We know what you’re thinking: there’s no way that learning how to paint rims is easy. But trust us, with these steps, the process is actually quite straightforward! Whether your old wheels desperately need a touch-up or you simply want to add some personal style to your vehicle, painting your rims is a relatively quick, easy, and cost-effective process. As long as you equip yourself with the correct supplies and follow the 10 easy steps below, your car can have a whole new look within a day.
How To Paint Rims in 10 Easy Steps
Getting a professional rim paint job can cost hundreds of dollars. With a little elbow grease, doing it yourself shouldn’t set you back more than around $100. This article will teach you how to paint rims with the best products and easiest methods. With these 10 steps, you can give your rims a complete makeover. And be sure to check out our guide on the best tire cleaning products to keep your tires looking immaculate.
For painting wheels, we recommend doing all four rims in a day. Also, we’ve outlined the steps for how to paint rims using spray paint. If you have access to a paint spray gun, you can use a spray gun with automotive paint using these same steps. During this process, be sure to work in a well-ventilated area with proper protective gear. And make sure there are no children, animals, or other adults in the area while you are working.
Steps For How To Paint Rims
Step 1: Acquire Necessary Supplies
Before you do anything, you need to make sure you have all the supplies on hand. It’s best to get everything in advance so that on the day of your project, you can just focus on, well, the project!
The supplies you need include:
- Rim cleaner
- Sandpaper OR wire brush
- Newspaper or index cards
- Self-etching primer
- Metal spray paint
- Protective goggles
- Rubber gloves
- Rubbing alcohol (OPTIONAL)
- Pressure washer (OPTIONAL)
- Painter’s tape (OPTIONAL)
- Clear coat (OPTIONAL)
Step 2: Set Up A Designated Space For The Project
If possible, set your station up in a clean, open garage. If you don’t have access to a garage, and the weather is nice, you can work in your front yard or backyard. The key is having plenty of ventilation and as little dust and dirt as possible. In short, you need to be able to keep the rims clean while painting them, and you need good ventilation for safety while working with the spray paint.
Wherever you set up your workspace, put down a drop cloth or something of that sort to avoid getting unwanted spray paint on any surrounding areas. Also, plan for the weather. If it going to be extremely windy or rainy, it will best to delay the project to another day.
Step 3: Remove Wheels From Car
To paint your rims, you’ll need to remove your wheels from your car. To remove your tires, always use jack stands in addition to a floor jack for safety. If you don’t already own jack stands, investing in a set gives you the capability to safely working on your car in the comfort of your own driveway or garage. And, if you plan to take all four tires off at once, make sure you have four jack stands to properly secure your chassis.
Refer to your car’s owner’s manual on how to properly remove the tires. Generally, you’ll loosen and remove the lug nuts and then remove the wheel from the wheelbase. Move the wheel to the workspace you have set up.
Step 4: Clean & Sandpaper Rims
Now, it’s time to prep the rims for painting. While you may be tempted to skip straight to painting, this step is vital both for removing any imperfections like rust, corrosion, or scratches from the rim and for ensuring that the paint has a clean, smooth surface to adhere to. Take your time on this step as properly prepping the rims will lead to a professional-looking end result.
First, wash the rims with soap and sudsy water. You can use a tire cleaner or car wash soap. After washing the rim, if you want to go the extra mile, you can use a wax and grease remover. This optional step will depend on how dirty the rims and tires are to begin with.
Next, use sandpaper to remove any imperfections or stuck-on grime. The sandpaper grit size you use will depend, again, on the condition of the rim. We recommend getting a multipack with grit sizes so you can work from a coarse to a finer grit. Select the grit size based on the corrosion or rust conditions. Depending on the levels, switch the grit size. Consider using wet sandpaper, as it carries grit away easier and allows for a smooth finish.
You can also use a wire brush or Dremel with a sanding bit, but we recommend using sandpaper for better control over the finished product.
Step 5: Rinse Wheels Thoroughly With Water
After you finish sanding all four rims, wash the rims thoroughly. You will want to make sure there is no dust or residue left behind. If you have a pressure washer, use it to fully rinse the grit and soap residue off the wheel. If not, just use a hose or a scrubber. Make sure you get all of the grit particles off of the rim. After all, no one wants a bumpy paint job. Just like an artist starts with a clean canvas, you will want an extremely clean set of rims before you start painting.
Step 6: Dry Wheels Entirely
This step speaks for itself — dry your rims until there is not a single drop of water left behind. You can use a towel, then wait a handful of minutes to make certain the rim is completely dry. If possible, use compressed air to dry all the cracks and crevices on the rims.
Step 7: Place Notecards Between Rim And Rubber
Using notecards to surround the rim is the best way to avoid getting paint on the tire. Stick the notecards between the rim and the rubber. This helps prevent overspray from getting on the rubber. You may want to have rubbing alcohol and a rag nearby in case paint does accidentally get somewhere it does not belong.
Step 8: Use Spray Paint Primer
For the next two steps, it is very important to wear protective gear. At a minimum, you should wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Gloves, a hat, close-toed shoes, a long sleeve shirt, and pants are a good idea to wear to protect yourself from the toxicity of the spray paint.
For the priming process, you’ll want to look for a self-etching primer. This protects metal from rusting, which is extremely important for rims. After priming the rim, if you notice any trapped dirt or other bumps use sandpaper to get rid of these imperfections. After that, prime again.
Overall, you’ll want to spray two to three even coats of primer. The type of primer you use will depend on the paint you have chosen. For example, if you plan to paint your rims black, you can use a flat black primer.
Spray the primer as evenly as possible, covering all surfaces of the rim. Generally, wait around five minutes between each coat. After the final coat, wait 15 to 30 minutes before moving to the next step.
Step 9: Apply Main Coat
For this step, make sure you spray each coat evenly. You will most likely need up to three coats, so if you feel that you sprayed unevenly, don’t fret. For best results, spray from the same distance — around 12-15 inches away from the surface of the rim. After three coats, the paint job should be smooth and even. And, the color should be what you want. Just like the primer, spray evenly across the rim, moving from the top to the bottom.
What main coat you use largely depends on personal preference and what aesthetic look you are going for on your car. For instance, there are numerous color options as well as finish options, including matte, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Just be sure to get a high-quality spray paint designed for use on automotive wheels.
After finishing the main coat, you can add a final clear coat. While this step is not necessary, it will help further protect your rims from chipping or corroding over the years. And, it will give the rims an added shine.
Step 10: Once Dry, Put Rims Back On The Car
Before putting your tires back on the car, be certain that they are completely dry. To be safe, wait at least a few hours or up to a day. Your car should still be lifted and secure with jack stands, so simply put your tires back on, and your car will look brand new.
Now Your Old Rims Look Brand New!
The wonderful thing about painting rims is that it gives your car a whole new look with minimal effort and cost. And, learning how to paint rims is not complicated. Get some good spray paint, clean your rims, add a few layers of paint, and you will be riding in style in no time. And if painting your rims get you on a car renovation kick, check out our guides for how to get paint off a car, how to remove window tint, and how to touch up car paint for some other ideas on how to refresh your ride.