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February 19, 2014

To Paint or not to Paint: RNR Answers the Question

Dear Bree,

I’ve had some nice rims on my car for a while now but I want a change, so I’m thinking about painting them a nice pink.  I bought some spray paint and told my brother my idea, but he just looked at me like I was clueless and walked away.  I’m not sure if this was about my color choice or my method, so I thought I’d ask you.  Is there more to painting rims than a can of spray paint?

Pretty in Pink


Dear Pretty,

Put the spray can down and step away, please.  Yes, there is more to painting your wheels than a shake, rattle and spray.  First, I would ask you to sit on this decision for at least a few days before you press the paint trigger and make sure that a.) this is what you want, and b.) you know what you’re doing.  Depending on what kind of wheels you have, there may be no going back.  You may be able to paint them a different color if the pink doesn’t excite you once you see it on the car, but if you’re starting out with shiny chrome, you can kiss that goodbye.  So, think about this for a bit before you make a final decision.

If you decide to go ahead with the paint job, fine, but make sure you know what you’re doing so you don’t ruin what may be a perfectly good set of rims (I have no idea what kind of shape yours are in now).  I consulted quite a few message boards online and found some great articles with some how-to tips for doing this, and I found some good info for you.

Most people seem to agree that having the wheels sandblasted to start is the best idea, but others stated that they used grinding wheels or sanding (both wet and dry), as well as prep cleaners.  The idea is to remove all of the dirt, grease, etc. from the tires and to scuff the wheels until they’re not reflective and shiny anymore—you want them to have a dull, flat appearance.  Also, think about the areas you want to paint and the areas you may not want to paint. Some people just paint an accent color, and that’s always an option.  Use tape (like painter’s tape) to tape off or mask any areas that you don’t want painted.

When you’ve covered what you want to cover, use a self-etching primer and good quality paint.  Lots of people recommend good old Rustoleum, but it seems like those who were the most pleased with the finished product (and its durability) were the ones who opted for paints that are made for wheels (Dupli-Color is just one example).  Also recommended is a clear coat once you’ve applied all the coats of color that you need.

The one method that was recommended over and over again: having your wheels powder-coated.  The only problem is that you’ll more than likely need someone else (a professional) to do this for you.

We’ve heard about varying degrees of durability, but it seems like the biggest factor in durability is the kind of paint you use.  If you want to do the job right, do some research; ask people that have done this before what they used, and get your ducks in a row before you start shaking the can.

The upside to painting your rims is a second life for them, saving some money for you, and a clean new look for your ride.  The downside to any DIY project is that it all could wrong and cost you a lot more in the end—consider letting a professional do this for you for the best results.  If you’re determined to go the DIY route, then my best advice to get the best look and the most life out of your new look: Study up and do it right; don’t cut corners.


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