One of the cheapest ways to give your ride a new look is to give your wheels a new look. Custom paint wheels add major style. But, new gold wheels may be out of the budget right now. Don't worry. You can get almost any new finish look to your existing wheels yourself. If you can pay attention to detail and are even slightly handy, you can paint your rims. Think of it like a facelift for your wheels. Get a bold, fresh look for less than $50. Even less if you already have many of the materials on hand. Here's how to paint your rims.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials.
Here’s what you will need to paint car rims:
Wheel cleaner, soap or degreaser
Wire brush, grinder with a wire brush attached or wire brush attached to a drill
Various grits of sandpaper
Rubbing alcohol, mineral spirits or paint thinner
Plastic, newspaper or index cards to cover the tire
Metal spray paint
Step 2: Decide Where to Paint Rims.
Where can I paint my rims is asked just about as often as how to paint wheels. You can paint your wheels in any well-ventilated location that is protected from any breeze. The space should be as dust-free as possible. If it is a still day, you can paint your wheels outside on the grass or driveway provided the pollen count is low. You can check pollen counts at Pollen.com. No matter where you decide to paint your rims, protect the surrounding area from overspray. If it is a breezy day, you are better in a garage or workshop with an open door.
Step 3: Remove Rims from Vehicle.
Unless you want to learn how to remove spray paint from your vehicle, you want to start by taking all 4 wheels off the vehicle. Besides, you’ll get drips, runs and poor coverage if you try to paint your wheels while they are still mounted on the vehicle.
Step 4: Clean the Wheels.
Getting a great finish when you paint your wheels begins with the prep work. The prep work begins with cleaning the wheels. Here’s how to clean black rims, chrome rims or any rims you want to paint.
Start with a spray of soap or a soap/degreaser mix. Spray on all surfaces of the wheel. Be sure to pay attention to the areas between the spokes. Use rags to clean all grease, grime and dirt from the wheel. Rinse thoroughly with water. Use rags to wipe dry and remove any residue.
Step 5: Remove Paint Chips and Rust.
If you don't get a smooth surface before you prime, the finished surface won' be smooth. Now it's time to get serious about cleaning the wheels.
You can use a wire brush and elbow grease, a wire brush attached to a drill, or a wire brush attached to an angle grinder. No matter the method, remove all rust and chipping paint/finish. Be sure to remove all traces of rust and deposits.
After cleaning with the wire brush, sand the wheel first with 300 grit sandpaper and then 500 grit sandpaper.
After sanding, go over entire wheel with steel wool until you have a smooth finish.
Wash the wheel off, dry, and then wipe down with mineral spirits, alcohol or paint thinner. Inspect the wheel carefully. The surface should feel smooth. Any blemishes should be wire brushed, re-sanded and rubbed with steel wool until the entire surface is smooth. Professional paint shops know how to paint car wheels because they know how to clean car wheels. This cleaning process requires real attention to detail.
Only when your wheel is clean and dry, are you ready to prime.
Step 6: Protect from Overspray.
Before you are ready to prime, you need to protect your tire and valve stem from overspray. The easiest way to do this is with painter’s tape and newspaper or plastic or a stack of index cards.
If you use index cards, just insert them under the rim between the tire and rim. Make sure the cards overlap so no part of the wheel is exposed. This isn’t the best method, but it is the laziest. The best way to protect your tires from overspray is to use painters tape and newspaper or plastic. First, tape the edge of the tire with painters tape. Get the tape under the rim, between the wheel and the tire. Next. Use another round of painters tape to secure newspaper or plastic over the tire. Take a strip of painters tape and cover the valve stem. This keeps paint from clogging the stem.
Finally, place the wheel on a tarp, drop cloth or bed of newspapers. This will protect the area around and underneath the wheel from overspray.
Step 7: Prime.
Now all the preparation pays off. It’s time to lay down the first coat of primer. Primer prepares the surface for the best paint adhesion. You will want to apply 2 to 3 coats of self-etching primer. Self-etching primer provides a smooth finish for the paint and also prevents rust. Apply primer in a light coat and allow each coat to dry thoroughly before you apply the next coat.
Step 8: Paint.
Apply the paint by spraying back and forth at an even pace. Refer to the label to determine the proper distance to hold the can and the recommended number of coats to apply. Don’t hold the can too close to the wheel or the paint will run. Allow each coat of paint to dry thoroughly before applying the next coat.
Step 9: Apply Top Coat.
Apply 1 or 2 coats of clear coat as a top coat. As with the paint and primer, each coat should be applied lightly and allowed to dry before the next coat is applied.
Step 10: Remove Overspray Protection and Reinstall.
If possible, let wheels dry overnight. Remove the tape, newspaper, index cards and anything else used as overspray protection. Don’t forget to remove the tape from the valve stem.
Reinstall wheels. This is a great time to rotate your tires! Be prepared to take props from friends that admire your "new" wheels. They probably won’t believe you when you tell them how easy it was to paint your wheels.