Part 2 of Tear Down: Rust Removal & Painting Floor on Sprinter Van

After tearing down the inside of the cargo area and cleaning it up, it was time to remove the small amount of rust that had formed inside the van’s cargo floor. After a quick run to Home Depot to pick up some metal brush bits and 3m dust masks, I began to chip away at the rust with a drill bit. It was a slow process, and at first I used a portable drill, but quickly ran out of battery. Modern rust proofing paint applications make it possible to apply it over the affected areas without removing the rust, but as Gaia will be a home for an extended period of time, I wanted to remove all the corrosion that had developed inside the cargo floor and then apply the rust preventative paint. Using a corded drill, it wasn’t until late into the evening that I got to a point where I was happy with the result.

The cleanup process also exposed the areas where drywall screws held the factory wooden floor in place. It didn’t take long to remove the screws and clean them up. I mixed together some JB weld and applied it over all the little holes, mostly located in the back of the cargo floor, and let it cure overnight. The next morning I cleaned the entire cargo floor and the bottom of the side walls with acetone, and then with a POR 15 degreaser. Painter’s tape was applied to the side walls and to the bolt holes in the floor.

The floor was finally ready for a rust proof paint application. Having done a bit of research beforehand, I opted to use a can of POR-15 Rust Preventative Coating. A quart was more than enough to cover the entire cargo floor and wheel wells of a 144″ Sprinter van, and there was still plenty left for a second application. I used a 1.5″ wide nylon brush to be able to get into the smallest floor ridges, and painted the entire floor with it. The paint is thin and spreads very easily, making it a breeze to apply. It does take a bit of time to get through the whole floor, and I had to apply a second coat as the paint had trouble sticking in some areas of the floor. After the second coat dried, the van was ready for a brand new floor installation. A bit of a warning to those attempting to do any POR-15 rust preventative coatings – make sure you are covered head to toe in clothing and wear proper gloves, as the paint does not come off for weeks if it dries on your skin, and don’t forget your eye protection. If you do end up painting any areas of your vehicle with POR-15, please share any additional input you may have in the comments section!

Part 1 of Tear Down: Floor Clean Up on Sprinter Van

After driving Gaia (the Sprinter van) across the country, it was time to strip the cargo area to the barebones and begin the buildout process. Gaia’s previous owner used it for weekend mountain biking trips, so it was already fairly empty inside in the back of the van. We removed the floor trimming, wall panels and the old insulation that had been put in by the previous owner. It started raining while we were working on the van, which is a rare occurrence here in Los Angeles nowadays, but we managed to stay inside and continued with the teardown. After removing all the floor hooks, it started to get dark and we needed to make a run to a car parts store to pick up a torx bit (there are many of those bolts in the Sprinter) in order to remove the rails that held the original wooden floor panel down.

When we finally removed the wooden floor panels, we discovered a lot of dust, sand, bolts, and what had a distinct asphalt or tar smell to it in places. My guess was that it might have been Fatmat, or some adhesive used to get the factory wooden floor to stick to the base of the cargo floor. It had deteriorated over time, and was now just and old gunky mess. Cleaning the inside of the van took hours, and we first tackled the dust, sand and all the loose bits. A previously used bottle of Goo Gone helped us get the tar substance off. In hindsight, something like Unique’s Degreaser and Oil & Tar Remover would have been a more environmentally friendly option, but we were not aware of it at the time. After getting the tar off, we filled a mop bucket with one gallon of water plus 1 cup of bleach and proceeded to mop the floor. Now that the floor was much cleaner, we had a much better idea of where the handful of little holes from drywall screws used to hold down the wooden floor were located. The cleanup process also revealed that the floor corroded over time in places, and rust began to form. We tackled that task a different day, and wrote about in in Part 2 of the teardown, which covers rust removal, JB welding the floor holes, and painting cargo floor with rust preventative paint.