Van Build: Interior De-Rusting (sand, paint, hole fill)

Derusting: A long, dusty and tedious process but do not skip this step! It involves sanding, more sanding, and sanding...

Written By Freedom Strider

On November 23, 2019

Simply polishing our rusty spots will not stop them from forming holes into our house. Derusting properly is a long and tedious process, but it is a vital step if you wish to have peace of mind.


Identify the culprits

Since we had cleaned the van, we knew exactly where the damage was. Even the smallest amount of rust or chip will spread so you have to treat everything!


Sand until shiny

If you have a sanding machine, use it! It will save you hours.

You will want to sand as little as possible since more sanding = more time and more repairing later on. On smaller areas, we hand sanded the rust spots with sandpaper, but on larger areas, an orbital sanding machine will help a lot!

You’ll want a variety of sandpaper types and sizes to be able to reach everything and make sure you sand the rust until the whole area is shiny metal. ✨


Remove the old sealant

Only remove the sealant if you have to (i.e. if you can see bubbling under it implying rust build-up). Use a scalpel or crafting knife to cut the sealant, but be careful not to gauge the metal of the van with your blade. 🔪

We found that in the corners of the wheel wells and around the base was the place we had to remove the most sealant. It’s tough stuff.

Once you expose the rust underneath, give that a sand too.


Try to sand as much rust away as possible, but if you can’t get everything (due to a bad angle, can’t reach with sandpaper, etc.) then it’s not too much of an issue, since you can use a rust converter but it’s best to remove as much as you can anyway, for peace of mind.

But also, avoid sanding a hole in your van.


Neutralize the rust

Once you have sanded what you can, clean all the dust away with isopropyl alcohol and apply some rust converter to any rust patches you couldn’t sand down. This stuff is great since it converts the rust into a metal surface that you can paint on.

It will get any microscopic rust patches on the shiny surfaces that you can’t see, and give you a nice area to paint over.


Hammerite Paint

After the rust converter, it is safer to apply a second protective coating of Hammerite paint. Hammerite paint can be directly applied to rust  (even without the rust converter primer) or it can be applied as a preventive measure on any shiny exposed metalwork – to stop it rusting in the future.

Since we are doing the inside of the van, and all the metalwork is being covered eventually, we didn’t mind about it looking splodgy and patchy. Nonetheless, we still bought silver Hammerite paint to make it a little less of an eyesore.

You can get spray on Hammerite or a paint pot (usually used for small touch-ups). A cheap paintbrush was fine to paint it on and we made sure to cover everything that was exposed. This might take several coats, but it only takes a couple of hours to dry as well. 🖌️


Resealing galore

Once all the paint is dry, grab yourself some neutral cure sealant (it has to be a neutral cure) and a caulking gun and seal everywhere where you removed the old sealant.

Since we had removed the floor that left many deep holes in our floor, so we also sealed these up too.


The Giant Holes

With the problematic holes at the front, which had been covered by the glue, after sanding and prepping them they were too big to fill with sealant.

Instead, we cut a small sheet of aluminium and stuck it on top of the holes, which seemed to work well.

Warning: Ensure steel and aluminium DO NOT touch directly (otherwise they will corrode from the contact). 🗜️


quick look

Quick Steps Overview:


  1. Clean with alcohol before sanding
  2. Sand until shiny
  3. Apply rust converter 
  4. Apply Hammerite paint