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How to Refinish Wheels

by Aram Khayatpour

For many car enthusiasts, wheels are an extremely important part of their car's overall appearance; but due to their position close to the ground and their heavy use while driving, wheels can become easily damaged. Buying new wheels can be incredibly expensive, but refinishing them is a much cheaper process and only takes one afternoon of work.

Remove your wheels and take them to a tire shop to be separated from the tires. It is possible to refinish your wheels with them still on your car, but it will be much easier and your results will be much better if you remove them.

Use paint thinner to remove any paint or adhesives from the wheel. This can be done by wiping it down with a clean rag with paint thinner on it.

Clean the wheel using a household cleaner and a clean cloth. Take time to clean the wheel thoroughly; any grease or dirt will completely ruin the project.

Fill in any large scratches with spot putty.

Sand the areas where you applied putty until they are flush with the rest of the wheel. They should look smooth and feel smooth to the touch. Use a rougher sandpaper at first (240 grit should work well) and then finish it with a finer paper (around 400 grit).

Spray one or two coats of primer onto the wheel. Make sure to get all areas of the wheel, including the sides of the spokes. Do not spray the outside areas of the wheel (the parts that will be covered by the tire).

Spray on a coat of filler primer. This will help ensure your wheel has a very smooth look once it is painted.

Sand the wheel with a fine grade sandpaper once the filler primer has dried. Use a grit of 320 or higher.

Wipe the wheel down with a prep-wipe towelette, making sure to get around the curves of the spokes.

Spray on the first coat of paint, making sure to get every inch of the wheel, and wait for it to dry. Spray perpendicular to the surface as much as possible; this will give the wheel a smoother look. To do this, you will have to turn and move the wheel quite a bit.

Repeat step 10 two or three times. Three or four coats of paint will give the wheel a much better look overall when finished.

Spray on a layer of clear coat, using the same method that you used in step 10 to spray on the paint.

Repeat step 12 in order to give your wheel a shiny, wet look.


  • Use a tack cloth before and between each coat of paint to keep dust off of your wheel. When using spot putty, work in the sun on a warm day; this will help the putty dry quickly and properly. Use sanding blocks instead of sanding paper; this will give a more even, smooth surface.


  • Use caution when using paint thinner; any contact with the skin will cause pain and irritation. When using spray paint, work in a well ventilated area, wear a mask and use safety goggles.

Items you will need

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

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  • by Calians.sevan