DIY Alloy Wheels Refurbishment

Updated July 19, 2017

The wheels on your car or truck are one of the most noticeable aspects of it. While brand new wheels look great, the finish on alloy wheels often takes a beating over time from being banged against curbs and driven in the rain, snow and mud. Refinishing a set of alloy wheels, while relatively time-consuming, is a gratifying project to perform on a vehicle and can easily be done in a weekend.

Things You'll Need

In order to refinish your alloy wheels, you will need a few things. If the wheels are on the car, you will need a jack and some jack stands to support the vehicle while you are refinishing the wheels. You will also need a variety of sandpaper, from 120- to 400-grit, and paint stripper. To repaint them, you will need white spirit to prep the wheels for paint, primer, spray paint in the colour of your choice and a clear-coat spray paint if you decide to clear-coat the wheels. In order to protect yourself, you should also have rubber gloves and a respirator to wear to avoid breathing in the fumes from the paint.

Stripping The Old Finish

Once you have assembled the tools for the job, start by removing the wheels from the vehicle if they are currently in use. Raise the vehicle with a jack and place it securely on jack stands. If possible, it is also advisable to have the tires removed by a tire shop. This is not necessary, but if the tires are removed, you will not need to tape off the tires and you will get a better overall result. Wash the front and back of the wheels with mild soap and water. Spray on the paint stripper, or if it's in jelly form, brush it on in one direction with a paint brush. Strip the wheels wherever there is a clear coat or paint that you want removed. When the paint and clear coat start to bubble, wipe off the paint (make sure to wear rubber gloves). Use steel wool to remove difficult areas. This process may take several hours per wheel, but the better the stripping job is, the better the wheels will look. Once the old clear coat and paint are removed, rinse the wheels with a hose and thoroughly dry them.

Painting the Wheels

Now you are ready to paint the wheels. If you did not remove the tires, tape them off with masking tape and newspaper to avoid painting them. If there are any scratches or gouges, fill them with Bondo. Mix the Bondo according to the directions on the package and fill in the holes with a smooth plastic spreader. Sand the Bondo with 120- and then 220-grit sandpaper until the surface looks and feels smooth. Wipe the wheels very thoroughly with white spirit. This is a crucial aspect of painting the wheels, so take your time and make sure the wheels are entirely clean of oils and residue. This will ensure the best paint adhesion. Spray on a light coat of primer and let it dry for a minute or so. Apply three to four heavy coats, sanding between coats with 220-grit sandpaper. Let the primer dry for at least a couple of hours and repeat the process with the colour spray paint. When you have sprayed on the colour, sand the wheels with 220-grit and then 400-grit sandpaper. If you have decided to clear-coat the wheels, spray on three or four coats of clear.

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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.