How to Restore Clear Coated Aluminum Wheels

how to restore clear coated aluminum wheels

If you’ve had a great paint job on clear coated aluminum wheels, you’re probably sad to see them in rough shape.

The good news is they aren’t hard to restore, and you can do it at home on your own. Use these directions to learn how to restore clear coated aluminum wheels so you can be proud to take your vehicle out again. Take a look.

Prep the Wheels

You probably love your wheels and rims whether they give you good gas mileage or not. So when they’re in bad shape, you’re desperate to fix them. Wash them with wheel cleaner or mild soap and water to keep the brake dust off and make sure they really need refinishing.

Have the wheels removed and the tires taken off to prepare for your project. After the wheels are bare, use paint stripper to remove the old clear coat. A sprayer helps make this process quick and easy, but you can do it with a paintbrush, too.

Wait until the paint stripper gets bubbly, then wipe it off with a rag. When you’ve removed all the paint, wipe any grime off the wheels with mineral spirits or turpentine. Then use masking tape to cover any spots you don’t want to get painted.

Keep in mind you won’t have to worry about the prep work if you’re starting with wheels only. If that’s the case, skip right to the turpentine step above to get any gunk off the wheels.

Prime the Wheels

Use primer and paint specific to painting aluminum wheels. These are for use with a paint sprayer, and they’ll work to keep paint from running. Using one without the other may yield unprofessional results.

Spray one coat of primer onto the wheels and let it dry. Keep it light, not spraying too much paint at once. After the primer dries, spray it again with a heavier coat.

Let the primer dry again and apply at least one more coat. Then sand it down with wet sandpaper (220-grit is best). Next, sand it again with 320-grit sandpaper.

Time to Paint: How to Restore Clear Coated Aluminum Wheels

Follow the same process with the paint color that you did with the primer. First, apply a light coat of paint with the sprayer and let it dry. Then apply a heavier coat.

Let the paint dry again and apply at least one more coat. Then sand it down with wet sandpaper (220-grit, followed by 320-grit).

This time you’ll sand even more, first with 400-grit sandpaper and then a 600-grit. Once the wheels are smooth over the whole surface, wipe them down again with mineral spirits to ensure they’re clean.

Applying the Clear Coat

The last step is to add a clear coat to protect the wheels and make them shine. Start with one coat and let it dry. Then apply a second coat and let it dry.

Each coat should dry completely before you apply the next one. If you think it needs a third coat, go ahead and add it. Then let the wheels dry overnight before installing the tires on them and putting them back on the car.

Road-Worthy at Last

Now that you know how to restore clear coated aluminum wheels, you’ll be able to maintain them any time they need it. Wash the wheels with soap and water often to make sure they stay clean longer. Then you won’t need to refinish them again very soon.

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