How to Refinish Car Wheels

Written by ryan lawrence
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How to Refinish Car Wheels
Use a metal etching primer or the finish will flake. (antique car wheel image by Tammy Mobley from

You can enhance the look of your car by refinishing the wheels with the appropriate paint. Before you dive into the application process, you must consider an important point. Car wheels are made of metal, a surface that will not accept paint adhesion unless it is etched. Unfortunately, car wheels are too durable for the same friction-based etching techniques used to prepare plastic and vinyl for paint. You must use a special primer, engineered with acidic qualities that give it the ability to etch metal.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Trisodium phosphate cleanser
  • Steel wool
  • Pressure washer
  • Heavy-duty fabric dust sheets
  • Masking paper
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Galvanised metal etching spray primer
  • Oil-based spray enamel

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  1. 1

    Wash the car wheels with a trisodium phosphate cleanser. Scrub the wheels with steel wool and rinse them, using a pressure washer. Wait 2 to 4 hours for the wheels to dry.

  2. 2

    Drive the automobile onto dust sheets.

  3. 3

    Cover the tires with masking paper and professional painter's tape.

  4. 4

    Coat the car wheels with metal etching spray primer. Hold the can 8 inches from the wheels as you apply. Wait 4 hours for the primed wheels to dry.

  5. 5

    Coat the primed car wheels with enamel. Hold the can 8 inches from the wheels as you apply. Wait 6 hours before driving the car.

Tips and warnings

  • You may apply a second coat of enamel if the metal etching primer bleeds through.
  • Never paint bare car wheels, or the paint will peel.
  • Do not use ordinary acrylic latex or oil-based primers on car wheels, or the finish will chip.

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