole with multiple layers of Fiberglass cloth that spanned 1-2″ bigger than the hole.
The hole is no more! I bet you were thinking it would be way harder than that. I know I was!
Once your first coat dries (about 2-3 hours), apply your second coat and leave it alone. It takes 4-5 days to fully cure. If you are using POR15 where it will be exposed to sun, you should cover it with primer/paint or else the UV rays will break it down with time. You can sand the POR15 down once cured and prime/paint over it like usual.
Pro Tip: If you are going to prime over the POR15, you can “fog: a really light coat onto the POR15 once it tacks up (45 minutes). The reason you want a light coat is that you want air to get to the POR15 so it can cure and do its magic. Once dried, you can apply the primer without sanding it down because the fog layer will give it texture to hold onto.
And that is it, folks!
Now you know how to treat rust in your conversion van! That wasn’t too painful, right?
If you are looking for a simpler conversion, check out our minivan build under $400!
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! Please consider pinning this post to help out any other rusty friends!
Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel: Project Vagrant and follow us on Instagram for an inside look into the conversion!