Pimp Your Ride With 7 Tips on How to Paint Rims

How to Paint Rims

Want to give your ride a new look and feel without breaking the bank? Painting the rims can give your car that fresh look you’re aiming for.

The good news is, it’s not an expensive undertaking nor is it too difficult to accomplish. Knowing how to paint rims will also add to your artillery of DIY skills when it comes to pimping your ride. Let’s get started!

Before You Start

Get the Right Materials

Before learning how to paint rims and embarking on this DIY project, it’s important to have the necessary materials on hand.

You wouldn’t want to compromise the quality of your paint job by skipping on some essentials. Don’t worry — it won’t cost you an arm and leg to put together the following:

  • Wheel cleaner, soap or degreaser
  • Rags
  • Sandpaper with varying grits (300, 500, or 1000)
  • Wire brush (you can also use a grinder with an attached wire brush or a drill with a wire brush attachment)
  • Steel wool
  • Alcohol, paint thinner, or mineral spirits
  • Painter’s tape
  • Plastic or newspapers (to cover your tires with)
  • Tarp, drop cloth, or newspaper (to cover the surface of your work area with)
  • Self-etching primer
  • Metal spray paint (specifically designed for wheels)
  • Clear coat

Choose and Prep Your Work Area

To do the steps involved on how to paint rims properly, it’s important to find a well-ventilated space or location to paint your rims. Avoid painting in an open space on a breezy or windy day.

Ventilation should be optimum when painting inside a garage or a workshop. Clean your work area thoroughly to ensure that it’s dust-free and pollen-free.

Don’t forget to cover your workspace with a tarp, drop cloth, or newspapers to protect it from the over-spray.

Preparing Your Rims for Painting

Once you’ve set up your materials and work space properly, it’s time to get working on your rims.

The secret to a great paint job is doing the right preparations and being thorough with them. Prepare your rims for painting by doing the following steps:

1. Wheel Removal

The best approach for how to paint rims is to remove all four tires from your vehicle. Painting your rims while they’re attached to your car will only result in headaches: you will be dealing with drips, runs, and poor coverage. Remove the center caps from the wheels as well, for best results.

If you’re planning to remove and paint all your wheels at one time, then you will need 4 jacks or blocks to keep your vehicle suspended and away from the ground.

How to Remove the Wheel

How to Remove the Wheel
  1. Using a tire tool, loosen the lug nuts partially by doing it in a counterclockwise direction. Do not loosen the lug nuts completely. Doing so without suspending the vehicle first may cause the car to fall abruptly to the ground.
  2. Lift the car with the 4 jacks or blocks before completely removing the lug nuts to prevent the tires from coming off. Raise the tire from the ground by about 1-2 inches.
  3. Remove the lug nuts completely. Place them somewhere safe and secure so you can find them easily later on.
  4. Using both hands, pull tire off with a smooth, outward motion. Make sure to leave the jack in place.

2. Thorough Washing, Cleaning, and Drying

Whether you’re cleaning black, chrome, or any other type of rims, the cleaning process is essentially the same. Begin by spraying all surfaces of the wheel with soap (preferably car wash soap).

Wash and wipe off any dust, dirt, or grime from the rim using a rag. Be mindful of the areas between the spokes and ensure that they are washed and cleaned thoroughly.

Apply degreaser (with another rag) to the rim, covering both inside and outside parts. The degreaser will remove any remaining, accumulated, or caked dirt.

Rinse entire wheel thoroughly with water to get rid of any excess soap or degreaser residue. Use another clean rag to dry the wheel then set on a surface.

Allow to dry completely. Do the same process for the rest of the other wheels.

3. Off With Paint Chips and Rust

If you don’t achieve a smooth surface even after cleaning the rim thoroughly, you might need to remove paint chips and rust from the wheel using a wire brush.

It will be much easier to use a wire brush that is either attached to a drill or an angle grinder instead of doing it manually. Remove all traces of chipped paint or rust. Do the same process for the other wheels.

4. Smooth and Blemish-Free

There are two steps you need to do to ensure that you’re getting the smoothest surface possible — sanding with varying grits of sandpaper then finishing by sanding with a steel wool.

Begin with a 300-grit sandpaper then follow through with a 500-grit one. You may also use 1000-grit sandpaper.

When you’re done sanding, wash off scraped paint chips and rust then wipe the surfaces with alcohol, paint thinner, or mineral spirits (use with caution as mineral spirits may cause skin irritation).

Do a close inspection of the wheel’s surface to ensure that it’s smooth and blemish-free all the way through.

If you’re not fully satisfied with the results, do another pass with the sandpaper and steel wool. Once you’ve achieved the smoothness that you’re aiming for, you can wash off the dirt and residue from the paint chips and rust.

Allow the wheel to dry completely after applying alcohol, paint thinner, or mineral spirits. Repeat the same thorough process with the other wheels.

5. Over-Spray? No Way!

Knowing how to paint rims properly also requires you to be diligent about covering parts of the wheel that shouldn’t be painted.

To protect your tire as well as your valve stem from the over-spray, the best method is to use painter’s tape with newspapers or plastic.

Begin by taping the edge of the tire with painter’s tape, making sure to tape under the rim and between the wheel and the tire.

The next step is to secure the newspaper or plastic covering by taping them over the tire. To prevent paint from clogging the valve stem, cover it entirely with painter’s tape.

You’ll know that your tire is properly covered when the rim is the only surface that’s exposed.

After you’re done taping and protecting areas from the over-spray, place the wheel on the tarp, drop cloth, or sheets of newspapers you’ve laid out on your work area. Do the same procedure for the rest of your wheels.

How to Paint Rims the Right Way:

How to Paint Rims

When you’ve dealt with the cleaning, sanding, covering and all other painstaking preparations, you may now proceed with priming and painting those rims.

The steps on how to paint rims aren’t really that complicated. The prepping part is actually more time-consuming compared to the painting process itself!

1. Priming

Priming ensures that paint adheres well to the surface. Use self-etching primer because it serves a dual purpose: achieving a smooth finish for the paint and preventing rust.

Begin by shaking the can and then applying a light coat of primer for the first coat. Allow to dry thoroughly (about 30 minutes) before applying the next coat.

For best results, apply 2-3 light coats of primer on the inside and 3-4 light coats on the outside of the rim.

2. Painting

After the primer has dried completely, you can start painting the rim. Before spraying with the metal paint, read the instructions carefully on the label.

Follow the recommended distance for holding the can before spraying to prevent the paint from running.

Give the spray can a good shake before applying the paint to the rim. It’s also advisable to spray the paint in a back-and-forth motion at an even pace.

Start with the inside of the wheel by applying a thin coat. Allow the first coat to dry (about 10-15 minutes) before applying a second thin coat.

Flip the wheel over once the second thin coat has dried. Apply a light coat on the outside of the rim, making sure to get good coverage.

Apply at least three coats while allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next one. After you’re done painting, let the wheel dry for another 30 to 45 minutes.

3. Top-Coating

When the paint has thoroughly dried, you can now start clear-coating the rim. Shake the can of clear-coat paint (as instructed on the label).

Apply 1-2 light coats of the clear coat while allowing the first coat to dry (about 30 minutes) before applying the second coat.

Apply the clear coat on both the inside and outside of your wheel. When the clear coat is completely dry, you can remove the painter’s tape and protective covering from the wheel.

Don’t forget to remove the painter’s tape from the valve stem as well.

Do the same steps mentioned above with the remaining three wheels. For optimum results, allow the paint job to dry for another 24 hours before re-installing the wheels.

This might also be a good opportunity to rotate your tires, if you haven’t yet.


Now that you know the materials involved and the steps on how to paint rims, it’s time to get that next DIY project going.

Just thinking of ways to make your rims stand out should be enough to motivate you to try out a new DIY skill.

Our final tip: Don’t go cheap on the three most important materials: the primer, metal paint, and clear coat.

Make sure to use ones that are specially designed for use on wheels. Using cheap and inferior paint might cause it to chip or flake in rough conditions — you wouldn’t want to see all your hard work go to waste!


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