Best Wheel Paint: Customize Your Worn-Out Wheels
Transform the look of your wheels and protect them from rust and contaminants.
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BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED ON July 22, 2021
If you are giving your vehicle a new look, don’t just stick to the bodywork—the wheels deserve some care, too. No, we aren’t talking about replacing the rims and hubcap, but using wheel paint to get a new look without breaking your bank. Besides the aesthetics, you also need to realize that your wheels are often exposed to dirt, extreme operating conditions, fluctuating temperatures, and harsh weather elements. Therefore, wheel paint goes a long way in protecting the underlying surface from these conditions.
You don’t even have to hire anyone to do it for you so long as you have the right painting material, a steady hand, and have no trouble following the manufacturer’s instructions. With this in mind, let us walk you through getting the best wheel paint that will restore your wheels’ radiant look and offer them the protection they need
This is a polyurethane-based wheel paint that’s designed for steel and aluminum wheels. It comes in an 11-ounce spray can.
- Multiple colors available
- Takes only 30 minutes to dry
- Heat- and chemical-resistant
- Can withstand harsh operating conditions
- Doesn’t provide a consistent gloss finish
- Might still chip or flake despite being chip-resistant
This wheel paint provides a durable finish that resists peeling, flaking, or cracking. It’s ideal for aluminum, plastics, and almost all metals.
- Resists corrosion
- Provides an even spray pattern
- Dries to the touch in less than an hour
- Ready for handling after an hour
- Color on the spray bottle may not match the final coat
- Nozzle clogging issues
This is a professional-grade wheel coating kit that comes with a clear coat and a hyper silver base coat. Both coats come in 11-ounce cans.
- Can be used on all wheel types
- Provides a durable gloss finish
- Resists damage from weather and outdoor elements
- Final coat may have a slightly bluish color
- Two separate kits might be inconsistent in color
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Benefits of Wheel Paint
- Create a new look. If your car wheels are worn, chipped, or in bad shape, wheel paint will make them look fresh and brand new. It only takes a little bit of effort to make a big difference in appearance.
- Protect your wheels. The best spray paint for rims can guard them against rough conditions such as high temperatures. Wheel paint can also protect your vehicle from road debris that causes rust, corrosion, chips, and minor blemishes.
- Use it on other automotive parts. In addition to wheels, the best paint for rims can be used on other parts of a vehicle, including plastic hubcaps. The paint has multiple purposes, making it a good product to have on hand in your garage.
- Save money. One way to make your wheels look new without spending a lot of money is by using the best wheel paint. It's a significantly cheaper alternative to buying a new set of rims.
Types of Wheel Paints
A primer, or at times referred to as an undercoat, is the first coat applied on a surface that forms a smooth and even base layer, so you can add the base and topcoat. Some primers can fill out imperfections on the surface. However, most primers take a long time to dry, so it requires a little patience if you intend to use one.
Following the primer is a base coat layer, which is ideally a raw paint that usually doesn’t have any hardener. For this reason, base coats don’t offer any protection to the underlying surface but are only used to add color. If left without a topcoat or a clear coat, the metal may still rust since water can penetrate the coat.
Lastly, a clear coat finish is a final coat applied on top of the pigmented base coat. It’s important in any painting process since it contains hardeners or strengtheners that help protect the underlying surface from rust, corrosion, and even cosmetic damage. Most cleat coats deliver a glossy finish that helps to keep sun rays from fading the base coat color and gives the surface a shiny, new look.
VHT, Dupli-Color, & PlastiKote
VHT (Very High Temperature) is a division of Dupli-Color, the Sherwin-Williams brand. Valspar is also a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sherwin-Williams. Sherwin-Williams, based in Cleveland, Ohio, was founded in 1866 and has been a leader in paints and coatings for 150 years. Top products include the Dupli-Color Graphite High-Performance Wheel Coating and VHT Gloss Black Wheel Paint.
Rust-Oleum, based in Vernon Hills, Ill., was founded in 1921 by sea captain Robert Fergusson, who wanted to keep his ship intact. He spent several years creating the world’s first rust preventative paint. One recommended product is the Rust-Oleum High-Performance Wheel Spray Paint.
Wheel Paint Pricing
- Under $25: Wheel paints within this price range typically come in single 11 to 12-ounce containers. You can expect multiple colors to choose from regardless of the price. However, most of the lower-priced paints may not be durable.
- $25 and up: If you are paying this much, expect to find premium wheel paint kits that come with almost everything you need to paint your wheels. Some kits may only include two separate cans for a base coat and a topcoat, while other more expensive options may also include a primer.
This is the number-one factor when it comes to painting your wheels. The most popular color is silver, but you may also seek the best black wheel paint. Still, you may want to think outside the box and paint your wheels a bright color such as blue or red.
Once you decide what color you want to paint your wheels, you must select the type of finish you want: matte, satin, or high gloss. Matte has a flattering shine, gloss has a high shine, and satin is in between the two. The choice is a personal preference, but you should select one that goes well with your vehicle's paint job.
Try to have a rough estimate of how much paint you need to get the job done. Wheel paint usually comes in 11 to 12-ounce cans. Your wheel size and the number of wheels you need to cover will help determine how much paint you need. Be sure to buy enough to last you through the entire project, and you can buy an extra can in case you need to re-do any of the wheels.
- Wheel Material. Determine what type of metal your wheel is made of before you select a paint. For example, you may require the best spray paint for alloy wheels which are made of light materials such as aluminum, nickel, magnesium, or a combination of all three. Conversely, you may require paint geared towards steel wheels.
- Resistance/Protection. Don’t just choose wheel paint for aesthetics. Consider the level of resistance or protection it offers for your wheels. You need paint that can resist damage from weather elements, dirt, road debris, and high temperature.
- Drying Time. You don’t want to spend too much time on a single project. Therefore, it’s prudent to get a paint that takes roughly less than an hour to dry to the touch so you can apply the final coat and be done in a short time.
- Durability. You need paint that doesn’t scratch, peel, or flake easily. With paints, you get what you pay for so consider spending more money on high-end paint if you want a durable coat that will last through the year.
Best Wheel Paints Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- The best way to paint car rims is to remove the rims from your vehicle and clean the wheels, which includes removing paint chips and rust. If you leave the tires on, place index cards under the rim between the tire and rim to protect against overspray. Then spray the wheel with a back-and-forth motion.
- Hold the can at least 12 to 14 inches away from the wheel, or else the paint may run or drip. Consider practicing on another surface first to get the right technique.
- Supplies you will need for painting truck rims and other types of wheels include paint, primer, clear coat, rags, wheel cleaner, sandpaper, a wire brush, steel wool, rubbing alcohol, masking tape, and disposable gloves and masks.
- Use good quality sandpaper. Preparing your wheel's surface prior to painting them is crucial. If you want smooth, even results, use coarse 350-grit sandpaper or lower.
- Wear eye protection during application. Glasses aren't the best option when painting wheels. A pair of goggles will offer better protection against paint, which can be very harmful to your eyes.
- Follow the product's directions. To avoid damaging your eyes, lungs, and skin, make sure to read the instructions carefully before starting the project. You’ll want to avoid getting the harsh chemicals on your body.
- Pick the right time and place to do the paint job. If you are painting your wheels outside, check the weather first to make sure it's not too humid. High humidity can affect the wheel finish and may cause a longer drying time.
- If you want a temporary look, consider using Plasti Dip. It comes in various colors as well as gloss black. It's easy to remove if you change your mind, and it won't stain your wheels.
Q: What’s the best type of paint for my rims?
If you want to know what kind of paint to use on car rims, it depends on what type of wheels you have. Some products are geared towards aluminum wheels, while another paint is better for black rims. Some brands work on all types of wheels.
Q: How do I paint wheels with a lot of crevices?
It can be difficult to effectively paint wheels that have a lot of grooves and spaces. First, spray the paint on the small openings in the wheels and let it dry. Follow up by spraying the paint on the wheel's surface.
Q: Can I paint my wheels with the tires on?
We recommend removing your tires to paint wheels; however, if you want to know how to spray paint rims with tires on, use a tire gel or silicone gloss. This will keep the paint from sticking to the tires. Another option is placing index cards or cardboard between the wheels and the tires to prevent overspray.
Q: What is the best spray paint for aluminum rims?
Paint does not stick to aluminum unless the surface has been treated. It takes several steps to treat aluminum, including acid etching. You can paint polished aluminum wheels once you determine what type of surface treatment the wheels have undergone in the factory. Some brands of wheel paint are specifically formulated to work on aluminum wheels.
Q: How many cans do I need to paint four wheels?
It depends on the size of the wheels and how many coats you apply. Also, most manufacturers recommend using a primer and topcoat in addition to the paint. You may require between two and four cans of paint alone.
Q: When can I drive my car after I paint the wheels?
Even if the paint appears to be dry, it can still be soft and susceptible to nicks and scratches. It's important to let the product cure for a while before you drive your vehicle with fresh-painted wheels. Make sure to read the manufacturer's directions.
We chose the VHT Gloss Black Wheel Paint as our best overall pick because it's easy to spray and dries quickly. With proper preparation, it can provide a durable finish that's resistant to heat, corrosion, chipping, and cracking. For a more budget-friendly wheel paint that's also fast-drying, consider the Krylon Automotive Wheel Paint.