Van Conversion Bad Rust Repair – What NOT To Do

To fix the small rust chips on the outside of our vehicle, we tackle some rust repair, but bad rust repair. This is what not to do.
Van Conversion Bad Rust Repair - What NOT To Do

Although our exterior rust was not too bad for a 5 year old van – we still saw the importance of treating the rust spots before they become a horror story. And since repair shops charge hundreds (if not thousands) for such repair jobs, we.. of course… decided to DIY it and hope for the best. Needless to say, it didn’t quite go to plan. But on the bright side – the van will not rust.


We had a few small rust chips in our paint that we highlighted and one major eyesore that was our missing paint patch. 🎨

When we circled around the van a few more times, more little rust chips caught our eye. So there were a fair few bits to fix.

van conversion diy rust repair job


Not for drinking – for cleaning. 🍾

Isopropyl alcohol does great at getting rid of the wax, dirt, grease and grime from the vans paint so we can cleanly sand it. We only did this in the areas that we were going to sand since alcoholing the whole van would take forever and be wasteful.

Though, giving you whole van a general clean before starting this is probably a good idea.

van conversion diy rust repair job


Honestly, this was nerve-racking. Purposefully scratching paintwork is not a nice feeling, but it’s needed. Sand about 1-2cm further out than the rust to get a clean transition line.

We started with 80 Grit (lower number = more aggressive) and worked our way to finer and finer sandpaper (80, 150, 240, 400) until the patch and shiny and free of rust.

Get a pack of various grit sandpapers, as you’ll need plenty more before the conversion is over.

van conversion diy rust repair job


Since we didn’t sand that much and the rust hadn’t eaten a giant hole, we didn’t bother filling our sanded area. 

To prevent hard tape lines, we used a paper curving technique (although it didn’t quite work – we still got hard-ish lines). Creating an enclosed circle of paper reduces the amount of overspray onto the good paintwork… apparently. 🙄

Either way, we got our spray can of vehicle primer (which also has a rust protective element in it as well) and sprayed on 3 coats (waiting 20 minutes between each).

You will need 2-3 layers of primer – best to follow the instructions on the can.

van conversion diy rust repair job

top tip

We’re by no means spray painting experts.

Our paintwork did not come out perfectly; unfortunately, a metallic silver/grey colour is the hardest to blend.

In fact, we’re actually planning on repainting the whole vehicle a different colour. 🤔

Whilst what we did ensure that the patches won’t rust (which was the main point of this exercise), the paint job itself did not turn out ‘factory finish’.

Spray painting a vehicle to look factory is not an easy job.


Once the primer had dried, we sanded it down with 800-grit sandpaper to feather it into the good paint.

We also went over the missing paint patch with 800-grit sandpaper to make the edges feel smooth to the touch.

van conversion diy rust repair job


Basecoat is the actual colour that your van is.

Same paper curving technique and same questionable spray can technique (although our basecoat spray paint had an awful nozzle and spat everywhere).

Again, you will need several coats so follow the paint can instructions. Make sure you get the exact colour for your car (Google makes that easy-ish). 💻

van conversion diy rust repair job


Once the basecoat is dry, you now need to seal in that paint so the sun, wind, rain, hail, lightning and carwash cannot wash it off. 🌩️

Clear coat (or lacquer) is a see-through protective coating which you spray over the top of everything.

Since we waited overnight for our basecoat to dry, dust and dirt got on our basecoat layer, so we had to wipe it off, which we think affected our result, so try to avoid this.

We sprayed three layers of clear coat.

Before spraying the clearcoat, place the clearcoat can into hot water for 5-10 minutes, to prevent orange peel. 

van conversion diy rust repair job


So once everything had dried and we took the paper off, it looked…not ideal. The colour wasn’t blending nicely into the existing paintwork and looked dull and blotchy.

At this stage, you’re meant to polish it for ten minutes, and everything comes out looking shiny, but after at least an hour of polishing, nothing much changed.

Good thing we’re repainting the van, huh?

van conversion diy rust repair job
van conversion diy rust repair job
van conversion diy rust repair job
van conversion diy rust repair job
van conversion diy rust repair job

quick look

  1. Identify and sand away all rust
  2. Spray primer on sanded areas
  3. Sand primed areas until smooth
  4. Add basecoat
  5. Add top coat
  6. Polish until shiny


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September 20, 2023

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