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How to decide if frame rust is too much to 'fix'?

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How to decide if frame rust is too much to 'fix'?

Old 02-04-21, 06:20 AM
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ImagineZH
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How to decide if frame rust is too much to 'fix'?

Hi all,

I have quite an old steel frame bike (maybe 25 years old by now), which has quite a bit of rust. The bike has sentimental value to me, so I would like to 'do it up', by first stripping everything off it, removing the rust, etc., and then rebuilding it up. However, the rust looks quite bad to my untrained eyes in parts, so I'm wondering if it's worth my effort. I wouldn't be put off by a large time investment, and a medium financial investment (say in total, ~$200) - I would see it as a long term project for the weekends.

Apologies for the rather poor photos - it's hard to get the lighting right! But even if it's difficult to diagnose directly from these photos, some pointers on how to decide for myself would be great. So far in my googling, I have found that it seems to really depend on the bike itself and the extent of the rust, but it's hard to work out from 3rd hand discussions, how much is too much.

edit: OK apparently I can only add photos after 10 posts. So I'll try get some posts together and then post some photos.

Thanks!
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Old 02-04-21, 06:41 AM
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You may want to have the moderators move this to "Classic & Vintage".
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Old 02-04-21, 07:09 AM
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ImagineZH
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Originally Posted by dedhed View Post
You may want to have the moderators move this to "Classic & Vintage".
Ah ok, thanks. Maybe they'll do that - if not I'll just start a new thread there when I can post photos. Thanks
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Old 02-04-21, 09:08 AM
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If you're going to remove the rust, you'll have to re-paint. You may as well start sanding and see what's left after you take the rust off, then sand some more to get down to primer or bare metal to prep for a new paint job if it looks worthwhile at that point.
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Old 02-04-21, 03:51 PM
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ImagineZH -

The surface rust is a concern but the project killer is internal rust. Check inside the chainstays for the presence of corrosion, check inside the steerer tube and head tube and once the bike is stripped down, shake the the frame and listen for a rattle that sounds like sand or gravel inside the tube - it will actually be rust flaked off the interior of the tubes and means the frame is scrap.
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Old 02-04-21, 03:56 PM
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Rust is only an issue if it's eating into the steel leaving pits. Most rust that worries people enough to inquire about is only surface rust, whether it's on the outside surface or inside surface.

If this guys frame could stand as much loss of material as he intentionally gave his frame, I'd think your frame can stand a little rust..............

But that's not to say that certain types of rusting in the right spots shouldn't be dealt with.

Last edited by Iride01; 02-04-21 at 05:18 PM.
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Old 02-04-21, 04:25 PM
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If you posted photos I can't see them so not sure how bad the frame is. People have posted that they used "extension lens" (not sure what they are really called) that can be stuck in walls and other tight places that allow photos (inspection cameras??) to inspect inside frames.

If it is salvageable and you don't want to pour big bucks into a professional repaint, most powder coaters will sandblast and powder coat for sub-$100.
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Old 02-04-21, 04:57 PM
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take a pair of channel locks and give the frame some decent squeezes to see if anything gives.
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Old 02-04-21, 07:36 PM
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Is the bike in question Cromo or Hi ten steel? If it is high ten the tubing will be much thicker. Surface rust or even mild pitting is no big deal on a hi ten bike. Take a cheap plastic box cutter knife and scrape the paint off where the rust seems worst. most likely the steel underneath will be unharmed or only slightly pitted. Rust often builds up a crust which will just scrape off. If the metal is heavily pitted take a sharp tool like an ice pick and try to drive it through the metal. If it goes through the bike is scrap. Take out the seat post and fork and look inside. If it looks clean you are probably all right. With the bike stripped to the frame take a garden hose and pour water into the frame tubes through the head tube and bottom bracket then let the water run out. If it is fairly clear or just rust colored but not filled with flaking metal it is probably o/k. Let it dry in the sun then spray or pour wd40 into the frame , move the frame around to coat all the interior surfaces, then drain out and let dry. . you should now be ready to repaint.
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Old 02-04-21, 08:07 PM
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If you have access to a media blaster in your area that would be the best way to strip the frame. Assuming the inside of the frame is not rusty, removing the surface rust would help get a look at the frame. If nothing else I would clean it up and use it as a wall hanger. Nothing wrong with a wall hanger that isn't rideable anymore. I have a beloved Specialized Langster that cracked at the bottom bracket that didn't need to go back so I am hanging on the wall.

No need to start any new threads, you can keep your photos here. Just join the forum and post in other threads and be active and you will get to those 10 posts super easy. No need to spam or anything like that just enjoy the forum.
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Old 02-05-21, 03:16 AM
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Thanks everyone for the replies, I'll post some photos as soon as I can.

Originally Posted by bertinjim View Post
ImagineZH -

The surface rust is a concern but the project killer is internal rust. Check inside the chainstays for the presence of corrosion, check inside the steerer tube and head tube and once the bike is stripped down, shake the the frame and listen for a rattle that sounds like sand or gravel inside the tube - it will actually be rust flaked off the interior of the tubes and means the frame is scrap.
Yeah internal rust is my worry, as is...
Originally Posted by coffeesnob View Post
take a pair of channel locks and give the frame some decent squeezes to see if anything gives.
...the fact that I wouldn't feel too comfortable doing this in certain areas which look relatively weak. But maybe I'm underestimating the strength of the frame.


Originally Posted by capnjonny View Post
Is the bike in question Cromo or Hi ten steel? If it is high ten the tubing will be much thicker. Surface rust or even mild pitting is no big deal on a hi ten bike. Take a cheap plastic box cutter knife and scrape the paint off where the rust seems worst. most likely the steel underneath will be unharmed or only slightly pitted. Rust often builds up a crust which will just scrape off. If the metal is heavily pitted take a sharp tool like an ice pick and try to drive it through the metal. If it goes through the bike is scrap. Take out the seat post and fork and look inside. If it looks clean you are probably all right. With the bike stripped to the frame take a garden hose and pour water into the frame tubes through the head tube and bottom bracket then let the water run out. If it is fairly clear or just rust colored but not filled with flaking metal it is probably o/k. Let it dry in the sun then spray or pour wd40 into the frame , move the frame around to coat all the interior surfaces, then drain out and let dry. . you should now be ready to repaint.
Cromo, I'm pretty sure.
Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
If you have access to a media blaster in your area that would be the best way to strip the frame. Assuming the inside of the frame is not rusty, removing the surface rust would help get a look at the frame. If nothing else I would clean it up and use it as a wall hanger. Nothing wrong with a wall hanger that isn't rideable anymore. I have a beloved Specialized Langster that cracked at the bottom bracket that didn't need to go back so I am hanging on the wall.

No need to start any new threads, you can keep your photos here. Just join the forum and post in other threads and be active and you will get to those 10 posts super easy. No need to spam or anything like that just enjoy the forum.
Thanks. I have a feeling it might be consigned to art at this stage, but I thought I'd at least try. Would love to have it as an 'around-town' bike.
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