The Buslifers Guide to Dealing with Rust on Your VW Bus

Rust on Your VW Bus

Photo by: Charlie Deets, Unsplash

Dealing with rust on your VW Bus, does it leave you with feeling dread? If it’s a yes, you’re certainly not alone! 

When we imagine living life on the road , we dream of adventures, delicious al fresco meals, and curling up in a cozy bed before doing it all over again the next day! Dealing with rust on your VW Bus, however, is more of a nightmare. 

Whether you’re trying to fathom how to repair rust on your VW Bus or you want to ensure it’s something you never have to think about, this is the guide for you. Pour yourself a drink (maybe a strong one) and join us as we walk you through what to look out for and how to tackle your rust trials and tribulations. 

Are you currently living life on the road during the coronavirus pandemic? Read the story of Philipp, Yurena, and their VW Bus T3 Reinhold on their journey to the Canary Islands in 2020. 

We need to talk… It’s rust! 

Before we get down to stopping rust in its tracks, let’s start with a quick science lesson! Rust forms when iron reacts with oxygen and water. The result is a brown, flaky appearance on metalwork, which will lead to corrosion if left. 

So, as you can imagine, our much-loved VW Buses that are exposed to the elements are the perfect breeding ground for dreaded rust. 

If you’re in the process of shopping for your dream Buslifer vehicle, you will definitely want to read our article on What To Look For When Buying a New VW Bus. It covers tips on rust, as well as other common problems, including oil leaks, brakes and clutch issues, and the condition the headlining. 

Top tips for preventing rust 

Rust occurs with age in any vehicle. So whether you’re the owner of a gorgeous classic VW Bus or a newer model with all the bells and whistles, it’s likely you’ll encounter some battles with rust at some point. 

Nevertheless, there are a whole host of ways to prevent and slow down the process of rust. 

Dodge the puddles  

It’s a simple tip, but your driving style can have a big effect on rust build-up. You’re therefore best to avoid those big puddles and maybe give off-roading a miss! 

Limit outdoor exposure (not easy, we know!) 

As you’d expect, outdoor exposure to the elements is going to lead to rust eventually. However, snow and ice can also increase the build-up of moisture on your VW Bus, and the addition of salt can further exasperate corrosion. Something to bear in mind if you’re enjoying the Buslife by the sea or in colder climates. 

Watch the road 

What we mean here, is look at the quality of the road you are diving on. This could potentially have a big impact on your rust build up in the long run. A rough and loose surface could mean flying debris. Any dents of chips in your body work, if left untreated over time may end up becoming the root of your rust problems. Newly resurfaced roads can also pose an issue. Loose tarmac is sticky and if it flies up and sticks to your vehicle it will have a corrosive effect.  


Just like us, our VW Buses run a lot better with a little TLC. When it comes to preventing rust, the best place to start is regular cleaning to wash away any debris and salt. Finish off your car wash with protective waxing to prevent exterior rust damage. Try out this bestseller, Mothers CMX ceramic spray coating

Consider your materials

If you own a classic VW Bus, you will be well aware that older vehicles are made with non-reactive materials. This sadly makes them more vulnerable to rust. Therefore if you’re having some restoration work done on your VW Bus, it’s worth considering using corrosion-resistant metals such as: 

  • Galvanized steel – With a thin layer of zinc that acts as a barrier against corrosion, galvanized steel is a popular metal choice for replacement chassis’. 
  • Stainless steel – If you’re picking some new alloys for your VW Bus, your best bet is some that are stainless steel with elements of chromium, nickel, and molybdenum that help create a protective barrier. 
  • Aluminum – A light-weight and rust-free metal, aluminum is the ideal choice for a new VW Bus roof-rack. 


One of the best ways to stop rust for longer on your VW Bus is to protect it by rustproofing. 

The number one way to rustproof your VW Bus is with an underseal. A tough protective coating applied to the underbody of a vehicle will prevent water and salt from damaging the fundamental framework of your VW Bus. 

If you’re planning to carry out some rustproofing yourself, there are some great products on the market, including Rustoleum and Fluid Film. Alternatively, mechanics can also offer underseal treatments. This option will be more expensive, but the result is a strengthened underbody with a self-heal ability for protection against road debris. 

To get started with DIY rustproofing, follow these simple steps: 

  1. Remove any moving parts of your vehicle or anything that will provide you with access to the rust. Your efforts will be in vain if you don’t treat even the smallest of spots. 
  1. Grab a damp cloth and the area you are treating a good clean before drying it. 
  1. With some fine sandpaper, lightly sand the area of rust. 
  1. Apply your rust treatment and allow it to dry. 
  1. If you need to create a smooth and even surface, apply some body filler and allow to dry 
  1. Lightly sand the body filler. 
  1. Give the area a final clean and dry down 
  1. Paint the treated area and voila! Nobody will ever know you had a rust problem.  

Regular services  

Keeping rust at bay on your VW Bus is all about knowing what to look out for. You can do this yourself. However, a regular service by a professional mechanic is the best way to ensure rust doesn’t start to corrode the areas of your VW Bus that you don’t always get to see. 

Buslifer top tip – If you’re planning to be a Buslifer full-time, international breakdown cover is vital, particularly if you won’t be within driving distance of your regular mechanic. Compare international insurance options on MoneySuperMarket.  

What to look for with rust  

When it comes to rust on your VW Bus, you need to be aware of three stages of severity. 

Stage one – surface rust – Starting on the top layer, you may first spot surface rust on your VW Buses paintwork. Catching this early and treating it with a rust repair kit is the best way to stop rust from spreading. 

Stage two – scale rust – When left untreated, rust penetrates top coatings and can begin to damage your VW Bus’s metalwork. Salt is a primary cause of this! 

Stage three – penetrative rust – The most serious form of rust damage is penetrative rust and will result in entire parts of your VW Bus needing to be welded or even replaced. 

Knowledge and understanding of what you are looking for when it comes to rust on your VW Bus is a sure-fire way for spotting damage early. Keep an eye out for: 

Damage to bodywork – Any body-damage in the form of nicks and dents from road debris can lead to rust on your VW Bus. 

Paintwork irregularity and bubbling – If you find any irregular or bubbling paintwork on your VW Bus, this could be a tell-tail sign that rust is at the root of the problem. 

Water damage – Damp carpets? It’s time to investigate underneath your VW Bus to check if rust is to blame.   

Combating rust  

Battling against rust isn’t an easy mission, but our top piece of advice is to get it treated ASAP! This is particularly important if you plan to embark on any long journeys in your VW Bus or live life on the road full-time. 

DIY rust treatments  

Suitable on minor patches of rust, a product such as Loctite Rust Neutralizer is an easy-to-use surface rust treatment and is suitable to paint over. 

Buslifer top tip – Preparation is everything when it comes to treating rust. Start by removing dirt before sanding down around the area of rust. 

Consulting a mechanic 

If you’re dealing with penetrative rust on your VW Bus, you may have no option but to consult a mechanic. This will normally involve welding and, in some cases replacing entire sections of your vehicle. Depending on the size of the area of rust that needs treating, costs can start from $60 and easily soar to over $2000 particularly, if rust has damaged your chassis. 

If you’re considering a new paint job for your VW Bus, look up Electrophoretic Paint. This corrosive resistant finish is primarily used as an under bonnet treatment but is also used as a paint undercoat to help form a protective layer against rust. 

The bottom line 

When it comes to dealing with rust on your VW Bus, remember to keep it well-maintained. Try and prevent rust as best as possible, never ignore rust when you find it, and always treat it as quickly as you can. 

Do you have any VW Bus rust-related stories that you think could benefit other members of the Buslifers community? Be sure to share them with us in the comments below. 

For more great guides to living life on the road in your VW Bus, check out our stories. We’ve got some great advice covering everything from How to Become a Buslife Vlogger to Pet Care on the Road

Lorna Mann
Author: Lorna Mann

Passionate about nature and outdoors. Lorna is a contributor to the Buslifer community, writing on topics, including sustainability and ethical living.

  1. […] Using a metal drill brush attachment, sand all rust spots down until the bare metalwork is exposed, and clean the area thoroughly, ensuring all rust dust has been removed. Then paint rust preventative over the spots where rust was removed, ensuring it won’t come back to haunt you later. Learn more about the process on our article The Buslifers Guide to Dealing with Rust on Your VW Bus. […]

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