How to paint alloy wheels

Updated July 19, 2017

Alloy wheels not only improve the appearance of your car but they can also contribute to its value. Over time, wheels can begin to look faded, scratched and scruffy due to their vulnerable location near the road. A set of wheels can be painted in a weekend with the right tools, and this can result in a far better looking vehicle.

Remove the wheels from the vehicle if they are still installed. Loosen the wheel nuts, lift the vehicle with a floor jack and support it with jack stands while you remove the wheel. Have the tyres removed by a specialist. Though this is not absolutely necessary, the paint job will look better if you remove the tyres.

Apply paint stripper to the wheels to remove the old paint. Let the stripper soak in until the paint begins to bubble and then wipe off the paint with a rag. Use 120-grit sand paper to remove stubborn spots. Wear rubber gloves and a respirator while stripping the wheels.

Fix any gouges or scratches in the wheels by filling them with liquid metal. Sand the filler in after it has dried so it is level with the undamaged areas of the wheel.

Sand the entire wheel with 120-grit and then with 220-grit sandpaper. Clean the wheel with white spirit until the surface to be painted is entirely free of grease and residue. If you left the tyres on the wheels, mask off the tyres with masking tape and paper so you don't get paint on them.

Spray on a light coat of primer and let it dry for a minute. Spray on a solid coat and let the primer dry for about 10 minutes. Hold the can 14 to 18 cm from the wheel and spray in a smooth back and forth motion. Apply more coats until the entire wheels is covered solidly with primer. Allow the primer to dry for several hours.

Wet-sand the wheels with 400-grit and then 600-grit sandpaper. Sand in one direction. This should give a smooth surface to spray the colour onto. Wipe the wheel down with white spirit and a clean, dry, lint-free rag.

Spray a light coating of the colour of your choice on the wheels. Let the paint dry for a minute or so and then spray on a solid coat. Let the paint dry for an hour and apply another coat. Spray on three or four heavy coats. Let the paint dry for several hours.

Wet-sand the paint with 600-grit and then 800-grit wet sandpaper. Wipe the wheels down with white spirit. If you want to the give the wheels a more shiny appearance, spray on a clear coat in the same way that the colour coat was applied.

Let the paint dry overnight. Reinstall the tyres if they were removed. Reinstall the wheels onto the vehicle and lower it to the ground.

Things You'll Need

  • Floor jack (if removing the wheels from the vehicle)
  • Jack stands
  • Paint stripper
  • Rubber gloves
  • Respirator
  • 120-grit, 220-grit, 400-grit, 600-grit, 800-grit wet sandpaper
  • Masking tape
  • White spirit
  • Lint-free rags
  • Spray primer
  • Spray paint
  • Clear coat (if using a clear coat)
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About the Author

William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.