Steel rims are a key part of a tire that holds the tire, and connects to the axle on a car. When they are brand new they look particularly good but over time they can get chipped, rust, and not look as good. But, they can also be painted different colors, so today I will explain if you can and should paint over steel rims.
As a general rule, you can and should paint over steel rims. Painting steel rims really improves their appearance especially if they are very rusted. The method to paint steel rims is to first prepare the steel by removing any rust, then painting them with primer, and then a coat of paint.
Painting steel rims is reasonably simple, but there are a few key steps which cause the paint to last a lot longer, and create a really good finish. Below, I will provide step by step instructions for how to paint over steel rims.
Can You/Should You Paint over Steel Rims? (How To)
Steel rims will typically have a black or metallic finish, when hubcaps are used the rims can’t be seen at all. But, certain types of rims are very expensive and are designed to be used without hubcaps. Here’s if it’s possible and a good idea to paint over steel rims.
Overall, you can paint over steel rims. It’s a good idea if your steel rims are rusted, or you want to paint the rims a different color. It’s reasonably easy to paint your own steel rims yourself. First remove the rust, prepare the surface, paint them with primer, and then around 2 coats of paint.
Rims can be removed from the tire but it is quite difficult without a tire remover. However, it’s not necessary to remove the tire from the rim to paint them.
Removing the tire from the rims just means you won’t need to cover the tires with newspaper to stop paint getting on the tires. This cuts down the total time it takes to paint your tires. And tapping newspaper to the tire is a bit of a tedious step.
Can You Paint over Steel Rims?
Steel is often galvanized to stop it from rusting, and it’s not widely known how well metals hold up if they’re painted. So, this is whether it’s possible to paint over steel rims.
In general, you can paint over steel rims. However, it’s important to prepare the surface with a rust inhibitor, and a layer of primer to make sure rust doesn’t grow, and create a very nice looking finish.
Once rust has formed on rims it will need to be sanded flat. Otherwise, it will still be very visible after the rims have been painted. It will also make it possible for the rust to begin growing under the paint.
Removing the rust is reasonably easy, at the end of this article I provide step by step instructions for how to prepare the rims by removing the rust. And how to paint them.
Should You Paint over Steel Rims?
Steel is a metal that has properties that are different from other materials. Steel rims are also exposed to oil, rubber, and other chemicals as part of their everyday use. So, here’s whether it’s a good idea to paint over steel rims.
As a general rule, you should paint over steel rims. But, it isn’t required. Painting steel rims can restore rims that have rusted, and make them look like new ones. It can also change the color of the rims, which will show through underneath your hub caps, or if you don’t use hubcaps.
On roads there are often small things like stones, pieces of metal, and glass. As you drive past them, or a car drives past your car, one of these can fly into your steel rims and chip, or scratch your steel rims. Therefore, hubcaps are used to reduce the damage they can do to the steel rims.
However, steel rims can begin to rust. Some also have black paint which can be chipped, or scratched. So, painting them is a very good option to restore them so they are brand new.
What Tools and Preparation Do You Need to Paint Steel Rims?
There are a few different steps that need to be done so that when you paint steel rims the paint stays on and lasts a very long time. But, also so that when they are painted the finish turns out really good with very few if any imperfections. So, this is everything you need to prepare and paint steel rims, and what to do prior to applying primer and paint.
Overall, you need medium grit sandpaper (about 80 grit or so), to remove any rust, primer, masking tape, newspaper or old mail flyers, rust inhibitor, rubbing alcohol, primer, and paint. In general, sand the rims and then apply rust inhibitor, then primer, and paint.
Ideally, you should get spray on paint that comes in a can. However, if this is not available you will also need some paint brushes to apply the paint. The shape of steel rims means paint rollers don’t work well, and should not be used.
For full step by step instructions are explained at the very end of this article. Below is also what type of paint and primer you should use.
What Paint Can You Use to Paint Steel Rims?
Steel is different to other materials that are typically painted. Therefore, it’s important to know what type of primer and paint to use. Here’s what type of primer and paint you should get to paint steel rims.
In general, epoxy enamel or oil based paint should be used to paint steel rims. There are also paints that are made specifically for painting steel, and for how rusted the rim is. So, get one that is made for steel, and is suited to how rusted your rims were prior to sanding them.
For example, there will be a paint brand and product that sells paints made for steel. Then they will have a few different types for steel with no rust, a little bit of rust, and a lot of rust.
The same is true for primer. The best type of paint is spray on paint because it’s the easiest to apply.
How to Paint Steel Rims Properly
Painting steel rims is very simple. However, there are a few things that can go wrong, and so it’s important to do preparation steps. Here’s a summary and full step by step instructions that explain how to paint steel rims properly.
In general, you should remove the rim for the tire (optional), clean the rim using a degreaser, then sand down the rust to create a smooth surface. After that, wipe or blow off any dust, and apply a rust inhibitor, let it dry then paint it with primer, or paint. More detailed steps below.
1. Clean the rims thoroughly
The best thing to use to clean your rims is a degreaser. Degreasers are often called different things such as maintenance cleaner, or precision cleaner. Things like small tar spatters, oil, brake fluid, and similar fluids are very difficult to remove with soapy water.
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Degreasers come in a spray can typically. To clean them, spray the entire rim with the degreaser, and then wipe off the surface using paper towels, or old rags.
2. Sand off any rust (only if rusted)
If there is any visible rust then you need to sand it down. Use medium grit sandpaper (80 grit or so). Sand them down until they are nice and flat.
Then use isopropyl alcohol and a rag. Or, a wet rag to wipe the entire surface to remove any of the dust you made when sanding. If you have an air compressor, blowing it out with that will save some time.
3. Apply a rust inhibitor
Apply some rust inhibitor over the areas you have sanded down, and/or the entire steel surface. Follow the instructions on the rust inhibitor label for how long it needs to dry. This will limit the ability of rust to form, especially from if there was rust on it previously that you sanded down.
4. Rough up the surface to make the primer adhere better
Use a finer grit sandpaper (100 or so). The higher the number the grit a sandpaper is, the finer it is. For example, 100 grit sandpaper is less rough than 80 grit sandpaper.
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This will rough up the surface and create more surface area for the primer to stick to. This step isn’t absolutely required, but is recommended. After roughing it up, wipe the area thoroughly using a damp cloth to remove any dust.
If your rim still has the tire on it you need to cover the tire so that it doesn’t get any paint on it. This is done with masking tape and newspaper. Tape down pieces of newspaper so that they cover the tire so it won’t let any paint get on it.
5. Apply the primer
If you’re using a spray on primer then lightly spray the area in short strokes. The main thing to avoid is causing drips which will harden and leave a bump. So, apply very small amounts at a time.
If using a brush, and tin of primer, then pour some into a drip tray. Then paint it on being careful to get an even coat. Follow the instructions on the label for how long to leave it to dry.
6. Apply the paint
Before applying the paint, sand the primer surface lightly to rough it up. Then wipe off any of the dust using a damp cloth. Use the same methods explained above for applying the primer to apply the paint.
It’s usually best to let the first coat dry, and then apply another coat.
Can You Paint Stainless Steel Wheels?
Stainless steel wheels are more resistant to rust than steel wheels. However, if you want to paint them it’s important to know if it will work. This is whether it’s possible to paint stainless steel wheels.
As a general rule, you can paint stainless steel wheels. Unlike steel wheels, you should use a primer that is specifically designed for stainless steel. However, the overall process is the same.
There are full step by step instructions for how to paint stainless steel rims a little bit further up in this article. Use the exact same method there, except for the primer use a stainless steel primer.
Overall, you can paint steel rims. Painting steel rims will make them look like new again which is especially good if they are rusted, and it can be done yourself. Painting steel rims also protects them, and you can change the color to black, or any color you like.
ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on 2022-08-21.