In this day and age, auto manufacturers mass produce tons and tons of cars. When you go to buy a car from a dealership (or private party for that matter), the reality is that there are only so many options to choose from. While options may differ to some degree, it is highly likely that people are buying cars that look very similar to yours on the exterior. In other words, the car you buy is hardly unique.
For this reason, many people like to add some degree of individualization by adding various personal cosmetic touches. Some people will make simple changes such as install different wheels or add window tint. Others who are more dedicated will sometimes go so far as to alter the shape of the body by adding side skirts, air dams, splitters, or wings. Making changes of this nature can quickly add up from a cost perspective.
When it comes to making inexpensive changes, one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do is to paint your wheels. For one thing, you can do it yourself so you don’t have to pay a shop to do a bunch of work (you may choose to remove your tires to avoid overspray but it can be done with your tires in place as well if you are diligent about masking). The cost of materials is very minimal as well, with just a few tools and a few cans of the appropriately colored wheel paint. We should also note that a little wheel paint also goes a long way when restoring a vehicle by breathing some new life into old, rusted, scuffed, or chipped rims.
Painting Your Wheels
While we don’t intend to write a full wheel painting tutorial, we do want to take a moment to detail exactly what level of effort is required to paint your wheels so that you have some background before you start this project. First and foremost, to get the best wheel paint job possible, you need to prep really well. In fact, the success of the job as a whole depends on your prep work first and foremost.
First, you don’t want to paint your wheels while they are on your car or you risk overspray issues and you risk damaging your car’s paint. So, you should expect to jack your car up, place it on jack stands, and remove the wheels. Next, you’ll want to clean and degrease completely followed by removing the existing clear coat which can be accomplished via wet sanding. Once completely sanded and completely dried (you must make sure there is no water anywhere or you could compromise your paint job), you’ll want to mask off (or remove) the tires and the valve stems. Index cards and painters tape are two great tools to help mask everything thoroughly.
Once masked off, you’ll want to apply a few light coats of primer and let them dry in between each coat. After your primer has dried, you can then apply a few coats of color. After that, depending on which paint you chose and depending on your preferences, you can decide whether or not to apply a clear coat on top of your color coat. We usually recommend a can or two of primer to cover all four wheels depending on size, and 3-4 cans of color to cover all four wheels depending on size. Once everything dries completely, you can reinstall your wheels and use a torque wrench to torque your lug nuts to spec! Just make sure to take your time, be patient, and keep each coat relatively thin and everything will come out great!
The Best Wheel Paint
When it comes to choosing the best wheel paint brand, there are tons of options. While there are often specific paint formulations designed to coat wheels, they often are only available in a limited selection of standard colors which tend to be more conservative such as gray, black, gold, silver, white, and clear. With these paints, you can typically control whether your finish is matte or gloss based on which clear coat you choose.
If you are going to paint your wheels one of the above mentioned colors, we recommend using the VHT Wheel Paint. This paint is heat resistant (remember your wheels get hot during braking) up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and will easily resist chipping, cracking, salt, and brake dust. It takes roughly 30 minutes to dry to the touch and will fully dry and cure overnight. You can apply this paint over both steel wheels and aluminum wheels. When using this wheel paint, VHT recommends that you use their SP148 Engine Primer for optimal results.
The one drawback of the VHT Wheel Paint and other paints that are specific to wheels are the oft limited color choices. If you are interested in branching outside of the more conventional color selections available for wheel paints, we recommend using VHT Engine Enamel. Whether you want green, blue, red, orange, yellow or otherwise, VHT’s Engine Enamel has you covered. Don’t be fooled by the name, it truly is some of the best paint for rims around and the fact that it’s called Engine Enamel doesn’t mean that it isn’t also ideal for wheels (trust us!).
This particular paint is good up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well in excess of the VHT Wheel Paint. It is a blend of ceramic and urethane resin which make the paint both pliable when the wheel deflects and chip resistant when a rock gets kicked up by the car in front of you on the freeway. To use VHT’s Engine Enamel, you’ll want to prime with the same SP148 Engine Primer that you’d use for VHT’s Wheel Paint. VHT suggest curing this coating by baking, but plenty of people have gotten adequate results without this process. Curing may give you a slightly harder and more chip resistant finish.
So we hope this guide has given you an idea of what kind of commitment you are looking at for a wheel painting job as well as what the best wheel paints presently available are. That said, there are always other brands and other options out there so if you are curious feel free to click here to see what other offerings are available. If there’s one last thought we can leave you with, it’s that patience is key when painting wheels so take your time and it’ll come out great!