Best Spray Paint for Rims and Wheels – Finding the Best Wheel Paint
If you are fortunate enough to have four wheels at your disposal, it’s likely that you have curbed your wheels at some point. This can be a traumatic experience whether you’re a car enthusiast or not, and having your wheels resurfaced can burn a hole in your pocket pretty quickly. Curbing your rims isn’t the only reason you might have to have them refinished, after all, stones and other debris can cause some serious damage to both your tire walls and the surface of the wheel if they’re thrown up at the wrong angle. Let’s have a look at how you can breathe some life back into your old rims and which products work best.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Refinish Your Wheels?
- 2 The Best Spray Paint for Rims and Wheels
- 3 Peelable Spray Paint: Is It Worth It?
- 4 What to Look Out for When Selecting a Spray Paint for Wheels
- 5 How to Spray Paint Your Wheels
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
Why Refinish Your Wheels?
There are many reasons why you might want to refinish your wheels. In most cases, they have simply seen some mileage and could use a new coat of paint to breathe some life back into them. This is not the only reason you might want to spray your rims though, sometimes inspiration strikes when we least expect it and we simply can’t wait to get our hands on that can of spray paint to bring our ideas to life.
Maybe you just saw a rim similar to yours at a car show and loved the color? Or maybe your friend just got a new set of wheels and it made you realize that you might have been neglecting your own wheels for a while.
Although most people see a car as a means to get from point A to point B, there are those who see it as an expression of self, more than just an econobox that gets good mileage, more than a box with four wheels that keeps you warm on those cold winter mornings on your way to work.
Cars are culturally significant, they are symbols of bygone eras and future aspirations, that’s why there are those who will go to great lengths to preserve and innovate their wheels, whether it be to match their new paint job or simply to repair some corrosion that’s seeped over the years.
This might seem like a little improvement, and it might even be something that goes unnoticed the first time you look at a car, but the impact it has on the overall aesthetic of any vehicle is undeniable, which further illustrates that there is always a good reason (to those looking for one) to refinish your wheels. Now, you might be thinking that this seems like the sort of thing that the teenager who’s just bought his first car would undertake, but this could not be further from the truth.
Before the advent of modern paints and the availability of high-quality spray equipment to the everyday consumer, this would be something you would need to call a professional for. Although this can still be done, it will cost you quite a bit of money, and if you aren’t looking for a diamond-cut finish on your wheels you can pull it off on your own with some elbow grease and determination.
Not only will this save you some money and teach you a new skill, but it will allow you to mix the exact color you want and spray it the exact way you want it. Would you like a matte color with a slight flip? You can do that. Perhaps you would prefer a sheen finish with a slight tint in the sunlight? You can do this too!
The possibilities are endless and all it takes is good preparation, patience, and some free time. We will not recommend attempting this process if you need your car for work the next day.
The Best Spray Paint for Rims and Wheels
There are many products out there that claim to be the best spray paint for rims and wheels, but are they? There are a few things you should consider when choosing a rim to paint for your vehicle, such as adhesion quality, which conditions that paint is graded for, color variety, and price. This being said, let’s have a look at some of the best spray paint for rims and wheels on the market today.
Best Overall: RUST-OLEUM Automotive High-Performance Wheel Spray Paint
Rust-Oleum’s wheel paint is one of those brands that have been around since the medium of paint was discovered. It’s been around for 100 years to be exact, and to say that they have changed to suit the needs of the time would be doing the Rust-Oleum team a disservice.
- Oil-based formula dries fast and provides exceptional durability
- Dent- and scratch-resistant wheel paint offers a long-lasting finish
- Provides a glossy, high-shine finish for a brand new look
Their automotive high-performance wheel paint in particular is extremely impressive, offering good quality adhesion, long-lasting protection, and a great finish all for a reasonable price. What sets this wheel paint apart is its oil-based formula that dries quickly and sets completely in ten minutes, which means you don’t have to wait hours between coatings.
Once the paint has dried you have the added advantage of the Rust-Oleum wheel paint product being both impact and scratch-resistant, this means that those loose stones on your local highway and the odd kid driving their bicycle a little too close to your newly coated rims won’t keep you up at night!
The icing on the cake with this particular rim paint is that it provides a high-quality sheen finish that gives the entire wheel a premium feel that lasts the duration of its lifetime. One downside that we’d have to mention is that Rust-Oleum only makes this paint in one color (gunmetal steel) which could be a bit disappointing if you were in the market for something a tad more exotic than a factory color.
On the other hand, this paint isn’t limited in its use, in fact, its versatility means that you could use it on virtually any automotive metallic surface, and it would work exactly the same, although if you intend on spraying your engine block, we recommend something a bit more robust like high heat enamel paints.
Most Versatile: PLASTIKOTE Black Truck Bed Liner
Most things today do one thing really well, and they come at quite the premium, however, there are other products on the market that offer a well-rounded approach to high-tolerance spray painting. The truck bed liner for PlastiKote is one of these products minus the ridiculous price tag that usually comes with paints of this quality.
Although it is marketed as a truck bed liner, this product can be used on any surface that might be exposed to constant surface impact and abrasions, and since the formula is essentially bulletproof this means that whichever surface you intend to coat will be well protected. This is not just sprayed paint for cars either, you could use this spray paint to create surfaces with good surface friction to improve grip on things like hand tools, railings, bathroom surfaces, and sports equipment.
One thing you should keep in mind if you like the sound of this product is that it does not provide a sheen finish, which means you won’t get the glint of the sun reflecting off your wheels as you admire it in the driveway. This being said, the matte finish has its own appeal with its sleek lines that both mute and accentuate the natural lines of your car’s wheels.
On the upside, you won’t have to concern yourself with keeping your car’s wheels quite as clean as you would have to with a shinier paint because it hides dirt, grime, and scratches quite well compared to most other paints, which is attributed primarily to its matte finish.
This is the most reasonably priced spray paint for cars we have come across and considering both its versatility and its ability to take some punishment, we feel that this is a good buy for those looking for a distinct yet refined look for their wheels.
Best Finish: DUPLI-COLOR Silver Wheel Coating
With arguably the best finish of any paint we have covered so far, the Dupli-Colour chrome paint for rims is part of a larger range of paint products from this manufacturer. All paints in this range feature a rich base color that stuns the eye from the moment it’s applied. Dupli-Colour has products that cover a wide range of applications, everything from home improvement, to motor vehicles, the marine vessels are covered under this amazing brand.
One might think that due to the Dupli-Colour team having their hands in so many industries that the quality of their products would inevitably decline, however, it seems that like a good wine, the longer the Dupli-Colour team has been in the industry and the more they expand their product range the better they have gotten.
This particular chrome paint for rims features a near-reflective finish that will leave even the most diehard car enthusiast in awe of the sheer quality. However, the beauty of this product is not just aesthetic, the metallic paint not only provides a high-quality finish but ensures that your wheels are protected from further abrasion and impact damage.
Whether you’re trying to refinish your damaged rims or spraying a new set, the Dupli-Colour team have you covered with a product that allows you to touch up or completely refinish your rims with minimal effort while still allowing you to rest assured that you will end up with a premium finish.
If you’re worried that such a high-quality paint will take forever to dry between coatings (leaving time for dreaded dust and other particles to set in) you shouldn’t be, this paint has a dry time of 30 minutes under the right conditions, which means you can apply as many coats as you see fit without having to wait hours on end for the previous coat to dry.
Furthermore, what makes this product great is that it works on most metallic surfaces, and while it might not have quite the same versatility as PlastiKote, it will allow you to apply a chrome finish to virtually anything you can get your hands on.
It is worth mentioning that although this does have the best finish out of all the paints we have looked at thus far, it is also the most expensive, which means you will have to decide fairly carefully about which paint works best for your particular application.
Peelable Spray Paint: Is It Worth It?
Now that you know about all of the paints that are in the running for the best spray paint for rims and wheels, perhaps you would be interested in an alternative method of refinishing your rims. One of the less common (although less expensive) ways of refinishing your car’s wheels is with peelable spray paint.
Peelable spray paint is known by a few different names, but people most commonly refer to this type of spray paint as “Plastidip” or rubberized spray paint.
This type of paint is a semi-permanent coating that is applied over the car’s existing wheel paint color without the need for them to be sanded down or sand-blasted. Once applied the substance forms a durable coating that is resistant to most reasonable forms of impact and abrasion, but also has the distinct advantage of being removable when the wheels need to be replaced or if another color is desired.
If this exists, then why would you want to use paint, you may ask? Well, quite simply put, rubberized paint is definitely cheaper because it is still fairly new, but it typically comes in matte colors only which does limit your choices.
Besides this (and sheen colors are becoming more readily available) it can be extremely tricky to apply especially if you have never done it before, and the worst part is that if applied incorrectly, over applied, or you manage to produce some splatter, it can ruin the entire workpiece. This being said, you should probably get in some practice before you go ahead and spray wheels you will have to look at every day.
Although the paint is removable, it can take a while to get it off and if you do the math you will have to multiply all your efforts by four, whether you’re putting it on or taking it off. Deciding to paint rims with rubberized paint does require some degree of competency as we mentioned previously.
If you have ever used the spray can before, the learning curve won’t be that steep, an hour or two spent developing your own technique will ensure that you put your best foot forward when it’s time to get down to the real thing.
Knowing all of this, the only question that remains is whether it is worth it or not. This does depend on what you want out of paint for your rims, if you intend to go off-roading or park your vehicle anywhere where mildly corrosive materials are constantly present, this would be a bad idea. Although rubberized paint is capable of taking a beating, you do not want to put this to the test. You should also avoid touching it with greasy hands or even with mild solvents.
This type of paint is fairly easy to spot repair but unless you are comfortable with the idea of constantly touching up your wheels, we don’t suggest you put your wheels through a gauntlet to test its “metal”.
If it does aid in your decision when peelable paint is applied in sufficient thickness (and well) it can last for up to four years with little to no maintenance needed in this time period, and once it has reached the end of its lifespan (or if you’re simply in the mood for a new color) you can literally tear it off and start from square one!
At the end of the day, it might not seem worth it to some individuals as most conventional paint jobs last a lot longer when they are looked after relatively well. On the other hand, rubberized paint is a lot cheaper and provides you with the luxury of changing your mind and indulging in your impulses whenever you have the means.
Ultimately, it comes down to a choice between two types of paint. Would you prefer a higher quality finish that lasts longer, but is harder to maintain, and is more expensive? Or would you prefer a finish that is removable, cheaper, does not last quite as long, and is available in limited colors? The choice is yours.
What to Look Out for When Selecting a Spray Paint for Wheels
What should you look out for when selecting a spray paint for rims? There are characteristics that you should look for in any paint when working with a given material. Rims, wheels, mags, whichever you prefer to call them, are primarily made of two materials.
Older cars typically have steel rims and newer models have alloy rims, therefore you should use a paint that is either specifically designed for use with car rims or you should use a paint compatible with these materials.
Unless you intend on painting your six-million-dollar sports car with carbon fiber wheels yourself, which is highly unlikely, you should use a paint graded for these metals which provides good adhesion before any other quality. Good adhesion not only means that you will need to apply fewer coats throughout the painting process, but it also means that it bonds to the metal well and will be resistant to impact and abrasion.
Once you have this down, you should have a look at the color variety available in that paints range.
Painting your wheels will leave you wanting a specific tone, texture, and presence in the color you select, so finding the right balance between adhesion quality and choice of colors in a brand is important, especially since you’ll have to live with your choice for a while. Finally, you want to look at what type of finish you will be getting once it is applied.
How? Well, there are tons of forums and YouTube channels out there that make a living off testing the latest and greatest DIY brands, and although it might be on a screen you should be able to get a pretty good idea of what the finish looks like on these platforms. Alternatively, if you are purchasing your paint from a store instead of online, they might have an application sample for you (sometimes companies will provide these for in-store display purposes).
At the end of the day, the best spray paint for your wheels will have all of these qualities and maybe even a few more, this ultimately depends on your budget and what you are looking to get out of your finished product.
How to Spray Paint Your Wheels
Okay, now we’re getting to the part we have all been waiting for. Before we get going it is worth noting that there are a few things you will be needing before we crack on together. Ensure that you have all of the tools you will need before you start because the last thing you want is to be running around looking for a rag with your wheel half sprayed. You will need the following materials.
- A cleaner for your wheels
- A wire brush
- Superfine sanding paper
- Steel wool
- Rubbing alcohol
- Sealing tape
- Clear plastic sheets
- A tarp for your floor
- A filtered mask
- Some gloves
Prepare Your Workspace
Half of the work when it comes to spraying your wheels is going to go into cleaning and preparation of your workspace. For this (especially because of the nature of the paint you will be working with) you need to work in an area that is well ventilated, but not so well ventilated that sand or dust could blow past and ruin your wheels.
If you are going to be painting your wheels on the ground, you should get a tarp or all the newspaper you can carry and place it down, so you don’t have random semi-circles on your floor once you’re done. If you are painting your wheels suspended on a chain or rack, you should still put down the newspaper but ensure it’s nowhere near any walls or other backings which could accidentally end up with some paint on them.
Once your workspace has been prepared ensure that you have all of your tools in one place. We recommend that you keep all of your tools on the side of your dominant hand, so they are easier to pick up while allowing your other hand to be free to manipulate the angle of the wheel if need be. Lastly, ensure that you have a mask graded for work with these types of paint and that your gloves adequately protect your hands.
Remove Your Rims
In order to paint your rims, you will need to remove them from the car. It’s safe to say that to complete this DIY task you will need some rudimentary automotive knowledge, and if you haven’t done this before we highly recommend that you seek assistance instead of trying it on your own after watching a YouTube tutorial.
Always put your safety first! Make sure that you remove all four wheels and that your car is securely on a lift or jacks depending on what you have available before you remove them.
Once your wheels have been removed, ensure that you place them with the inner facing towards the ground (this does not matter if you will be suspending your wheels). Space your wheels out well and ensure that you have enough space between them, so you don’t end up tripping yourself up.
Clean Your Wheels
If you have a power washer for this step you will end up using a lot less elbow grease. Whether you have one or not, you will need to get your hands dirty with some degreaser on those wheels before you get going. Spray the degreaser to the surface of the wheel as well as the inner parts and allow the degreaser to do its thing for the manufacturer’s recommended time period.
Once the degreaser has completed its work, you should be able to see the grease has been lifted in a sort of foam which you should be able to wipe off fairly easily with a cloth. Once the degreaser has been removed, apply some soap to a rag and get in there removing any stubborn stains that might have been left behind (or simply were not grease).
If you have a power washer you should give each wheel a good once over, if not then you need to get in there again with a sponge and ensure there are no stray particles lingering in the recesses of the wheel before you move on to the next step.
Remove Imperfections in Your Wheels
Now for the most labor-intensive part of the process. In order to paint any surface, you need it to be flush, and if your rims have been on the car for a while the chances are that it has picked up some chips or at the very least some oxidization. At this point, you should use your wire brush to remove any chips or dust that might be present on the wheel’s surface.
This can take a long time considering that there are four wheels, therefore if you have a wire brush attachment for a hand drill you can use, it will save you some energy.
Once the rest spots have been removed, you should get out the fine-grit sandpaper we mentioned previously. While the wire brush has removed any rust spots present, the purpose of the sandpaper is to target those spots and ensure that they are flush with the rest of the wheel’s surface. This can take a while as the angle at which some of these spots are located can be tricky, however, if you have patience it will pay off once your paint is applied as you won’t have to compensate for any inconsistencies in the wheel’s surface.
Once you’ve gotten the spots on all four wheels it’s time for you to get out the steel wool, we mentioned previously. While the sandpaper did make those spots level, it might have scratched up the surface a bit too much, therefore making use of the steel wool will ensure that your surface is nice and smooth before you move on to the next step.
Ensure that you take your time with this step as rushing it will result in varying textures once the paint has been applied.
Prepare and Cover Your Wheels
Even though these wheels are made of metal alloy you should keep in mind that you won’t just be using a typical metal primer as you would on similar materials. This is where the running alcohol/spirits come in, professional paint shops know that when pondering the question “how to paint wheels” the answer lies in the preparation.
Before you apply your alcohol to the surface of your wheels, give them a nice wash down with some water, allow them to dry adequately, and inspect them again. Once you are sure that all of the imperfections on the wheel’s surface have been removed you should apply your spirits with a cloth or sponge.
Ensure that you are wearing both your mask and your gloves for this part of the process as exposure to these chemicals can leave you lightheaded and cause mild discomfort. Once you have applied your spirits to the alloy you should cover up your tire walls with some plastic and painter’s tape.
When doing so ensure that you do not cover the flange that overlaps the tire wall, instead place the plastic underneath this flange and tape past this point to ensure that the entire edge of the rim is exposed but no tire wall. Do this on all four wheels before proceeding to the next step.
Prime and Paint Your Wheels
Priming your surface is the last step in preparation before you begin applying your paint. When you’re working with wheels it is best to apply multiple coats of primer to ensure good adhesion and the smoothest finish possible when you apply your paint.
Apply your primer at a medium distance and ensure that you get every nook of the wheel, especially if the design of your wheel is intricate. You should aim to apply roughly two to three coats of primer and allow each to dry for the manufacturer’s recommended time period.
Once the primer has dried, inspect the wheel and ensure that you don’t have any stray particles stuck to the surface before moving on to the next step in the process.
Grab your spray paint of choice and prepare it as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Get the recommended distance and start spraying off the wheel and make your first even uninterrupted pass over the wheel.
Distance and consistency in each pass are of utmost importance as a lack of either will cause the paint to run, which will simply create more work for you down the line. Ensure that you reach the inner recesses of the wheel including ones that you would only see from the side, inspecting each wheel thoroughly after each coating.
Allow the paint to dry for the manufacturer’s recommended time period before applying each coat and once the wheels have dried completely remove the painter’s tape and plastic protection before re-installing your wheels. This guide on how to paint wheels will ensure the best results while minimizing variables and saving you tons of elbow grease.
Now that you know what to look for in the best wheel paint, how to inspect your wheels for damaged, why you might want to refinish your wheels, what the best way to go about it is, and what some of the best wheel paint on the market looks like, it’s time for you to go out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to wear the appropriate personal protective gear, always work in a well-ventilated environment, and always ensure that your vehicle is secure while elevated with the wheels off.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Spray Paint Your Wheels?
Reasonably speaking, yes. If you are patient and pay special attention to the preparation phase you should be able to do so with relative ease. You will need paint that is graded for use on car wheels and the necessary equipment to ensure that you prepare the surfaces adequately.
Does Spray Painting Rims Last Long?
Spray painting your wheels can last for years if done correctly. The trick is choosing a good quality spray paint to use on the wheels and ensuring that you prepare each wheel adequately. Doing this and ensuring that you are confident in your technique will ensure that you have the best quality finish that lasts.
Should I Paint My Rims or Buy New Ones?
This does depend on what your end goal is. Buying new rims is never a bad idea, particularly if your old ones have seen some serious mileage and cannot be salvaged. Although, it is worth mentioning that if your rims are salvageable and have some life left in them, refinishing them can be the less expensive (although slightly more labor-intensive) option.