RUST!!!! The word can bring tears to the eyes of even the toughest CK5er. If you live in an area that gets snow, chances are you’ve got some form of rust somewhere on your rig. Road salt can find it’s way into every nook and cranny underneath your truck, and any exposed metal will eventually succumb to it’s power. My 1984 K5 has lived it’s entire life in Alberta, and after 21 winters, the frame and underside of the body had finally gotten to a point where it needed some major TLC to deal with the heavy surface rust that had formed. To make matters worse, the previous owner had sprayed the truck with a rubberized undercoating that, over time, had cracked and split all over the place, allowing road salt to get trapped next to the metal surfaces.
Things underneath my rig were ugly indeed…….. Luckily for guys like me, there are several products on the market designed to combat the ravages of rust. One such product is Rust Bullet. It is listed in the MSDS as a metallic polyurethane coating, and is basically a one-step product. In other words, Rust Bullet is designed to work all by itself, with no priming, mixing or top coating necessary. Other similar products require the use of a special metal cleaner and a primer prior to being applied, and need to be top coated as well.
Now it was time to get to work. With a wire brush, paint scraper and hammer in hand, I set about the time-consuming process of removing all the loose rust flakes, disbonded undercoating and road grime accumulations from the underside of the K5. Most people will choose to partly or fully dismantle a vehicle when attempting a project like this. I decided, however, to do the job with the truck totally intact, which made reaching some of the areas a real chore. To make matters worse, I discovered that some of the rusty sections were actually rusted right through.
The rubberized undercoating was the only thing holding the rotten metal together in 3 spots. I carried on with my surface prep and decided to deal with the holes in the body a little later. When it was all over, I would say I put about 8 hours of elbow grease into the prep. I could have spent a lot more time on sanding everything down, but according to the folks at Rust Bullet, their product will go on fine over existing paint and other coatings, as long as the existing surfaces are roughed up a little bit.
I started doing a little research into repairing the rust holes I had found earlier, and after consulting with both a local welding shop and body shop, I realized unless I wanted to get myself into a mega-dollar repair job that I would have to find a way to deal with the small rust through spots on my own. I ended up getting a hold of some 1/16” aluminum plate, which I cut into shape to cover the 3 holes I was patching. I then screwed the plates into place with some self-tapping screws. I’m definitely not a body man, and it didn’t end up being the prettiest repair in the world, but the patches did what they were designed to do and covered up the holes. Best of all, the entire patch repair job cost me about 5 dollars.
I’ve read that if Rust Bullet gets onto your skin, it is virtually impossible to get off, and takes about 5 to 7 days to wear off on it’s own. With this in mind, I grabbed my coveralls, gloves and safety glasses and pulled a can of Rust Bullet out of the box. I popped the lid off and gave it a good stir, which is recommended in the application guidelines included with every shipment. Rust Bullet looks like your everyday metallic grey paint but has a very strong odor. I was working outside, so ventilation wasn’t an issue, but I would highly recommend that you make sure you have a good supply of fresh air if you plan on applying the product while inside a shop.
I was finally ready to apply the Rust Bullet to the truck. The application guidelines recommend that both coats be a minimum of 3 mils thick for a total of 6 mils. For those who don’t know, 6 mils equals about 1.5 millimeters. I was using a brush, so I basically went as thick as I could without having any runs. I would be willing to bet that I achieved the minimum coating thickness very easily. Without further ado, I grabbed my can and my paint brush and rolled under the truck. I broke up the truck into three sections and started with the job.
I was immediately impressed with how the Rust Bullet went onto the metal. It went on nice and thick and stayed workable for a few minutes without running or clumping. I was able to move very quickly and completed the driver’s side starting even with the front edge of the driver’s door from the frame outward all the way to rear spring shackle within an hour. The rear corners of the truck, the fuel tank skid plate, and the trailer hitch took another hour, and then I worked my way back towards the front on the passenger side.
All in all the job went well, but I wasn’t able to get to every little nook and cranny. This is why dismantling the truck proves to be your best option if you’re trying to obtain 100% coverage. Four hours is the recommended drying time between coats. I took a little break, snapped a few pics, and started to apply the second coat. Up until now, I had no complaints about the product- however, I quickly realized that Rust Bullet doesn’t change colors as it dries. This makes it VERY hard to tell whether your second coat is being thoroughly applied or not. Perhaps an experienced painter could tell the difference, but I was forced to go “by feel” to see if I had missed any spots. In my experience, the second coat of any paint job takes about half the time of the first. In this case, it took almost the same amount of time to do the second coat.
They aren’t lying about the fact that Rust Bullet will not come off your skin. Rolling around under the truck is not the best way to accomplish any job, and I ended up getting a few drips on both my hands and face. In fact, before I started the second coat, I went and found an old balaclava to wear on my head to increase my level of protection. If I could start all over again, I would wear the balaclava right from the get-go.
I finished off the job by touching up a few spots that I had overlooked. I also applied some silicone around the patches that I had screwed into place to ensure that no water could get behind the aluminum plating. All in all, the whole process was quite painless. I wasn’t able to get to a lot of the middle of the rear floor panel, due to the location of the fuel tank, driveshaft and dual mufflers, but I ended up getting all of the worst areas treated.
Rust Bullet ends up feeling like a super hard enamel when dry, and seems to float itself a little bit which eliminates a lot of the paintbrush lines. In fact, it seems to reinforce the steel somewhat. A few of the areas on my truck that had the worst surface rust were obviously very thin, and when I pushed on the panel it was obvious that it had lost some of it’s rigidity. After the Rust Bullet had been applied, it was not as apparent. At this point, you can topcoat your job if you wish. It is recommended that you wait 24 hours before you do so.
According to their website, you can cover your Rust Bullet job with virtually any paint or coating that you want. I chose to skip the topcoat for now- I personally think the metallic silver color looks good. I also wanted to test the effectiveness of the product over the winter to see if it stands up as advertised, and a topcoat would only make it harder to see if any rust was able to make a comeback.
In closing, I would recommend that you visit rustbullet.com for a detailed description of the product and to find the answers to any question you may have. They have a comprehensive website that compares their product to others on the market, as well as long and detailed FAQ section. They also have a copies of both the application guidelines and the MSDS sheet available online for those of you who may need that level of info.