Your Guide to DIY Wheel Painting – Like a Boss

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DIY Wheel Painting- Step 6You work hard and you deserve your truck candy.  Let’s face it.  Steel wheels can make even the most beastly mecha-Tundra look like an over-sized Power Wheels. Whether you’re a DIY junkie or looking to outsmart a wiry bank account, this DIY guide will get you the crisp, clean look you deserve for under $50.

DIY Wheel Painting- Supplies

Materials You’ll Need:

(2) Cans Dupli-Color WP10() High Performance wheel coating (WP103)
(2) Cans Dupli-Color HWP103 High performance wheel clearcoat
(1) Can Dupli-Color CM-541 Wax and grease remover
(1) Roll 3M ¾” green high performance tape PN-03431
(1) Roll 3M 2” Scotch masking tape 2015
(1) Roll Shop towels
(1) 3-Pak maroon 3M Scotch Brite pads 37447
(1) Sleeve 600 grit 3M wet or dry sand paper 03020NA
(1) 5-gallon bucket (optional, but will make your life much easier.)
(1) Tack cloth (optional but highly advised!)

How to Paint Your Wheels: a DIY Guide

Steel: it’s functional, more durable than alloy and cheaper– but this frugal/durable mindset falls short on aesthetics.  Spend a warm day with the garage door open and a great playlist and you’ll be rewarded with a great look and the cash to celebrate.

Before You Install

Difficultly level: Beginner

Project Time: 6 Hours

DIY Rating: 8.  Like all DIY project, this takes time and patience.

Step 1: Take ’em off.

Start being being smart.  Park on level ground and set the parking brake. Loosen, but don’t remove all lug nuts. Lift the front of the vehicle and place on jack stands.  Remove the front wheels. Repeat the process for the rear.

DIY Wheel Painting- Step 1


Step 2: Scrub-a-dub-dub.

Once all the wheels have been removed it is time for some serious cleaning. When I painted the wheels on my ’73 Beetle, soap and water barely phased 40 years of grime. Home Depot carries an eco-friendly degreaser called Simple Green. At about $10/gallon, it tears through the grease and lets you move on to the fun stuff.

An old painter’s trick is to use some Comet in combination with a red scotch brite and water to clean and prep the surface simultaneously.  If you opt to use comet, grab some elbow length gloves and do NOT touch your face.

Scrub the wheels inside and out. The trick to a great DIY is making it look like a pro did it. If you want the paint to stick, the wheels need to be spotless.

DIY Wheel Painting- Step 2

Step 3: Sand!

Once the wheels are OCD clean, you’re ready to sand. Grab your 5-gallon bucket and fill it with warm water and about a quarter-squirt of dish soap. Soak a couple of the wet or dry sandpaper sheets in there and give them a couple minutes to “soften” up*.

Dip a rag in the water and use this to irrigate the area you will be sanding. Fold the sandpaper over and get to sanding. Use smooth overlapping motions and be sure to check your work every once in awhile. You can do so by drying the area to check for remaining shiny spots. Sand the entire wheel.

*Couldn’t I dry sand my wheels?  Yes and you will enjoy a slow, steady stream of steel dust.

Step 4: Give it a once over with a Scotch Bright Pad

Once you’ve rinsed the wheels and let them dry, go over them again with a maroon Scotch Bright pad.  This will even out your sanding and catch any spots you missed.

DIY Wheel Painting- Step 3

Step 5: Mask

They keys to a good mask job are neatness and completeness. A sloppy mask job with several folds and wrinkles will only provide a place for dust and trash to settle that will later end up in your paint job.

Good rule of thumb here: if you can see tire– keep taping.  You’ll never realize how much paint gets picked up in a slight breeze until you have your tires have over spray highlights.  Be sure to wrap the valve stem.

DIY Wheel Painting- Step 4

DIY Wheel Painting- Step 4 Close up

Step 6: Grease and Wax remover time

Grab some wax and grease remove and a roll of shop towels.  Apply the remover with one rag and remove it immediately with a dry, clean one. Each step of this process is as crucial as the next.

Once you are done, blow off the wheels with compressed air and wipe again with either a lint free towel or a tack rag.  If you don’t have compressed air, run to Office Max and grab some.  You’ll be back and finished before you could manually remove all traces of dust.  Remember, paint simply won’t stick to a greasy or dusty surface.

Step 7: Paint!

Read the directions on the can of spray paint.  Then read them again.  There’s no one size answer for how to apply wheel paint or how long it will take to dry.  Only your can knows for sure.

If you’re going James Bond gun-metal or any shade of metallic, a tack cloth is your best friend.  Metallic paint is tricky.  The metal particles need to flow evenly through the mist of paint in order to lay down properly.  Get sloppy and you’ll end up with a clustered or mottled look.

After the first coat of paint has dried, you may notice a slightly dusty finish. This dust is made of excess metallics and over spray that didn’t settle or conformed with the paint. Once the paint is dry to the touch, run your tack rag over the surface to remove the particles. This will leave a smooth layer for which to apply subsequent layers of paint.

Clear coating is a bit of overkill, but if you opt for that extra glossy look don’t wipe it down with the tack cloth between layers.  Since there aren’t any metallic particles in clear coat, you’re really just mucking up your shine.

DIY Wheel Painting- Step 5

Step 8: Take a step back and look at those damn sexy wheels.

Good job, buddy.

DIY Wheel Painting- Step 6

Many Thanks to TundraSolutions member Swank501 for his original DIY Wheel Painting post and images.

Filed Under: Tundra Wheels and Tires


RSSComments (2)

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  1. Mickey says:

    Not bad at all. Looks great. Probably can give a try. But first have to survive the furlough looming at us govt. workers.

  2. mk says:

    question: what about metal/steel trailer wheels? I have a triton ATV88 trailer I use for my 2 ATV’s and the cheap finish is flaking off exposing the black metal underneath of the steel rim in a lot of spots. Should I scrap all of the finish off of them that came with the tire or just remove the coating that is flaking off? It has about 7-8 dime sized or smaller spots where the factory coating is off the steel rims and would hate to remove all the coating from the factory.

    My opinion is to clean them up and what OEM finish/coating comes off comes off but would take a much longer time to remove the entire OEM layer of coating off of them.

    Agree or disagree?

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