How do I paint aluminum wheels?

My wheels are looking a bit worse for wear. I want to paint them. How do I paint aluminum wheels?

Bonnie Stinson · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
To paint aluminum wheels you’ll need an hour, cleaning supplies, sandpaper, masking tape, primer, paint, and protective gear.
First, you need to prepare the wheels to accept paint:
  • Clean the wheel with a pressure washer
  • You may need steel wool to get it truly clean
  • Use etching primer if the wheels have a clear coat
  • Sand them down with 220 grit sandpaper, including the area inside the spokes
  • Deep scratches may need 80 grit sandpaper
  • Clean up with wax and grease remover
Now, you’re ready to apply paint!
  • Mask off the wheel to prevent overspray
  • Here’s a tip from the pros: use playing cards tucked between the wheel and tire to mask off the tire
  • Don’t forget to tape over the nuts and cover up the brake rotors with a bit of sturdy paper
  • Put on your protective gear and spray several light layers of primer
  • Allow it to dry and then lightly sand with 600 grit wet sandpaper
  • Wipe it dry
  • Apply multiple coats of paint
  • You may want to slightly rotate your wheels by driving forward or backward between coats to ensure a consistent coating
  • Finish with a clearcoat
  • Once it’s all dry, remove the masking materials
While you wait for the paint to dry, now is a good time to make sure you’re happy with your
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MORE: How to polish aluminum wheels
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