If you have curb rash all over your wheels and want them to look new, or if you just want to give your wheels a new look with a new color – then spray painting is the way to go! Some people prefer Plasti Dip, but spray paint is a more permanent solution.
You can leave your wheels on the car, or take them off to avoid overspray and get the inner parts of the wheel.
A common method for protecting the tires is to use a deck of cards and place each one around the rim. You can also just use tape and plastic to cover everything up. These methods will work whether the wheels are still on the vehicle or not.
Sand the wheels down, using 200-400 grit sandpaper. 320 grit is ideal for most situations. Pay close attention to the spots with curb rash and sand down until it’s smooth again. You can usually do all the sanding by hand, however a very damaged rim might need body filler and machine sanding to get everything looking good again.
In most cases, curb rash can be smoothed out by using 320 grit sandpaper.
After scuffing up the entire rim with sandpaper, clean off the surface with alcohol and/or use compressed air to blow off any debris before painting.
The Paint You Choose is Important!!
For this method, we recommend using Dupli-Color General Purpose Acrylic Enamel spray paint. It comes in flat black, gloss black, red, blue, etc. Most colors are available on Amazon and you will only need 2-3 cans depending on if you’re painting the inner side of your wheels. This particular spray paint dries quickly, and is relatively tough, so it will look good for a long time if you take care of your wheels and keep a sealant on them.
A second option would be to use Rustoleum 2X spray paint, which comes in various colors, as well as a clear coat.
Apply the Paint
Now is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Paint!!
For the first two coats, apply a very thin layer of paint, and simply mist it on as evenly as possible, staying about 8-12 inches away from the wheel. Wait 5-10 minutes between coats, and after the first two light coats, you can spray it on thicker to get full coverage on the entire wheel. Do this until you reach a total of 4-5 coats.
If you want to, you can then wait 10-15 minutes and apply 1-2 coats of clear. Don’t mix and match clear brands! If you use Rustoleum 2X Black, then use Rustoleum’s 2X Clear, as they will bond together well.
After Painting Your Wheels
After painting, let the wheels dry for a day and then try to keep the wheels from getting dirty or washed/rained on for a week to ensure the paint cures 100%.
The end result will be new (or newer) looking wheels! You can use this method to restore the original paint color by using matching spray paint, or to completely change the color of your wheels.
In the example above, the wheels still had some curb rash that the camera picked up from the lighting (look at the top of the wheel) – but in person, all you see is the fresh new paint and the curb rash is not obvious at all. So it really is a matter of personal preference and expectations, as not everyone cares to have their wheels look 100% new, they just want a very obvious improvement.
If body filler would have been used, then the example wheel would look 100% new in all lighting conditions. However, for most people, they just want their car to look good from 10+ feet away, as most people won’t see your car any closer, and definitely aren’t going to study it for defects even if they are close.
Spray painting your wheels is a fun project, and it’s not so difficult that you must be experienced to give it a try. If you’re a young car enthusiast who wants to improve the look of your car’s aged wheels, then try to make them look newer and better with spray paint before spending a small fortune on new wheels.
We’ve recently published an article on how to protect your newly spray painted wheels. It goes over the best way to wash spray painted wheels, and also the best coatings to use.