Alloy Wheel Repair (DIY and Mobile)

Curbing your nice alloy wheels is a good way to completely ruin your day. I guess the only consolation is knowing that most minor damage is a relatively easy repair.

If you are handy and have paint touch-up experience, you can fix your curbed, scuffed or scratched wheels yourself. Making cosmetic wheel repairs at home is not that difficult (if you can find the paint!). If you don’t have experience, you can call a mobile alloy wheel repair service or send your wheels to a wheel repair shop.

If you bent or flat-spotted a wheel from hitting a pothole or slamming into a curb, this damage cannot be repaired at home or by a mobile repair service. In this case, you must remove the wheel and send it to a wheel refurbishment shop. If you severely damaged your wheel, another option is to to search for a second hand alloy wheel. I have had excellent luck buying a used alloy wheel that matches my set.

Mobile Alloy Wheel Refurbishment

Curbed Alloy Wheel Damage

If you have ever done it, you know the feeling. Curbing your alloy wheels (e.g., scraping them on a curb while parking) puts a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. (Image by NASAracer)

I recently had my first experience with a mobile wheel repair service, and the guy was amazing. I had taken my Porsche Cayenne in for new tires and thought I was in luck because the shop was nearly empty. The shop manager put two technicians on my car and had me out in record time with a new set of Pirelli (calendar not included… darn!) tires.

When I got home I decided to wash the car and noticed that both wheels on the right side were damaged. One had a rim scrape from the pry bar used to guide the tire on the rim, and the other had a nick on the face of one of the wheel spokes.

I was furious because I didn’t see the damage while I was still in the shop. I was certain I was going to get the “run around” from the tire store or have to waste a day or more waiting for the repair. I was so totally wrong.

I was put in touch with a local San Diego company called Velvet Touch Wheel Services. My technician’s name was Hayden, and he did an amazing job. In about an hour he had both wheels looking perfect again. I don’t mean “good match,” I mean PERFECT. I literally could not see where he made the repair.

I contrast the service provided by Velvet Touch with my previous experience trying to do the job myself. By the way, before I tell you this story, let me just say that I am a very experienced painter. I have refinished many cars. Creating custom car bodies was a hobby of mine when I was a young man.

Anyway, in 2005 I had purchased a new set of Kinesis wheels. They were a 3-piece design with a polished rim and a silver center in the standard German metallic silver. Shortly after getting the wheels I needed to change brake pads and fluid and managed to spill brake fluid on one of the wheels, which caused the paint to discolor and blister.

Rather than send the wheel in for refinishing, I decided to do it myself. That was a big mistake (and, trust me, I’m not likely to do my own mag wheel repair again after this experience!).

I ordered a can or Wurth silver wheel paint and a can of Wurth clear coat lacquer. While waiting for the paint to arrive I prepared the wheel by sanding the damaged area and shooting it with a coat of primer. When the Wurth paint arrived I was all set to shoot the color coat. Just my luck, though, the can of paint was defective and would not spray. So, I ordered another can.

The replacement can arrived, in working order, but this time the color did not match. The tint was correct, but the metallic was huge. No amount of finessing would get the finish to match. Now very frustrated, I called the local Wurth rep asking if he had a can from a lot different than the two cans I had. A day later I got a call back telling me the product is unavailable for an indefinite time due to a manufacturing issue. No kidding!

What I finally ended up doing is re-shooting the entire center of the wheel with a different paint brand (1Z Einszett) that is not as close a match as what Wurth is supposed to be, but it was close enough.

NASARacer Wheel Refurbishment Method

by NASAracer, AudiWorld

Well, there I was, backing into a parking space against a curb. I was in a hurry and I heard it… SCRAPE! One  fraction of a second and barely moving. Got out and looked at the rim… OUCH!!!

Curbed Alloy Wheel Damage

As you can see, this is minor wheel damage with very little paint and metal repair required. It could be touched up with a paint touch up stick, but it would not look right. (Image by NASAracer)

Well, no need to fear. I’ve done this enough times to have an easy way to do home repairs with a few simple items. Note that this [procedure] only covers light scuffs. This isn’t meant to be used to repair a damaged wheel or one where the scuffs cause significant damage to the rim. This is only for those annoying superficial scuffs, which seem to happened to me more times than I care to admit.

There are plenty of good services which can do this for very reasonable money. Many of you will happily use a service, but I’m inpatient and have the free time (generally) to spend a couple of hours on a repair. Plus, it really takes the edge off “donking” my wheels when I know I can simply fix it myself.

Here’s the parts list you need:

  1. Wurth Silver Wheel Lacquer
  2. Wurth High Gloss Clear Lacquer
  3. Some Primer
  4. Bondo Spot Putty
  5. 240 and 400 wet & dry sand paper
  6. Paint thinner
  7. Masking tape & masking paper
DIY wheel reconditioning supplies

I have a can of scratch-filler primer, the Wurth wheel paint and clear (got mine at Performance Products), some paint thinner, Bondo spot putty (or equivalent), sand paper and some 240 and 400 grit sandpaper (if you are REALLY anal, get some 600 grit paper). -Image by NASAracer-

Step 1. Clean, Clean, Clean

This is one of the most important steps. Use paint thinner to thoroughly clean the entire area around the damage. You need to remove all traces of wax and silicones from the surface of the wheel. I’m going to remind you every step of the way to clean. I’ll probably end up wiping down these surfaces 10 or more times before painting. If you don’t do this, the rest is pointless because the repair will not work.

Also, you should only work on the area of the wheel that is damaged. Don’t go nuts and try to paint half your wheel on the car. For this technique to succeed we will only sand and paint the immediate area around the damage.

Cleaning a wheel for reconditioning and repair

Use a lint-free cloth for cleaning your wheel. Prior to cleaning with paint thinner (Prepsol is even better), scrub the tire and wheel with dish detergent (Dawn) to remove as much silicone (tire protectant) as possible. Dry thoroughly. -Image by NASAracer-

2. Sand and Putty

I like to start by masking the tire from the wheel. Get the masking tape well behind the rim.

Next, lightly sand the area to a nice “feather” with 240 grit sandpaper and apply spot putty.

Important: This entire project will work best if its a nice, warm day. The drying time of spot putty is minutes but if it’s cold or damp, this project is likely to not work out too well. Work in direct sunlight if necessary to keep the work area warm (not hot).

Remember to keep your sanding to the immediate area around the damage. Trust me on this!

Applying body filler puddy for wheel repair

Apply body filler as necessary to fill the damaged metal. (Image by NASAracer)

Use a sanding block (small wood block or rubber erasure) to get the best results. Although dry sanding works, wet sanding is best. (Image by NASAracer)

Sanding wheel for wheel repair

Here is the result after sanding. It’s ready for primer. (Image by NASAracer)

Once you’ve done the first round of putty, switch to the finer of your sandpaper (400 grit in my case) and sand and putty until it FEELS and LOOKS flush. Note that I use the paper wrapped around a piece of wood to make a flat sanding block. It’s best to sand with a flat block to get a smooth, level finish.

Okay, here’s where a bit of laziness is going to create an entirely new project. The silver metallic paint will get everywhere. I’m talking permanently attached to the fender on the opposite corner of the car. Mask carefully and cover the entire car with an old sheet or equivalent.

Applying primer for alloy wheel repair.

With a light coat of primer you will be able to see pin holes that need spot putty. (Image by NASAracer)

I’ve used the scratch-filler primer and sanded it and put a bit more putty on. Note that this is the first place where I use my special  technique. Immediately after I spray the primer (or paint) I clean all of the overspray off the spokes of the wheel (clean rag and paint thinner) and the area around the inside of the rim.

I do not want to try to get the paint to smoothly adhere to the entire wheel! We only want to paint the REPAIR. Only the clear coat will be sprayed without wiping off the over-spray. Wait for the primer to fully dry and lightly sand it with 400 or 600 grit sandpaper.

Before spray painting wheels with silver, clean with a lint-free cloth.

Use a lint-free cloth for cleaning your wheel. Prior to cleaning with paint thinner (Prepsol is even better), scrub the tire and wheel with dish detergent (Dawn) to remove as much silicone (tire protectant) as possible. Dry thoroughly. -Image by NASAracer-

5. Painting

VITAL: Read the instructions on the can! If you try to use this paint in cold temperatures (or in damp conditions) it’s going to be a mess. Shake the can for at least a full minute and push the spray nozzle as you sweep across and release at the end. Spray on, spray off.  Spray on, spray off. Apply as a very fine coat.

You’re not trying to make it glossy. That’s the job of the top clearcoat.

Spray a fine coat of paint holding the can 9-10" away from the wheel.

This is roughly the distance I used the can from the wheel. I highly recommend practicing on a scrap part to get used to the distances and thickness this paint sprays. (Image by NASAracer)

Now we should be nearly done but (as always), Pete got inpatient and sprayed the clear way too soon. As a result, the clearcoat lifted the silver paint and messed up my job.

This is no biggie. Take a deep breath, get out your rag and the paint thinner and take it all off. The thinner I used did not eat into the primer so I simply cleaned the wheel (again) and re-sprayed the silver paint.

Allow wheel paint to dry thoroughly before applying clear.

Here’s the paint lifting due to the clearcoat being applied too soon. Be sure to give plenty of drying time. (Image by NASAracer)

 

Carefully remove the silver wheel paint overspray

Okay, fast forward a few minutes… I had to roll the car forward a bit to keep it in the sun and I had cleaned (and let fully dry) the wheel and RE-sprayed the silver. Now I’m carefully removing the silver over spray. (Image by NASAracer)

After the silver colorcoat dries, overnight is best, you can apply two thin coats of clear with about 20-30 minutes of drying time between coats. After the clear dries (another day) you can use 1500-2000 grit wet and dry or a fine cut compound to feather in any traces of the repair. Use a final polish to restore full gloss.

Finished wheel after DIY alloy wheel repair

Here’s the nicely painted wheel. I let the paint dry overnight before applying the clear coat. (Image by NASAracer)

Alloy Wheel Repair Resources

First, I want to thank NASAracer for his excellent write-up and pictorial. If you want to do the job yourself, you won’t find better instructions.

While the job is easy enough, the problem most DIYers run into is finding the right paint. One brand and color does not fit all. While the German car makers have pretty much standardized on two colors, the Asian imports have several colors and GM, Ford and Chrysler can never agree on anything.

You may also want to check out our page on Show Tires & Wheels!