How to Repair Rusty Wheel Rims

Updated April 17, 2017

If you have a wheel rim that is heavily rusted, there are a few things you can do to fix it without replacing it. It can be sanded and refinished with materials you can purchase at an auto shop or home improvement store. While it may not look as good as new, it is possible to get rid of the rust by following these steps.

Remove the rim from the tire.

Using coarse sandpaper, thoroughly sand the rim. As the heavy rust is removed, use the finer-grit sand paper as needed, rubbing in a circular motion as much as possible.

Remove all the dust and apply rust remover to any areas that still show signs of rust. Clean the wheel with soapy water and dry with clean cloths. Allow the rim to dry completely in a covered area where wind cannot blow dust and debris on it, like your garage.

Place the rim on a dust sheet and shake the can of rust inhibitor primer to mix thoroughly. Crack open a door or window to ventilate the garage. Spray the wheel from about 6 to 10 inches away, using a sweeping motion to cover the surface completely. Allow this to dry completely before proceeding.

Shake the can of desired resurfacing paint to mix completely. Spray over the surface from about 6 t o10 inches away, using a sweeping motion. Add a second coat after the first coat dries. Make sure the surface is covered completely. Allow to dry before remounting the tire to the rim.


Use a clean,damp cloth to remove the dust residue completely. Oil-based finish will last longer. If a drip develops, allow it to dry before sanding it off and re-coating the area.


Use a breathing mask to protect from dust when sanding and fumes when spraying.

Things You'll Need

  • Multi-grit sand paper
  • Plastic dust sheet
  • Rust remover
  • Bucket of soapy water
  • Clean, dry cloths
  • Spray can of rust inhibitor primer
  • Spray can of paint, either chrome or other desired finish
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About the Author

Billy Ray has been writing since 1994. He writes a popular featured column on the sports Web site Bleacher Report and has been licensed in loan origination and real estate. He is an EPA-certified Lead-based-paint renovator. Billy has taken courses in real estate, commercial lending and home renovation in addition to college courses in writing at Southern Oregon State University.