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How to Take Rust Off Chrome

front view of rusted out car

Chrome parts are installed on vehicles to give them a rich, elegant appearance. Decades ago, if your vehicle had bright, shiny chrome parts and accessories on it, you were likely a big shot of some sort. The problem with chrome is that it requires regular maintenance and protection to keep its luster and to restore its brightness. If the chrome parts on your car aren’t taken care of, they will begin to rust.

If the rust is penetrating through from the metal surface behind the chrome, you’ll probably have to replace the part altogether. Rust on the surface of a chrome bumper or other chrome accent on your vehicle can be removed, however. Getting rid of surface rust is a straightforward process that just takes a few minutes and some basic items to have your vehicle looking good again.

Part 1 of 4: Prepare your vehicle

Materials Needed

  • Bucket
  • Car wash soap
  • Sponge
  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Water

Step 1: Mix your car wash soap with water in a bucket. Mix it according to the instructions on the soap container.

Step 2: Wash off the rusted part thoroughly. Use a soft sponge or cloth to clean any dirt and grime from the area you need to repair.

Scrub the rust spot well, removing any staining that will come off with light pressure. This removes any dirt and other debris that is loose and easily washed away.

You can see the rust spot more clearly without the added grime.

hose rinsing car

Step 3: Rinse the part completely with clean water. Remove all the soap from the chrome part so you can see your area clearly.

Step 4: Dry the area with a clean cloth. Make sure that you dry the area completely.

Part 2 of 4: Use chrome polish to remove the rust

Materials Needed

  • Aluminum foil (optional)
  • Buffer
  • Chrome polish
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Rubber gloves
  • Steel wool with a fine grade

Step 1: Apply the chrome polish to the rust spot on your chrome. This will get you started on the polishing process.

Step 2: Apply more of the polish to the surface of the steel wool. This prevents the steel wool from scratching the bumper and damaging it.

hand rubbing steel wool in circular pattern

Step 3: Rub the steel wool in a circular motion. Use barely any pressure, as pressing too hard may damage your chrome.

  • Tip: Another option is to use aluminum foil, which won’t damage chrome. Dip it into saltwater to help remove the rust.

Step 4: Continue to add more polish to ensure the area always stays wet. Wipe until the rust spot is completely removed.

Step 5: Rinse the area where you’ve been working with water. Apply water to the area.

Continue repeating Steps 1-4 above in any locations with additional rust.

Step 6: Dry off the area. Make sure that the area just cleaned is dry, using a clean, dry cloth.

buffer being used on chrome above headlight

Step 7: Use a buffer to polish the chrome. Buff the chrome with chrome polish and a clean cloth to make it shine.

Part 3 of 4: Use other options to remove the rust.

Substances with mild acid in them can help remove the rust. After removing the rust, be sure to protect the chrome part with chrome polish or it will likely rust again.

cola and sponge

Step 1: Wash the rust spot with cola. The acidity in the cola will remove the rust from the chrome and restore its shine.

Allow the cola to soak on the chrome for 15 minutes if possible. Soak a cloth in the liquid and lay it over the rust spot.

  • Note: Diet cola is less sticky than regular, but the sugar in regular cola improves the results because it causes the acid to stick to the rusty area.

lime being squeezed

Step 2: Apply lime juice on the rusty area and wipe away. The citric acid is mild and safe, while being very effective on small rust spots.

dish scrubber being used on rust spot

Step 3: Remove the rust after applying the acidic liquid. Use a rough cloth or dish scrubber on the rust area to break it up.

  • Tip: Avoid strong acids, which can damage the metal under the chrome.

Part 4 of 4: Protect the chrome after removing the rust

When you apply chrome polish, it also adds a layer of protection to your chrome part. If there are still evident chips or pits in the chrome, you’ll need to treat them or the part will start to rust again almost immediately.

person applying chrome paint

Step 1: Apply silver touch-up paint to the area where the rust was removed. Use only automotive paint.

hand sanding down silver paint on chrome area

Step 2: Sand down the paint with 1200-grit sandpaper. Make sure you only sand the painted portion.

Step 3: Send out your chrome part to be re-chromed. Replating your car’s parts in chrome is expensive but is best if you have a classic car or your parts are no longer available.

With any luck, the rust on your car’s chrome trim will be removed after following the steps above. If the rust is severe, it’s best to take your car to a professional body shop to have the chrome parts replated or replaced. If you have any questions about the process, Ask a Mechanic for some quick and detailed advice.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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