Rust Removal With a Grinder or Drill

Rust Removal using a grinder or a drill and attachments is one of the tools of the trade when you are restoring a classic Mustang or any other classic car.


Although a grinder and some inexpensive attachments are now my tool of choice,In the beginning, my main equipment was an electric drill with a grinding wheel.

This worked great for small jobs like removing surface rust bubbles, pitting and the occasional bigger job.

Removing Rust with an Electric Drill

If you're just repairing some surface rust and just a paint touch up this should be all you need.

So let's look at what rust removal you can do with an electric drill and some cheap attachments.

Equipment and Attachments Needed

1. 3/8" or 1/2" Electric Drill
2. Sanding disc adapter
3. Self adhesive sanding discs 40 grit and 80 grit
4. Cutting wheel adapter and cutting discs
5. Open weave abrasive wheel
6. Safety glasses

Removing the Rust

Surface rust can easily be removed with the 40 and 80 grit coarse sanding pads attached to a rubber backed adapter.

Step 1:

Begin with the 40 grit disc and start from the center of the rusted area and using the edge of the disc and move the drill in a slight circular motion using a small amount of pressure.

Continue the process by replacing the 40 grit disc with the 80 grit one and go over the area, removing the deeper scratches from the coarser pad.

Do Not press the disc flat against your part, or it may catch and fly sideways, wrecking other parts of the car that you don't want touched.

Grind the rusted area right down to the shiny metal and work outwards with less pressure into the painted area until you have "feather edged" the shiny area slightly into the painted parts.

Step 2:

Switch to a 120 grit self adhesive sandpaper disc and go over the freshly rust removed area and smooth out the area and any remaining deeper scratches from the 40 or 80 grid discs.

Step 3:

Following the rust removal, use a primer surfacer, or high-build primer, and spray several light coats over the refinished surface, allowing each one to dry to a tacky stage.

When you're done, allow the coats to dry thoroughly according tot the manufacturer's instructions. Complete the finish sanding and if necessary, use light body filler or a glaze filler to fill any remaining irregularities in the newly fixed area.

Then prime and paint the part or body panel.

Removing Rust with a Grinder

Now that there are so many inexpensive grinders on the market, there's really no reason to not have one of these babies in your bag of tricks.

They're fast, cheap and run on any normal household outlet. And the necessary discs and cutting attachments are easy to find and not expensive.

Grinder Equipment and Attachments Needed

1. Inexpensive electric grinder. I've found them as cheap as $25 bucks, or about the cost of a low priced drill.
2. Cutting discs
3. Grinding discs
4. Open pore grinding/paint removal discs (these look like a flattened "loofa sponge" coated with grit and usually are purple or green in color)
5. Safety glasses

Removing the rust with the Grinder

Like the drill and attachments, you need to use the edge of the grinder, not the flat surface.

The increased power of the grinder means you need a strong hand but fairly light pressure on the metal.

For light surface rust removal or paint removal, often times, the open pore wheel is enough to do the whole job. It's coarse enough to remove surface rust and paint and yet, not hard on the steel.

Just like you did with the drill, work from the rusty area outwards in a gentle circular pattern. This ensures a more even result than concentrating on just one spot.

Once you've removed the rust from the metal, you can move on to the lighter sanding and body filler or high build primer.

Cutting out Rusted Areas

You can also remove entire rusted areas using the grinder. Just switch from the grinding wheel to one of the thin cutting wheels.

Carefully using the wheel perpendicular to the surface, use the flat side edge of the cutting wheel to take out whole areas for replacement.

This is a good alternative to other types of cutters for straight cuts or cutting off pieces of metal, but not for smoothing the result.

That requires you to switch back to the grinding wheel and gently remove the sharp edges.


Sand blasting and Media Blasting

The other way to accomplish surface rust removal and paint stripping is using a sandblaster. In the sandblasting section we'll look at the right ways to clean up those classic car parts.


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