Nine Steps to Painting Your Wheels at Home

By Tom Suddard
May 6, 2021 | DIY, wheels, tech, Painting | Posted in Shop Work , Tires & Wheels | From the Dec. 2015 issue | Never miss an article

Tired of the silver wheels that every car seems to come with these days?  No problem: You can change their color in just nine steps and a few hours.

Step 1: Pick a Method

The common choices are spray paint, rubberized paint like Plasti Dip or Eastwood’s ElastiWrap, or powder coating. This guide will work for spray paint or rubberized paint.

Step 2: Remove Your Wheels

True, they could stay on the car, but you’ll have an easier time and better results if you take them off. Don’t have a spare set to roll around on? Set your car on jack stands, or paint one wheel at a time and leave the spare tire in its place.

Step 3: Clean Your Workspace

Dust and dirt don’t belong near painting projects, so blow off your workbench and mop your floor.

Step 4: Clean Your Wheels

Clean them well. Really, really well. We used Simple Green and a few scrub brushes, but if you’re going to be painting your wheels instead of using ElastiWrap, we’d suggest using a Scotch-Brite pad instead to rough up the old finish.

Step 5: Clean Your Wheels Again

Seriously, it will take two or more passes with degreaser to remove all of the crud and brake dust, and this is the most important step. Make sure you clean the backsides and the crevices, too, as dust left there will ruin the finish.

Step 6: Dry Your Wheels and Tires

We recommend an air blower. Don’t have one? Use a leaf blower, but try to clean the dirt and grass clippings out of it first.

Step 7: Mask Your Wheels

This is easier than it looks: Just use 2-inch-long pieces of tape, and make sure to slip them up under the lip of the wheel. An old credit card can help with this process. Once you’ve outlined the wheel, tape a plastic bag or some newspaper around the outside of the tire.

Step 8: Clean Your Wheels One More Time

This time, though, use a wax and grease remover. Using rubberized paint? We’d suggest using Eastwood’s Surface Prep & Cleaner, which makes ElastiWrap easier to remove if you get tired of it.

Step 9: Paint Your Wheels

Like most painting projects, this step takes the least amount of time. Make sure you use smooth, fluid motions, and try to start and stop the stream of paint before and after the can is over the wheel. We used six thin coats of Eastwood ElastiWrap to paint our wheels.

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View comments on the GRM forums
ebonyandivory PowerDork
3/17/20 4:21 p.m.

I love this project. My son and I used a deck of playing cards instead of tape to mask off the sidewalls. To quote Edd China: "It worked a treat!".


slowbird Dork
3/17/20 4:29 p.m.

I want to paint a couple of the wheels I just bought (to match the other two) but they're practically new so I'm just gonna mask and spray like a rebel without a cause.

3/17/20 7:27 p.m.

If you use rubberized paint, take the time to peel it from lug mounting surfaces.  It will compress and change lug nut torque. 

Appleseed MegaDork
3/17/20 9:10 p.m.

This is extremely timely.  There's some Motegis that I picked up from Jeff Schwartz  (yes, that Jeff Schwartz) that are black. Black on a black car? No bueno. Gold or bronze is the question.

AAZCD HalfDork
3/17/20 11:09 p.m.

Last week I painted some wheels and didn't mask the tires because I plan to replace them before they go back on the car. I used a sharp scribe around the bead to make sure that the paint on the tires separated from the wheels. For paint I used 'Rustoleum Hammered' paint to save myself from getting all the little curb rash spots sanded down and refilled. Durable and I like the slightly textured finish.

wearymicrobe UberDork
3/17/20 11:13 p.m.

Paint never holds up for me no matter how good the application is. Powdercoating all the way.

_ Dork
3/18/20 11:36 a.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Nine?!?! Awe man.... I'm too lazy for nine. Have anything in 3 steps or less? Lol. 

Jerry PowerDork
5/6/21 12:50 p.m.

In reply to _ :

Wash the wheels, mask with playing cards or index cards (I also masking taped the valve stems), and Plastidip.  I've done it to 3 sets of wheels so far and turned out just fine.

Vajingo HalfDork
5/6/21 1:14 p.m.

I used the new thang on the market- Super wrap. 

Sprays like paint. Come off easy. Nice and shiny and not crap like plastidip. Looks like real paint. 

BA5 GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/7/21 10:35 a.m.

I have a set of (new) wheels that I want to paint.  

I was wondering if anyone thought it was necessary to hit them with sandpaper or a wire wheel to create a better surface for the paint to bond to?

Or is just cleaning and priming them good enough?

Vajingo HalfDork
5/7/21 1:00 p.m.

In reply to BA5 :

Use a scotch bright pad. These are brand new wheels though? I would rock the factory sheen as long as I could. 

BA5 GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/7/21 1:11 p.m.

They're not very high end wheels and they're mostly black.  I hate the black.  Looks goofy as all get out on the car:

I've done this several times now.  I get the tires removed.  I used foam sanding blocks, and then scotch brite pads (or steel wool) to get a nice dull smoothed and scuffed surface.  Then I use denatured alcohol or mineral spirits and lint free cloth to clean the dust off.  Then I spray a coat of primer.  After that 2-3 thin coats of color.

BA5 GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/10/21 10:03 a.m.

oooo those look like they turned out nice.

And the gold color is exactly what color I'm going to do.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
5/10/21 10:26 a.m.

Sometimes the right wheel color, even on the OE wheel, makes quite the difference.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/10/21 10:54 a.m.

What about wheels that have already been painted? Is there a way to strip an aluminum wheel that won't damage the metal?

BA5 said:

oooo those look like they turned out nice.

And the gold color is exactly what color I'm going to do.

Duplicolor gold wheel paint.  It's cheaper at your local advance, O Reilly than it is on Amazon FYI. 



Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

What about wheels that have already been painted? Is there a way to strip an aluminum wheel that won't damage the metal?

My advice, do not strip them to bare metal.  Scuff the current finish so your primer and paint will adhere using sanding blocks, scotch brite pads and steel wool.  It works well and lasts years. 

If you do decide to have them media blasted, I would go several coats of primer, several coats of paint and then do clear on top. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/10/21 6:00 p.m.

Basic scotchbrite, prime, and paint with duplicolor wheel paint....seems to hold up well to rally. YMMV.

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