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What to do with rocker rot through winter?

I stopped driving my car when they put down salt last week and started using my other one with no rust. I finally took the rocker panel covers off and saw how bad it is. I can’t get new rocker panels until next year and as of now can’t afford to have it undercoated.
My plan was to clean up as much rust as I can with a wire brush and undercoat it with fluid film just to protect it until next year.
Or, I can clean the rust and douse everything with POR-15 and cross my fingers using it this winter.
Any suggestions greatly appreciated. The car has 232k miles and has never given me a single problem. That’s why I’m dead set on fixing it and not letting go of it.
Here’s just one section, drivers side front where the rot is actually coming into the door sill. All rust you see is actually on the other side of where the rocker used to be. Its a 2004 Ford Taurus if that matters. They do bring up good conversations with the rocker panels.

Seen many worse still on the road, time to trade it in and move on imhop

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I’d get someone to do a thorough underbody inspection, as well as the suspension components, for rust. If the body is rusting out that much, the underbody may be even worse, to the point where the car is unsafe.

But I suspect this car is ready for the crusher.

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I’m inclined to agree with Bill on this. Looking past the immediate focus of the rocker panel area, which is bad enough, there appears to be other serious rust. A good look-see on a rack, tapping the suspect areas with a screwdriver handle, will likely disclose safety issues.

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Another vote that this vehicle has reached the end of it’s life span. As for undercoating that would be a waste of money. If it is safe enough to drive one more winter why not use it and keep the other vehicle off the streets?

EDIT: I now have a birthday cake symbol near my screen name. Is the site trying to make me feel like I am in kindergarten again?

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I would agree to have the car thoroughly checked for safety. I have a friend who has a 1996 Ford Taurus. The chassis is rusted so badly that the shop that maintains her cars won’t put it on the hoist. The transmission is slipping badly. She has a 2013 Honda Civic and I am trying to convince her to junk the Taurus. She claims that the Taurus is o.k. to drive around town. Since the Taurus is a station wagon, she finds it useful to haul things. I maintain that it isn’t safe to drive around town. A.suspension part could break free from the chassis and.could cause her to lose control and have an accident. She knows the car isn’t worth another transmission and claims she will hauled away when it finally quits. I say the time is now.

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Thanks for the input. There’s only surface rust elsewhere underneath. It’s actually pretty good as It was garaged and not driven in fresh salt from new, up until 3 years ago. It passes inspection fine yearly because the panels covered the rockers. It’s just the rockers that are rotted.

It’s not possible to get rid of it as we need two cars and can’t afford another. I’m trying to keep it another two years, when my wife finishes nursing school. The state should pay for it IMO but that would be a lost cause!
It’s been an incredible car from day one so I want to run it until it dies, which seems far down the road.
Just looking for a way to slow the rot over the winter so I can get new panels next spring. I have por15 that I can coat it in, if it’ll help.

That’s normal in Minnesota.

The front tire sandblasts the paint from the sub-frame to bare metal and it begins to rust.

If you can’t poke a screwdriver thru the metal it’s still solid.

You can try removing as much rust as possible, and then apply something like a pickup truck bed liner from an aerosol to the area to slow down the rust.


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Either the POR-15 prep with POR-15 or Fluid Film with wire brushing for either will work to keep the rust at bay for the winter. I’ve POR-15’d my truck frame and touched up the areas I can’t get to with Fluid Film just to get me by for the winter until I get the time to retouch it up again.

Did you really mean you are going to spend several thousand dollars or more to have new rocker panels welded in on a 2004 with 200K? I guess I would wire brush the rust off and use the POR15 on it.

I’ll use por15 on it. Just wire brushed everything today and I’ll sand and repaint the surface rust areas. Bing, the rocker replacement would only cost me a few hundred, since I know some welders.
I may just keep doing this and hope for the best.

I realized that the rocker panel covers won’t go back on. Without them you can clearly see rot everywhere and will not pass inspection. (here, if there’s no visible holes, you pass)

I’m wondering- when I coat everything in por15, could I put the rocker covers in place and fill the rockers with spray foam? I know over time foam will make it worse, but would it be okay with the por15 over the rust? I’ve used the por15 a few years ago over rust and it’s still holding up.

Don’t use spray foam.

That captures and holds moisture.

When you do the POR 15 treatment, coat the area with a truck bed liner from an aerosol can.

The bed liner prevents the area from being sandblasted again creating new rust.


Is the pinch weld partially rusted away? Besides that it doesn’t look that bad, from here anyway. Visually bad true, but may not be all that bad, structurally. The post above, testing the area for metal competance with a screwdriver poke like a dentist tests for tooth cavities seems like a good next step. If it proves to be structurally ok & safe, I think your short term de-rusting idea is a good one. Then remember to replace the rocker panels next summer.

An inexpensive alternative to por15 is the chassis saver. This product is also good for stopping the corrosion.

Why will the rocker panel covers not go back on . . . ?

All things considered, here’s how I would deal with this problem if it was my car-

I see one hole in the picture. I’d actually enlarge that hole slightly to gain access to the inside surfaces.
Then I’d spray POR15 inside, trying to get as good coverage as possible. FWIW- I’ve used squeeze bottles with thinned our POR15 before like this. Only need very small hole to feed the bent nozzle up inside. Then squeeze and rotate bottle to get 360 degree coverage.

Next, cut out a small patch for the hole from some galvanized sheet metal (Home Depot/Lowes sells patch panels). Either glue or rivet in place. Small patch like this I would RTV or JB Qwik in place. Let cure.

Then lightly brush any flaky rust off the outside before coating in POR15. You want to leave the rust, not get back to clean metal. POR works best with surface rust to grab onto.

Wait until the POR is dry enough to provide a light drag on your finger before top coating with a spray can of the car’s body color.

Reattach cover panel. If attachments broken, glue or screw it back into place.


It will go to the grave like this, no need for any more effort.
Had a truck I did this to that lasted 10 more years and didn’t show any signs of rust in the treated areas…

It’s tough to see from that photo, but that all looks like surface rust. As others have mentioned, poke it with a screwdriver. If it goes through, you’ve got a major issue. If it’s strong steel, that’s just cosmetic.

I’ve used POR-15 before and it works well. There’s also a product called Chassis Saver that I frankly think works better. I used a ton of it cleaning up the underbody on my truck and it’s all still in great shape two years later. It’s also half as expensive as POR-15.

The only challenge is finding it. Luckily, the CAP store near my house always has it.

Thanks everyone for the help. The problem with the photo is that it’s kind of an illusion. The rust you see is the body of the car, there’s no rocker panel left.

I used a screwdriver to smash all the rotted metal out and left anything that’s not loose. There’s not much left. I’ve coated most of it with por15 and will do the rest. I was going to spray bed liner on it but por15 says to use it right when its tacky.
So I’m going to paint a thick epoxy paint over it.

The panels won’t go back on because other than two clips at both ends of the wheel wells, there’s no metal underneath for it to snap into. Like TwinTurbo mentioned, I may get some sheet metal and drill holes in it to put the push pins in but I need the car back asap.

The panels extend up under the lower lip of the door, right?
Could you just use some small sized sheet metal screws to affix it. Even paint the heads with body color but you’re unlikely to see them unless looking for them if done right. It’s what we call a 10 foot car :wink: