Painting Rims –Step by Step Guide

If your wheels are chipped, corroded or you just want a new look for your rims, a good option is to paint them. Painting rims definitely sets off the style of your 4×4 and can give it a more aggressive look. Many people are hesitant to paint rims but with a little preparation, patience and persistence, you can completely change the look of your vehicle for only a few dollars.

Offroad Mud TrailThe materials you will need:

-Sandpaper in different grit sizes (coarse to fine)

-Paint thinner or acetone

-Dish soap

-Degreaser (optional but recommended)

-1-2 cans of automotive primer (any color)

-4 cans of heat resistant or automotive paint

-1-2cans clear-coat paint

-Index cards and masking tape (if painting the rim with the tire still attached)

You should be able to pick up all of these materials at your local hardware store. Now that painting rims has become more popular, a lot of auto parts suppliers will carry paint materials as well.

Step 1: Remove Wheels

If you have a second set of rims/tires already, then you’re already on the way to start preparation and painting and can skip the first step. If you only have one set of wheels, you’ll need to first take them off the vehicle. To save time, it’s best to take them all off at once and let the car sit on blocks or on a lift. Before removing the rims, learn where the appropriate jack points are on your vehicle and loosen the tension slightly on your lug nuts before lifting the vehicle in the air. If you need help or assistance, call your trusted 4×4 mechanic.

Step 2: Cleaning the rims

4x4 Painted RimsOnce the rims are off your car, you will need to give them a thorough cleaning. Standard dish soap with warm water will work and gets rid of dirt and other particles. Clean it well and if you have degreaser, it’s a good time to use it after washing.

Step 3: Preparation

The first part of the preparation process to make sure you have a smooth surface to paint on, and all contaminants are completely removed from the rims. Take your sandpaper, starting with the coarsest grit and sand every part of the rim that will be painted. Once you’ve gone over the rim with the coarse sandpaper, move to the fine grit and repeat the process. This will take some time, but it’s important to have a smooth, clean surface to paint on. Enlist the help of a friend and offer them a beer in return. Once you’re done sanding, rinse the rim with water and soap again and let it dry. Once it’s dry, apply your acetone or paint thinner to remove any excess contaminants. The cleaner the rim is, the better the paint will stick to it and the longer it will last. Preparing the rim is just as important as the paint itself and is a step that should not be overlooked.

If the wheel is attached to your rim, you will now need to mask off the appropriate areas to prevent over-spray when painting. Put index cards on the outside of the rim where it meets the tire, and tape off the valve-stem with masking tape.

Step 4: Painting

After the rim and wheel is completely dry and prepped, it’s now time to begin the painting process. Start with the automotive primer, and apply thin, even coats. You should need about four coats before the rim is completely covered. The thinner you spray the layers, the better the paint will stick to it and the quicker it will dry.

After letting the primer completely dry (should take about one hour after the final coat in normal conditions) you can start the painting process. Again, apply thin, even coats. You should end up applying about 4-6 coats by the time you’re done.

When the paint has dried, you can now apply about 3-4 thin coats of clear-coat. The clear-coat layer will help prevent chipping and increase the life of the paint.

Step 5: Drying

At this point, it’s important to let the paint dry completely before putting them back on the vehicle. If this is your backup set, you don’t need to worry, but you should wait about 24 hours before mounting them back on the car, and wait about four days before attempting any hard driving or off-road use.


A less expensive alternative to painting which has become very popular recently is to use plasti-dip on your wheels instead of paint. The advantage of plasti-dip is because it has a spray-able rubber texture, you can remove it anytime you want without damaging the rim or creating any permanent marks. Another advantage is it requires less steps and is easier to apply. All you need to do is clean the wheel thoroughly with soap and water and remove any grease. Spray a lot of thin coats, and that’s it; no primer or clear-coat is needed.

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