How to paint rusty steel rims

Written by robert russell
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How to paint rusty steel rims
Steel rims on a car are especially vulnerable to rust. (sportscar wheelarch image by Christopher Dodge from

Metal is naturally prone to rust when it is exposed to the environment. Painted steel surfaces are protected against moisture and other natural elements which cause steel to oxidise. Rust is oxidation that forms on unprotected steel. Steel rims on an automobile are especially vulnerable to rust. They are exposed to harsh weather conditions, as well as the wear and tear of the road. Rust begins in the little nicks that expose the bare metal. Painting rusty steel rims protects the rims and gives them a longer life.

Things you need

  • All purpose car cleaner
  • Wire brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Sandpaper
  • Mild detergent
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Duct tape
  • Newspaper
  • Rust-inhibiting primer
  • Auto aerosol paint
  • Auto aerosol clear coat

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  1. 1

    Remove the rust with an all-purpose car cleaner and a wire brush. Spray the rim with water. Spray the car cleaner on rim and let it sit for 30 seconds. Scrub the rim with a wire brush or a wheel brush. A toothbrush works well for areas that are difficult to reach. Rinse the rim well to remove all the car cleaner.

  2. 2

    Sand the rims to remove the clear coat. In addition to removing the rust on the rims, it is necessary to remove the clear-coat protecting covering on the rims before they are painted. Sand the entire rim with 400 to 600 grit sandpaper. Finish the job with 1,000 grit sandpaper.

  3. 3

    Wash the rims with soap and warm water. This removes the last traces dirt, debris, and other forms of contamination. Rinse the rims well with clean water to remove all soap residue.

  4. 4

    Cover the tyres with duct tape and newspaper. The paint and clear coat will be applied with a spray can. Protecting the wheels will make the painting part of job much easier and worry free.

  5. 5

    Apply a rust-inhibiting primer. There are several rust-inhibiting primers designed specifically for steel surfaces that come in an aerosol spray. Follow the directions on the can and apply two coats. Hold the spray can 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inches) away from the rim. Lightly apply the first coat and allow it to dry for fifteen minutes. Apply a second, heavier coat. Allow the second coat to dry for twenty minutes.

  6. 6

    Spray paint the rims. Follow the same procedure used for applying the primer. Apply two coats. Apply one light coat and allow it to dry, and then, apply the second coat. Inspect the rim for drips and runs.

  7. 7

    Protect the paint with a clear coat. Clear coat materials are also available in an aerosol spray. Clear coat protects the paint from nicks and small scratches. Nicks and scratches are not only unsightly, they expose metal which makes the rim susceptible to rust.

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