Your car wheels go through a heck of a life. They can get super hot from heat-transfer from the brakes. They have to put up with being covered in brake dust. That usually means you’ll need a chemical cleaner to remove the dust. And they go from cold to hot and back to cold stress cycles.
So, you really need to use the best spray paint for rims that can handle the heat, the chemicals, and the weather. You need something that won’t chip, flake, or fade.
3 Best Spray Paint for Rims
- Rating: 4.8 / 5
- Brand: Dupli-Color
Colors and finishes include Black, silver, white, bronze, graphite, satin black, gold, gloss black, gloss clear and clear.
The paint (when applied correctly), an advanced acrylic enamel, is extremely durable and leaves a light metallic sheen which resists cracking, flaking and chipping, along with that, it stands up well to cleaning chemicals and brake dust deposits.
Some of the colors are near factory. They’re close enough to restore an original look. Since they have a wider range, you can let your creativity run a little wild and choose something a little different. Personally, I’m up for trying the bronze look on my black sedan.
It’s been designed for both steel and aluminum wheels, and it’s also safe to apply to plastic wheel covers. However, due to the nature of the product, the paint is thin. So, you’ll need to be extra careful when applying it. Expect to use a reasonable amount. It’s touch dry in around 30 minutes, and can be safely handled in an hour. Although I tend to leave it for at least a couple of hours.
- Rating: 4.4 / 5
- Brand: Rust-Oleum
Colors and finishes include Steel, matte black, graphite and clear.
Clearly this is the most limited of colors and finishes, but imagine this as the utility belt of wheel paints. It’s hard-wearing and has excellent weatherproofing. The formula has been blended to help stop rust and corrosion (of course, this applies to steel wheels only).
Suitable for both steel and aluminum wheels, it can also be used on hubcaps to freshen them up. This product hasn’t been designed for show as such, but it’s about getting the job done, and doing it only once. If you’re only wanting black, gray, or steel, the Rust-Oleum wheel paint will do everything you need. It lasts for a good amount of time without flaking or chipping off.
Colors and finishes include: Aluminum, gloss black, graphite, Chevy rally silver, satin black, Ford argent silver, matte clear and gloss clear.
I’ve used VHT paint on a number of things when I was younger. The VHT stands for Very High Temperature. They make paint for engine components, brake calipers, exhaust manifolds. Pretty much anything that got hot, or very hot. The wheel paint resists the heat just as you’d expect it to.
It’s a polyurethane paint specially blended to resist heat and chemicals. Although some of their range can withstand temps up to 900 degrees F, this wheel paint is rated at 250 degrees – plenty enough for wheels. VHT says that it performs best when using their primer and clear coat. However, when applied correctly, it will endure all but the harshest conditions. It won’t fade, crack or chip.
This paint is touch dry in around 30 minutes. But, ideally, it needs leaving overnight to cure properly. It’s quite a heavy coating. In theory, this means less work to coat each wheel – unlike the Dupli-Color paint. All in, this would be my choice of wheel paint, if I just wanted the standard colors.
Preparation is Key
Along with the right wheel paint, you need to ensure that your wheels are prepared absolutely correctly. Having tough paint is no good if it’s been applied to a loose or flaky base, or even a high gloss base. The reason is that it will have less to stick to. The surface needs to be ‘keyed’ to help the paint stick.
Starting with the basics, you should be working with a loose wheel. Clean the wheel as best you can. Usually, this would involve some sort of chemical wheel cleaner. Make sure that it’s grease and dust or debris free.
You now need to lightly abrade the wheel. You can start with a heavy grit if there’s significant damage to the surface of the factory finish. Or you can go with some something lighter if you’re just taking the sheen off the glossy finish that comes as standard. It’s almost like a lacquer (depending on the brand, the age, and the style, it may well be a separate lacquer, or could be part of the overall finish).
Once you’ve keyed the surface, smoothing out all the dings, lumps and bumps, it’s time to spray. You may want to hang the wheels so that you can get full 360 degrees access. This will allow you to paint the reverse side as well. If you are just looking to refinish the face, you could lay the wheels flat on their inside face – allowing good access to the front.
The next stage is crucial, and it’s the one that most people will get wrong. Don’t be tempted to try and lay on paintwork to cover the complete surface in one go. This risks getting paint runs, pooling, and a poor finish. You need to apply a light dusting for the first coat. Apply just enough so that you can see you’ve covered that area, let it dry before repeating.
This works best because a) you’re not risking the aforementioned problems, and b) it allows the paint to build up in layers, making it a more durable finish.
All three of these products work well, and I’d classify them as the best spray paint for rims in three different ways: best for color choice, best rim paint for everyday beaters, and the best wheel paint for harsh conditions.
If you’re looking to freshen up your rims, then I’d recommend buying around four cans in total (plus any finishers like clear or gloss topcoat). You may only use around half to three-quarters of a tin per wheel, but buying four cans allows you some extra for testing or mistakes. And because it’s purchased at the same time, the batch numbers should be close. If in a year’s time you notice some defects that need touching up, the paint will definitely be a match. That’s not something you can guarantee when buying a new can on its own.