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Novice Projects - attempting alloy wheel refurb


24 Oct 2014
Thought I'd post my travails at refurbing the alloy wheels (front axle) on my C4S. It's been a little trial by error and I've learned a few things as I've gone along. Any other tips would be great to hear before I attempt my rear wheels! As above, I am a bit of a novice but not afraid to give things a go.

As hard as I try, I'd accidentally curbed the alloys a couple of times (normally on ridiculously high and harsh surfaces as otherwise my overhanging tyres normally save me). Had scraped the edges leaving a rough surface.

These are the products I got from Amazon. The putty seems pretty solid (pun intended) and the metallic silver spray is an excellent match. I also bought some spray on lacquer to finish up.



I tried to thoroughly clean each wheel first, removing any residue from the alloy surface. It's amazing how stubborn the staining is inside the wheel, anyone have any hardcore products they can recommend for this? I guess that's one of the benefits of powder coating as the whole wheel is dipped in and comes out like new.


Having removed the wheels (a must), I sanded down the rough curbed areas and then taped up the wheels.


I mixed and applied the putty to the curbed sections. Initially I taped around the curbed area (see below), but wouldn't recommend this in retrospect as the putty edge leaves a harsh line which catches the eye despite sanding. Having re-applied without tape, I used a wet and dry approach starting from lower to higher sandpaper grits to level the putty off as much as possible. This takes time but if the surface isn't completely level it'll catch the eye afterwards.


I then prepared the wheel again for the metallic spray. This needs to be above a certain temp (17 degrees) and sprayed from a distance of 20-30cm and applied in a back and forth action. It goes on pretty well! I left 15 mins or so and applied it in layers.

After 24 hours, I wiped the wheel down again (the spray on paint seems to develop a slightly dusty texture) and subsequently polished the surface a little. "‹I then applied spray on lacquer in layers to get an element of sheen.


Here's the finished article on one side. Pretty pleased with the result. One thing I've noticed is a propensity for mud/dirt to stick to the new surface. I've applied wax. The rear wheels look shinier in comparison, like they have a coating compared to my refurbed efforts, which are slightly more matt in finish.


I wonder if I might need to apply a ceramic coat. I've been recommended Carbon Collective products. Can anyone recommend this approach?

I also sprayed and laquered my wheel bolts which came out ok!


Any thoughts on the whole process gratefully received.

Ive painted quite a lot of wheels before. Prep is the key as with any painting, there is numerous online DIY's to go through the process with etch primer etc etc but for a quick repair you have covered the basics.

Use as little filler as possible, get the surface as smooth as possible before spraying and masking is key as well, over spray gets everywhere.

Its take practice, Im still not that great but good enough for a daily car.
Looks a good job to me.

For getting off the staining on the wheel inner surfaces, try tar remover, or even a rag soaked with petrol. Gently scrape the worst of it off, then leave the solvent to do its stuff. Just beware of getting it on your new paint. I did once use a Brillo pad gently on the inside of some Mercedes wheels, which worked surprisingly well.

Assuming you've put a few layers of lacquer on and its had time to cure, then maybe some compound polish and finishing polish would give you more of a sheen?

I can highly recommend Carpro Dlux for ceramic coating the wheels. Also great on the brake calipers, black trim, headlights, rear lights etc. Remarkable stuff and easy to use.
I've refurbished several sets of wheels, always using the same technique. It's very time consuming, but equally I've never actually found anywhere that can remove the tyres, do the wheels, refit and balance the tyres for the cost people quote on forums (ie up to £50 per wheel).

To clean them I use a pressure washer at point blank and lots of detergent (Fenwicks bike cleaner is the current favourite) and a selection of scrubbing brushes and scouring pads. It's hard work but does the job. Sometimes tar spots and bits of balance weight sticky pad remain. You can get scrape these off with a screwdriver - or turn a blind eye as they're on the back!

For repair I've used Super Steel. I don't suppose it's very different to the putty. Careful filing/sanding/feathering is necessary for a good result.

Then comes the bit I hate. I mask the whole wheel off (x4) including behind the spokes (unless I'm painting that too). There's nothing worse (IMHO) than seeing 'overspray" on the back of the wheel through the spokes!
Then the best bit - painting. I've always used Hammerite smooth finish. It goes on well, layers thick and covers a multitude of sins. It does have a sort of satin sheen which I have always left and quite like but I guess you could lacquer over the top for a gloss finish.

If I'm painting the back of the wheel I'll brush paint it for ease. The trick
is to be well prepared and go quickly so as to avoid 'dragging" as the paint starts to dry. Regularly turn the wheels whilst drying to avoid runs. Straight from the tin the Hammerite smooth will match the spray on the front face (or you can contrast in say black) and provide excellent protection. Needless to say, don't paint the mounting face...

The finish you've achieved looks pretty good to me but you're right you need to do all four wheels the same way to get them to match. I'd mask the tyres fully next time though (unless they're being changed in which case I wouldn't mask them at all).
I've used carbon collective products to ceramic coat wheels, it's a bit of a faff to apply, but it works well & means the wheels are much easier to keep clean.
I'm by no means an expert, but I assume similar ceramic coating products from britemax, g-technic or others would be just as good.
For a reasonably priced powdercoat try City wheel refurbishment in Birmingham. I had my 17" steel transporter wheels done £25 each and an extra tenner to refit the tyre..


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Thanks for all the replies. Will take it all into account for next time. It's definitely a learning curve and each attempt should produce a better result.

I'll give the ceramic coat a try and update the blog.

Another update on this project.

Thanks for the tips, particularly for cleaning the inside of the wheels. I got these products from Amazon (FTAOD I have no affiliation with GTechniq!):


I applied the tar remover first and used a scourer to scrub away the stubborn stains which was quite effective. BEWARE, avoid getting the tar remover on the front of the alloys, particularly if newly sprayed. There was some kind of paint reaction which necessitated re-spraying (which I intended to do anyway - see below). I then applied the iron and fallout remover which was very effective (i think more effective than the tar remover). I jet washed between applications. Got a good result (see before and after):



This time (as recommended), I applied a primer spray base layer (yellow!) first. This was far more forgiving than the spray paint and effective at filling any small scratches (and the sanded off paint/tar remover mess) as it's slightly thicker. Just got some Hycote filler/primer for the job. Note that I used the playing card trick to protect the tyres which was actually pretty effective (bit lazy and taping up the tyres probably best!). I stole the kids old top trump cards.


I then used another can of metallic silver spray on the two wheels before finishing with the ceramic coat (FYI, I left a night between the primer, spray and coat). The ceramic coat went on very easily and seems pretty forgiving compared with the paint work! Produced quite a nice sheen and will hopefully provide some more protection from dirt and break dust. I also coated my callipers and tail pipes which was a satisfying job.



Overall, not a bad outcome. I'm not sure I'd attempt the whole wheels again! It's quite labour intensive and spray painting seems to be an art I'm a long way from perfecting! It's frustrating when it goes on too thick or runs as there's not a lot you can do other than wait for it to dry, sand it down and repeat! You need to keep the spray can at a distance and constantly moving. I struggled a bit with dust/debris too which I guess having a spray booth would mitigate.

In retrospect, just repairing the curbed areas might have been satisfactory (i.e. sanding, putty, primer, paint and coat) whilst masking off the rest of the alloy. As above, painting on hammerite smooth finish would probably give more control too.

Still, lots of learning points and the ceramic coat is great! Thanks again for all the advice.
Very well done - great result 👍🏻

Spray painting definitely is an art. I find as the can runs out it gets harder to get a good finish. I also find that the advice to apply many light coats tends to result in a 'dusty" finish with varying degrees of matt. If you can get the rate, the speed and the distance right the result can be really quite good but it normally takes about 3 1/2 wheels to perfect the technique! (Then the can starts to run out 🙄).

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