My friends who own Jeep Wranglers are very proud of their vehicles. They take good care of them but rust still seems to pop up over time. My buddy’s ’94 YJ turned into the “Tetanus Titan” thanks to all of the rust on the body. Wranglers seem to be pretty susceptible to rust, but luckily there are some ways to minimize the impact of rust and prevent it from happening altogether.
The best way to prevent rust is to keep your Jeep clean and mind where you park. If possible, park in a covered garage. The second-best options are to use a car cover or pay for a spot at your local parking garage. Be sure to handwash your Jeep often, especially after mudding or driving on salted roads. If you spot rust, you should deal with it ASAP to make sure it doesn’t spread and become a bigger problem.
In this in-depth guide, I’ll discuss 10 ways to keep a Jeep Wrangler from rusting. Rust can ruin your vehicle, and I want to help you avoid this big issue.
Introducing the Jeep Wrangler
As you probably know, the Jeep Wrangler is a longtime American car. It first started as a low-cost, reliable, lightweight option for the Army to use in combat. From there, it evolved to be a timeless staple when it comes to Americana.
People tend to own Wranglers because they’re iconic, easy to modify, great to drive off-road, easy to work on, simple to tow, fun to drive, and they tend to resale very well.
How Rust Forms on Cars
Rust happens when oxygen and water come in contact with exposed metal. Your car’s body is made out of metal. To prevent rust, auto manufacturers add a few layers of protective paint and epoxy on top of the raw metal.
However, the undercarriage of your Jeep is a different story. It is largely unprotected and features mostly metal parts.
Rust can form in two different ways. Either the topcoat and protective layers on your car’s body get damaged and expose the metal, or it simply attacks your undercarriage.
In the first scenario, your Jeep incurs some body damage. This could be as simple and unassuming as a scratch, or as dramatic as a car accident.
If you take your car key, you can dig it into your topcoat with enough force to expose the vulnerable metal, so that should give you an idea of how easy it is to do.
The oxygen comes from the air around your car. There’s nothing you can do to avoid exposure to this.
Moisture is also found in the air. It becomes a bigger problem if your car comes in contact with water directly, but rust can form just by keeping a piece of metal outside.
For people who live in more humid areas (I’m looking at you, Floridians), then rust forms quicker. Why? There’s more moisture in the air which expedites the rusting process.
Big Problems with Rust
As you might already know, rust can completely total a vehicle. The second rust starts messing with your vehicle’s framework, then your Jeep might become illegal to drive.
Rust eats away at the original metal. After enough time, holes are removed from the metal and the surrounding area is a lot weaker.
This makes rust not only an eyesore but an incredibly dangerous chemical reaction. If you poke a rusted part of your body, there’s a chance that your finger will go right through your Jeep’s body.
This means that you want to avoid rust altogether.
What Makes the Jeep Wrangler Rust Easily?
To make matters worse, Jeeps are more likely to rust than a typical sedan.
For one, Jeeps are an all-terrain, off-roading vehicle. They’re designed to drive through mud, puddles, and rocks. These same environments can also speed up the rusting process.
Rocks will damage your topcoat and expose the raw metal, puddles will soak the metal, and mud will stick around and saturate your Jeep in that area.
Another reason why Jeep Wrangler rusts easier is that there are a lot of flat surfaces. If you look at Porsches, you’ll notice plenty of rounded edges and smooth lines.
Part of what makes a Jeep a Jeep is the traditional body style. Unfortunately, it also tends to collect water and allows your Jeep’s body to have prolonged exposure to sitting water.
Since your vehicle is more likely to rust, you have to take even more preventative measures.
10 Ways to Keep a Jeep Wrangler from Rusting
Now, let me highlight some of the best ways to keep the rust away from your Jeep Wrangler. In this section, I’ll outline 10 pretty easy ways to prevent rusting.
1. Upkeep a Cleaning Schedule
One of the best ways to keep the rust away is to keep your car clean. Bird droppings and road salt are corrosive materials that can start eating away at your Jeep. However, a quick clean will get rid of these contaminants and keep your Jeep rust-free.
I tend to wash my car once every few weeks. If I notice it’s especially dirty, I’ll make an exception to that rule.
Washing helps your car in a number of ways. It prevents paint fading, prolongs the life of your windshield wipers, boosts the resale value of your Jeep, and makes your car more attractive. On top of that, it also prevents rust.
It helps if you have a local carwash (not an automatic wash) that can handle it for you. Getting a Jeep professionally detailed might cost you hundreds of dollars, so it’s more cost-effective to do it yourself or rely on nearby carwashes that handwash the vehicle.
If you want to get serious, then you can get a foam cannon and some detailing gear to quickly wash your Jeep. Don’t forget to wash the interior while you’re at it.
2. Avoid Automatic Carwashes
I mentioned that you should only stick with handwashing, and this is an important tip for any vehicle you own. Going to an automatic carwash is affordable and really fast, but it can do damage to your vehicle’s topcoat. This is the same protective layer I was describing earlier.
The problem is that automatic carwashes infrequently get maintained, and they prioritize speed over the quality of the wash. Those whipping buffer rolls can create swirls on your vehicle, damage your topcoat, and even scratch parts of your car.
Going through automatic carwashes often enough can create damage that leads to rust. Instead, wash your car by hand.
3. Park in a Covered Garage
Parking in a covered garage has a ton of different benefits. It keeps your car safe, helps it start in the morning, lengthens the life of your vehicle, and prevents your Jeep’s paint from fading or chipping. In addition, it also prevents rust on your Wrangler.
Garages have much less moisture in the air, and they prevent rain from contacting your Jeep. Those two facts alone are enough to prevent rust for a long time.
When a car is outside and it rains, that exposed metal is just getting soaked and filled with moisture and oxygen. Over time, rust is going to start and it’ll be hard to stop.
Not everyone has access to a garage in their home. For those people, I would suggest finding a parking garage nearby or using a car cover to achieve the same thing. They aren’t as good as an attached garage, but they’re certainly better than parking outside.
4. Don’t Park in Snow, Grass, or Mud
If you have to park outside, it’s best to avoid the grass, snow, and mud. All of these surfaces will have much higher moisture content in them as opposed to gravel or paved asphalt. This added moisture will release from the ground and leech into your Jeep’s undercarriage.
As I mentioned, the undercarriage is largely made of untreated metals which can rust. There are also a lot of moving parts and valuable assemblies across the undercarriage, and your car can’t afford to have rust build up on these surfaces.
I had a buddy who would use a sheet of plywood to park on since he was forced to park in a muddy area. The plywood would just absorb the moisture and wound up rusting his car anyway, so it’s best to stick to gravel or asphalt.
5. Make Sure the Drain Plugs are Draining
All across your Jeeps, there are little drain plugs. They pop up in areas where water tends to collect. They’re designed to be removable, dumping all the water out of these areas.
I never knew about these drain plugs until I was dealing with rust on an old truck of mine. An easy place to spot them is on the bottom of your doors. They’re little plastic or rubbery circles that can be pulled out and put back in.
Once they’re removed, all the pooled-up water will evacuate thanks to gravity.
If you let the water sit around in these collection points, it can start rusting your vehicle. Exposing your Jeep to standing water is a quick way to rust your body all the way through.
6. Don’t Drive Through Puddles
There is always a temptation to drive through sitting water on the road. In a Jeep, you probably have big tires and extra ground clearance, but it’s still not safe.
There’s no way to truly know how deep a puddle is unless you stand in it or drive through it. I’ve seen too many YouTube videos of people driving through seemingly shallow puddles, then their car bottoms out and gets stuck.
Not only will the puddles cause your vehicle to get wet (which leads to rust), but they can do some serious mechanical damage to your vehicle. Your engine could get hydro-locked and fail, your brake calipers can warp and become useless, and the water can disrupt assemblies in your car.
7. Remove it Before it Gets Worse
What happens if you already have rust forming? It might be too late, but you can do some treatment to minimize the damage. In the past, I’ve used FDC Ruster Converter Ultra, which is a product that aims to remove rust and prime the exposed metal.
The idea is that this product will stop the damage from getting worse. If rust is untreated, the chemical reaction will continue until there’s not enough oxygen, moisture, or metal to keep going.
If your Jeep is in really bad shape, you might need to go to a professional body shop. If anyone can save your car, it would be them. They typically have the expertise and tooling required to minimize the impact of rust.
8. Clean Salt from Your Jeep ASAP
If you live in a colder area, you need to wash your Jeep more often during the winter months. Even though it doesn’t feel like car washing weather, it’s important to do. As you drive on salted or brined roads, those corrosive elements will stick to your car.
As long as the salt is in contact with your Jeep, it will be breaking down your topcoat and exposing your vehicle’s metal. This will lead to rust and can be pretty extensive.
A big issue with winter driving is that the salt tends to collect in your wheel wells, alongside the bottom trim of your car, and along the undercarriage. These three areas are tough to notice and even tougher to wash.
Allowing the salt to stick around for too long will almost guarantee that rust will start to pop up.
9. Clean After You Go Mudding
Another time that you need to rush to wash your car is after you go mudding or off-roading. This is specific to Jeeps since they’re an off-roading toy and a lot of owners like to capitalize on that.
It’s definitely cool-looking to have your Jeep covered in mud, but it’s less cool when you realize the mud can be accelerating the rust forming on your vehicle. Remember, there’s a lot of moisture and potentially acidic elements in mud.
If mud is caked on your Jeep and left there, it’s likely that rust spots will start to form. This is especially true if you have scratches around your vehicle and mud comes in contact with the scratches.
I’ve gone mudding a few times, and I just view the wash afterward as an oddly satisfying reward. It’s downright cool to go from a mud-caked vehicle to a sparkly, clean vehicle.
10. Consider Adding an Undercoat
I keep mentioning how vulnerable your undercarriage is, but there’s actually a product that can help out. It’s called an “undercoat”, and the concept is pretty simple. There’s a line of products that will add a protective layer to exposed metal in your undercarriage.
This works a lot like the top coat of your vehicle’s paint. It’s there to prevent rust and damage to the underlying metal. With a product like Waxoyl, you can add the same type of protective coating to your Jeep’s undercarriage.
If you asked a professional to do the same coating, you’ll probably spend hundreds of dollars. For something like this, it makes sense to DIY it, saving you money as well. If you have a car ramp, this project becomes even easier. If you want to DIY a car ramp, take a look at my guide here.
When you apply the Waxoyl, make sure you coat your undercarriage in an even, complete layer. There will be further instructions on the can, so just follow along and take your time.
As you just saw, I covered 10 different ways to keep a Jeep Wrangler from rusting. The big takeaway is that you need to keep your Jeep clean and wash it when it gets too dirty. Preventing mud, salt, and pollen buildup will keep corrosive, acidic materials away from your Jeep.