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Seam Rust

The seam rust war...
From: Robert Harris
Symptom(s):  Rusty Seams, Seam Rust

hi Volks
I just tackled the seam rust demon last weekend, and tried to do a really
good, long-term job though I am certainly no bodywork pro. Below at some
length are steps I used, hope it helps somebody. Seam rust is bigger issue
in Westies than passenger vans because the fiberglass insulation batting
used in campers retains moisture and the utility hookup panels often leak too.

1. Westies: pull out kitchenette and water tank cabinet.
2. Remove wood wall panel behind. Pull out fiberglass batting. Say small
fervent prayer, then inspect the area, especially around the support beam
and along the seam at base of wall.
3. Use wire brushes, dremels, drill etc to grind to good bare metal. (The
seams behind the kitchenette are the typical rust area, but the same goes
for any other body seams that show rust: remove interior panelling and
treat both sides of the problem.)
4. Now moving outside the van... grab a beer, resign yourself to boredom,
and set to removing all the old cracked seam sealer in any suspect body
seams. Best tools I found for this were #11 blade Xacto knife and
"dentist" picks. Get it down to good clean bare metal as far in as you can
5. Prep the seams as required for the paint you will be using (e.g.
etchant), rinse, and dry them reeeaally well (hair dryer? sorry honey), you
don't want to trap ANY moisture in there. Then paint with rust-proofing
paint. I used POR-15 on my Westy, FWIW. I'm always the skeptic but have
used this stuff in the past on my other car with no rust recurrence yet
(two years down the road) -- this is in upstate NY where cars take a
salt-slush bath 5 months/year, so I'm starting to trust it.
6. Tape off the seams and fill with flexible seam sealer. Comes in caulk
tube; sold at auto paint stores $10 or $15US
7. Unscrew the three water/power hookups and inspect gaskets. Replace if
needed, otherwise apply small bead of silicon sealer for extra
waterproofing and reassemble. No more water dripping down into body wall!
8. Back inside: prep and paint inside bare metal where you ground away
rust (POR-15 or equilivalent)
9. If it looks like city water plumbing has leaking joints (have heard of
this several times), replace/fix.
10. Re-insulate wall if desired. If so, consider using styrofoam
insulation instead of the rust-promoting f/g batting. Just remember it's
going to be up against the back of the fridge coils, don't know how much
heat it may see from the propane??
11. Cabinets and kitchenette back in. Make sure fridge "chimney" gasket
is well sealed on exterior as well.
12. Back outside: topcoat the finished seams to match your van color

While you're on the rust rampage, a common hidden problem area:
13. Pull lower front grill and check the seam where the flange to front
bumper is welded to nose of van (just an inch or so under grill
opening). Nearly impossible to get at the area unless radiator is out, but
deal with it as best you can if rust is discovered.

The above worked great (I think!) for my van, which had only minor seam
rust. If the inside of your seams are very bad, you may be better off
leaving it open (no sealer) and flooding seam with crown oil every so often
or something??

hope it helps! Keep em on the road...

Robert Harris
Ithaca, NY
'84 Westy
'95 Subaru wagon
'93 Honda CB750


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