How to Paint Wheels: Prep, Prime, & Finish

If you're searching online to figure out how to paint your wheels or rims, you're most likely tired of the way your wheels look. It's time to coat them and axe the embarrassment of driving a vehicle with old, rusty wheels. To maximize the effectiveness of this how to guide, all steps must be accomplished. If you don't want to treat rust, or prime - your shiny new finish paint will FAIL! 

Step 1: Prep Work is Crucial

It's crucial to know what you are up against. This will decide what necessary supplies you'll need and what you'll need to do make sure your coating stays put. 

Initial Wheel Assessment and Prep: Clean, Dull, & Dry!

Rusty Rims & Wheels

What do your rims look like? Are they dirty or rusty? Is there oil and grease? 

  • IF DIRTY, try to clean them with a TSP solution, or bleach/water mixture. Then rinse to prevent any chemical residue from creating a bond issue between primer & substrate. 
  • IF RUSTY, scrape and sand the troubled areas. Focus on knocking off the heavy rust and attempt to make a smoother, uniform look. Once the rust is scraped, you will either apply a rust treatment or a primer to the areas but we'll discuss that later in this guide. 
  • IF OILY, greasy contaminants must be removed. Oil, grease, and even old wheel cleaner can cause bond issues, and therefore need to be cleaned off the surface using a degreaser or strong cleaner. Again, be sure to rinse clean. 
  • IF SHINY, your wheel surface needs to be de-glossed! Much like painting over a dirty surface, your paint will not properly bite into the metal substrate. Therefore, a shiny gloss must be sanded using metal sand paper or chemically de-glossed. 

Step 2: Create a Bond using a Proper Primer

Once your surface is clean and dull, it's time to promote some adhesion.

Rust Treatment
  • Permatex Rust Treatment: This product will treat existing rust, by chemically neutralizing the PH level of the rust; ultimately killing it. Once applied, rust treatment will blacken the rust, while priming the surface. 
  • Dupli-Color: Adhesion Promoter: You may have experienced coatings that did not "grab" onto the surface you are painting. An adhesion promoter is a primer that strongly latches on to wheel surfaces that may be slick like, chrome or plastic, promoting a bond coat. Use this product over very slick surfaces that are hard to dull. 
  • Dupli-Color: Primer Sealer: After sanding your wheels to a smooth finish, Dupli-Color offers a general-purpose primer that will promote adhesion, fill-in hairline cracks, and create a consistent surface your finish coat.
  • Dupli-Color: Rust Fix: Painting over rust is a big mistake! Rust will continue to bloom through coatings that are ill-equipped to inhibit growth. Dupli-Color Rust Fix is a product designed to kill your wheel rust, converting it into a sand-able surface. Once sanded, your rust problem should be solved as long as your wheel is re-coated with a sealer!

Step 3: Create an Aesthetically & Durable Finish

You've applied your primer and you are almost ready to finish painting your wheels. But first, you should sand the primer to insure a smoother finish. Now, are you ready to finish painting your wheels? Does your rim or wheel have a consistently primed surface? If so, it's time to paint!

Wheel Paint(81736)

Dupli-Color Wheel Coating: Most automotive finishes are sprayed on, using an HVLP unit. This provides an extremely smooth, uniform wheel coating. It's too expensive to do this! Fortunately, Dupli-Color has produced excellent paints for wheels and rims, with a product called "Wheel Coating." Here are some of Wheel Coating's best features:

  • Hard Reflective Finish: A hard, durable finish will keep chemicals and dust from settling on the rim surface. 
  • Appearance Restoration: Dupli-Color Wheel Coating will give you the ability to restore your old, weather wheels to their original color and look. Dupli-Color offers the OEM spectrum of color that will match your automotive color.
  • Dry Time: Wheel Coating will dry to touch in 30 minutes and can be handles in 1 hour. If an extra coat is required, the quick dry time will allow you to re-coat within a couple hours.
  • Durability: Your new wheel finish should resist peeling, flaking, and cracking. It will also resist chemicals, brake dust, and weather.
  • Color Options: Dupli-Color offers several wheel paint colors, including: white, black, silver, clear, graphite, and bronze. If you are interested in a more bold blend of colors, check out Dupli-Color Spray Enamels which will also offer exceptional durability and finished appearance.

It's Time to Finish Those Wheels

Now that you have a product, like Wheel Coating, you can easily finish painting your wheels or rims. Make sure you have proper ventilation when using an aerosol can. Use a respirator. Make sure surfaces that you do not want dusted with over spray, are masked off with either thin mil plastic or a canvas drop. 

Always follow a product's instructions. 

Most aerosol sprays dry quickly, therefore, can be re-coated within a couple of hours. However, pay attention to applying the proper amount of product. Spraying a large quantity can create sags in the finish, which will peel. Likewise, spraying to little will not create a long-lasting finish. 

Hold the can away from the wheel, usually around 6 inches. 

Then, with continuous motion, spray the surface. Uniformly pass over the substrate in it entirety. 

Only pass over the surface once. Let this first coat dry, before applying another one. Once the recommended dry time is achieved, repeat the same process. If necessary, repeat again.

Always allow your freshly painted wheels or rims to properly dry and cure. Coatings tend to fully cure after a week, but always make sure you wait the recommended time per the product specification. Allowing your wheels to be exposed to the elements early may cause product failure. 

With this guide, you should now know how to paint wheels! 

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