How To Paint Car Rims Like A Pro In 10 Easy Steps

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Any car, regardless of its age or condition, looks better with a great set of rims. If you take a basic economy car and fix the look of its wheels, you can quickly transform it into a respectable ride.

Old and rusty rims can ruin the appearance of your tires and, ultimately, your car. Fortunately, there are ways to reverse this situation. All you need is a primer, a spray paint of your choice, sandpaper, and soapy water. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Start by cleaning the rims with soapy water to remove dirt and grease from the surface. Using sandpaper, clear away rust stains and create a smooth base for the primer. Spray on the primer in even layers, followed by a colored coat, and you’re done!

In this article, I will explain in detail how you can achieve a professional-like finish with a DIY paint job. So, let’s jump right in.

Can You Paint Your Rims Yourself?

Yes, absolutely!

Although auto shop owners make painting your rims at home sound like an impossible task, with the right tools and equipment, you can paint your rims yourself at home.

Rims are either made of steel, chrome, or aluminum. So, you must select the primer and color spray according to the material of your wheels. Before buying spray paint, remember to do thorough research and determine what your rims are made of.

I have also included a few suggestions for primers and paints to help you get started.

If you’re struggling with a previous paint job gone wrong, you can remove spray paint from your rims before coloring them again using the step in our blog.

A step-by-step guide for painting your car rims

Now, let’s get down to the real business.

Painting your car rims should take about two hours in total if you have all the equipment and tools ready. Here is a list of things you will need for the project.

Things you will need:

  • Soap and water
  • Wax and grease remover
  • Metal wire brush with angle grinder or sandpaper
  • Protective gear
  • Painter’s tape
  • Primer
  • Color coat

Let’s start the painting process now.

 Step 1: Remove tires from the car

The first step is to remove the tires from your car. You will need a lug wrench to loosen the lugs. Next, jack up the car and use the jack stands to stabilize it. Remove all the lug nuts and pull the wheel away from the vehicle.

Remove all four wheels.

Step 2: Remove the rims from the tires (Optional)

This step is optional because you can paint the rims even if they’re attached to the tires. However, removing them helps reduce your prepping time and the chance of overspraying. Also, this way, you can paint all the way to the edge of the rim without any interference.

So, if you have the specialized equipment necessary for detaching the rims, go ahead and do it. But if you don’t have the right tools, it’s better not to attempt the feat at home as you can damage the wheels.

Step 3: Detach the valve stem (Optional)

Just like the tyres, removing the valve stem gives you a free hand when painting. However, it is up to you to take it out or let it be.

We will discuss how you can cover it up if you keep the valve stem on.

Step 4: Clean the wheels with soap and water

Now the rims are ready to be prepped, so start cleaning the surface thoroughly.

Spray soapy water on the wheels and scrub the surface with a brush. You can also use a washcloth, but a brush does a better job at cleaning. Make sure to remove any dirt on the rims and wipe it dry once you’re done.

Step 5: Use a wax and grease remover

Water washes away dirt and debris but doesn’t work as well on oil and grease. That’s why you need to bring in a solvent to dissolve things that water can’t.

Apply the wax and grease remover to the trims to clear away any oil or grease residue on the wheels.

Try me: You can use rubbing alcohol to wipe the surface of the rims because it works the same way as a grease remover.

Step 6: Sand the surface

We want to make the surface of the rims as smooth as possible, so the primer adheres to it perfectly. The best way to create a solid foundation is by sanding the wheels thoroughly. This will also help remove any rust from the rims and make you achieve a professional finish.

You can start by using 300-grit sandpaper to sand the wheels. Slowly move onto 500 and then 800 grit sandpaper to get a smooth surface. Make sure to get into every crevice and remove any rust on the surface entirely.

A quicker way to achieve better results is using a fine metal wire brush on an angle grinder. If you’re dealing with a lot of rust, you may need to switch to a thicker metal wire brush.

If you’re working on aluminum wheels, sanding them will take less time than steel wheels. So if your car has steel wheels, be prepared to sand for at least 10 minutes.

Pro Tip: Wear protective eyeglasses and a mask if you plan to use an angle grinder for the heavy lifting. The metal wires on the brush tend to shoot, so you need to be careful.

Step 7: Clean the sanding residue

The next step is to clean all the sanding debris to help the primer go on smoothly. You can get the desired effect with an air compressor or a leaf blower. The idea is to blow away all the dust you’ve created from sanding off the wheel.

For good measure, wipe the rims clean with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol. The solvent is perfect for removing any residue and is also highly volatile, which means it dries quickly.

Step 8: Cover the tires

If you haven’t removed the rims from the tires, you must cover the areas you don’t want to paint accidentally.

You can use paper and painter’s tape to mask off the tires. Remember to tape closely around the rim’s edge to get a clean finish.

There’s another trick that you can use for this step, though. Take a bottle of tire shine gel and apply it to the outside of the tires, being careful not to touch the rim at all. If you get some gel on the wheel by chance, wipe it away with rubbing alcohol immediately because the gel will prevent the paint from sticking onto the surface.

And that’s precisely how the layer of tire shine gel will protect your tires. If you get any paint on it, you can simply wipe it off without any hassle.

The second trick is to use good old index cards. Place the cards one by one between the rim’s edge and the tire, creating a circle of index cards around the wheel. Now you don’t have to worry about messing the tire’s surface with overspraying.

If you haven’t removed the valve stem, you can cut the finger of an old glove and place it over the valve to protect it from paint.

Step 9: Apply primer

The primer is crucial to getting a good paint finish. That’s because it helps cover minor surface imperfections and gives the paint a good surface to bond to.

Remember to select a primer that works on the metal surface and is ideal for automotive use. Here are a few options you can consider:

Dupli-Color Scratch Filler & Primer

It has a fast-drying formula that’s good for filling deep scratches while providing a rust-resistant finish.

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Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover

This is an oil-based primer with a comfort spray tip to reduce fatigue from continuous spraying. It delivers a matte finish that’s chip-resistant and durable.

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Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Automotive Primer

This special primer has an oil-based formula specially designed for automotive surfaces. It provides a flat finish that is rust-resistant and long-lasting.

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Rust-Oleum Automotive Sandable Primer Spray Paint

It is an excellent option if you’re looking for a sandable primer. Formulated for automotive surfaces, the primer has a special Stop-Rust formula that’s ideal for prepping cars.

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Now let’s move on to spraying the primer. Remember to keep your hand moving steadily and never start or stop spraying when the nozzle is pointed directly at the wheel. Instead, start from the outside, bring the can toward the rim, and keep spraying until you have reached the other end of the tire.

Apply the first coat of primer, ensuring it’s light and even. Don’t worry about coverage at this point because you will need multiple layers of primer to build a solid base.

Allow the first layer to dry for 2-5 minutes before applying the second coat. It would be best if you sprayed from different angles and sides for this coat to get complete coverage. You should not be able to see any bare metal at the end of the second coat. Again, let the wheel dry for 2-5 minutes.

For the final layer of primer, you can slow down the movement of your arm. This means you will get a slightly thicker coat, but we don’t want it too thick.

Pro Tip: If the air temperature is less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, place the primer in a bucket of hot water before using it. This trick will help improve the spray pattern and reduce the chances of the orange peel effect.

Step 10: Spray the color coat

Allow the final layer of primer to dry for at least 10 minutes before going in with the color coat. If you’re not sure about the best paint for rims, you can check out the following options:

Dupli-Color High Performance Wheel Paint

A paint specially designed for wheels, making them ideal for your rims. Another perk of using this brand is that its colors are tested and approved by vehicle manufacturers so that you can find a perfect match to the original factory finish.

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Rust-Oleum High Performance Wheel Spray Paint

It is another option specifically designed for rims. The oil-based formula dries to the touch in under 10 minutes and provides a glossy, high-shine finish. 

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VHT Gloss Black Wheel Paint Can

This one is perfect for aluminum and steel wheels. The paint offers heat and chemical resistance while protecting the rims from the effects of brake dust, salt, sand, and rocks.

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You need to apply the rim spray paint the same way as the primer- in multiple coats. You will need at least 3 coats of color to achieve full coverage. Remember to paint from different angles and sides, so you don’t miss a spot on the rims. Wait 5 minutes between each coat, so the first one dries completely before you paint on the second layer.

When you’re done painting the final layer, remove the index cards you’ve placed around the rims. Allow the wheels to dry for two hours before attaching them to your car.


Is spray painting your rims a good idea?

Spray painting your car rims is a great idea if you want to improve their appearance without spending a hefty amount at the auto shop. Remember to buy paint specially designed for automotive surfaces for a lasting finish.

Can you paint alloy wheels?

Yes, you can paint alloy wheels, but there is a high chance of peeling, so you need to buy special paint formulated for alloy automotive surfaces.

How much does rim repaint cost?

While the actual cost may depend on the shop you go to and the size and condition of your wheel, the average price of a professional rim paint job is between $100 and $200 per wheel. So, you’re looking at a total cost of $400 to $800 approximately.

Can you paint over already painted rims?

Yes, it is possible to paint over rims that have been painted previously. Since we sand the surface of the wheels before painting, it helps remove any imperfections in the previous layer and helps create an even base for the new paint.

Can you use Rust Oleum peel coat on rims?

The Rust-Oleum Peel Coat is a rubber coating perfect for customizing different car parts, like rims, hoods, and more. It protects your wheels against rust and road debris and allows you the freedom to peel the paint off once you get bored of the color.


You can easily upgrade your ride’s look with spray paint, whether you want to color the rims or spray paint your leather car seats. As long as you have the right equipment and technique, you can nail any paint project like a pro!

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