It is a very common occurrence for alloy wheels to become scuffed, chipped or damaged in some way, and it most commonly occurs when the face of a wheel comes into contact with a kerb during a poor parking manoeuvre. These scuffs and chips can look very unsightly and let down the appearance of and otherwise great looking vehicle. More importantly though, if damaged wheels are left for any considerable amount of time, dirt, contaminants and water can work under the surface of the wheel and begin to corrode it, worsening the damage and leaving wheels looking even more unsightly.
Other kinds of damage that may mean wheels need to be refurbished may include when a strong acidic based wheel cleaner has been used and left to dry on the surface, leaving permanent marks and streaking, or if an excessively stiff brush/cleaning tool has been used to scrub the wheels leaving heavy scratches in the surface. As well as repairing damage though, alloy wheels can also be refurbished/repainted to give them a complete change of color and or a new type of finish in order to transform the look of a vehicle.
Depending on the extent of the damage and the level of skill you have, you can repair and refurbish you alloy wheels yourself instead of paying for a professional outfit to do the work. If you want to refurbish your wheels yourself, you need to ensure that you have the correct tools and materials available before getting started. The items you will need to complete the process yourself would include an automotive primer, the actual paint itself, and a suitable hard wearing lacquer. You will also need a good range of wet and dry sand paper, plenty of masking tape and masking materials such as newspaper, old sheets etc, a good quality automotive filler and some micro fiber towels.
Also, another important thing to note before staring any refurbishment work it that it is advisable to deflate the tire and get it pulled back from the edge of the rim a little, which will allow you to actually paint under where the tire will normally sit and help allow you to blend the repair so the edge cannot be seen, and to also protect the edge of the repair, providing a good seal when the tire is re-inflated. It will also prevent the tire from potentially getting contaminated with over spray/filler dust etc. A professional tire fitting shop will usually be happy to do this for you for a small fee.
The first thing you need to do is to thoroughly mask off and cover any areas that are not to be painted, like the tire or the inside of the wheel for instance. You should take your time doing this and ensure all appropriate areas are covered. Next, the whole wheel face needs to be thoroughly rubbed down with an appropriate grade wet and dry sand paper in order to remove the surface lacquer and paint underneath, as well as any roughness in the damaged areas. If the damaged areas are very bad and have gouged into the actual metal of wheel then you will need to use an automotive filler to level off and smooth it out. After being mixed and carefully applied, it should be left to dry fully before being completely leveled out with the surrounding surface of the wheel using a range of wet and dry sand paper and a suitable lubricant.
The next stage is to apply the primer which initially seals in the repairs and provides a good surface for the paint to bond to. A few light coats is preferable to a single heavy one. After the primer coat is dry to the touch the wheel should be painted with either, a matching color paint that you have sourced, or with a completely new colored paint if you are looking to achieve a different look. Again, the paint should be applied in multiple thin coats instead of one heavy one and you should be sure to sufficiently cover the inside edge of the rim where the tire has been pulled back from. Once the color has been sufficiently applied and has dried, the lacquer should be applied, again, in multiple, light layers ensuring a sufficient amount of lacquer is applied overall, to make certain that your freshly repaired and painted wheel will be sufficiently sealed and protected from the brake dust, road grime and other contaminants the wheel will be exposed to in the future.
Once fully repaired, painted and lacquered, the finish may need to be leveled out in order to remove any ‘orange peel’ effect in the clear coat which is common if the paint has been applied using aerosol cans. A fine grade wet and dry paper should be used on all parts of the wheel in conjunction with plenty of water or a designated lubricant until the lacquer has dulled, before using a rotary or orbital machine polisher and appropriate polish product and pad to remove the sanding marks and completely restore the surface. This step is not essential, it really just depends on what standard of finish you want to achieve. You will then obviously need to remove the masking materials before wiping over all areas of the wheel prior to re-inflating the tire and fitting the wheels back onto your car.
If your wheels are very badly damaged, or you simply do not have the tools, or expertise to repair your alloy wheels yourself, you may need to get them refurbished professionally, and, while this may cost considerably more than a D.I.Y repair, there are certain advantages of doing this, including the standard of the repair, the speed in which the refurbishment will be completed, the fact that most professional repair shops should guarantee their work for a number of years and the range of options that are generally on offer.
If getting wheels professionally refurbished, as well as getting them painted, there is also the option of having them powder coated to give a perfectly uniform finish, free from any drips, runs, orange peel etc, as well as the large range of colors and finishes this process can give. As with getting any bodywork of your vehicle repaired and painted, when getting wheels professionally refurbished, you should also be sure to seek out someone who really knows what they’re are doing, as there will likely be many who will take on the work, but may actually be incapable of carrying it out to high quality, or even a satisfactory standard.
After either having wheels professionally refurbished, or after repairing them yourself, it is advisable to apply either a designated wheel sealant, or a durable synthetic paintwork sealant, in order to lock in the new finish and thoroughly protect them from the range of contaminants that they will be exposed to once refitted. Then simply step back, admire the new finish and how a newly refurbished set of wheels can completely transform the look of your car.