Alloy Wheel Refurb

The wheels on the car are actually in pretty good condition but the spare wheel had seen better days as you can see.

After watching hours of Wheeler Dealers I have seen how easy it can be to have your wheels refurbished and can cost as little as £60 per wheel. This is much cheaper than buying a new set of wheels but still a bit more than I wanted to pay out at this time and thanks to Google and YouTube I gained the confidence to have a go at refurbishing the wheel myself.

The first thing to do was to spend some time watching the many, many, videos on YouTube of people showing you how to refurbish alloy wheels. It all seemed pretty straight forward, clean the wheel, sand the wheel, prime the wheel, paint the wheel and finally lacquer the wheel. All the videos showed the different methods for doing this. Some would say that you need the tyre off the wheel, others say working with the tyre in place is OK to do. The same with sanding, everyone has the different grades that they use. Whether you should sand between sprays or whether just to leave the paint or lacquer with no sanding in between. Whether to spray the whole wheel or just the part that needs the work is also of consideration. There are many things to think about and knowing the best way forward would only come with trial and error.

So, armed with my newly found knowledge and experience from YouTube it was time to look at getting together all the items I would need to perform the refurbishment. The shopping list looked something like this.

  • 80 grit sand paper (to get the worst of the kerb rash out)
  • 2500 grit paper (to smooth down the sanding)
  • Rubbing Alcohol (to clean the wheel and make sure no grease or contaminants are left on the surface)
  • Masking Tape
  • Etch Grey Primer. (I understood that Etch primer is the best to use as it will fill in the fine scratches from the sanding)
  • Silver Alloy Paint. (I got some standard Silver Alloy spray from eBay but I understand Halfords do a a close match to the silver used by BMW. I would like to try a gun metal silver in the future).
  • Clear Coat Lacquer

After cleaning down the wheel I set about removing the kerb-rash from around the rim and the bubbling paint work. I started with the 80 grit sandpaper which removed it more easily than I expected. This did leave some scratching in the alloy so the 2500 grit sandpaper was then used to smooth this down. I could have really done with having a more medium 1000 grit in between. This is something to note for next time.

After sanding down the wheel and getting it as smooth as I could I masked up the wheel and gave it a good clean with the rubbing alcohol.

A useful tip I found when refurbishing whilst the wheel is still in place is to get some thin card, like playing cards, and insert these between the rim and the tyre. You can bend them back and tape them down and they give a really good divider between the wheel and the tyre. I used a cereal packet cut up in to 2.5 inch squares which worked just as well and was going in the recycling anyway. Another type of card I found useful was those dividers you get for folders.

It was then onto the primer. I used the Etch Primer as I understand that this will fill in some of the finer scratches from the sanding to make a better finish. I gave it three coats of primer, leaving it for 5 minutes between each coat.

After letting the primer dry it felt pretty rough to the touch so a sanding with the 2500 grit wet and dry paper to get the finish smooth. Once again, after sanding and washing down, a clean with the rubbing alcohol and on to the silver alloy paint. Three coats again followed by a light sanding and then the lacquer.

Overall I was very pleased with the outcome for a first bash at this. I learnt a lot from the experience and there was a great sense of satisfaction knowing that even though it is the spare wheel and no one would see it, it looked really good. It is by no means going to look as good as having it refurbished professionally. The cost of all the items came to about £30 in the end and I have so far managed to refurnish two wheels with these products. This is a lot cheaper than having the wheels professionally refurbished but is not to the same standard.