How to Refurbish Alloy Wheels

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Your customers no doubt regard their alloy wheels as key decorative features of their cars. This is why manufacturers and car enthusiasts often paint the wheels to make them stand out.

However, alloy wheel paint is vulnerable to gravel, pollution, weather and contact with kerbs. Chips and scratches can soon appear. To maintain the appearance of their alloy wheels, your customers may ask you to refurbish them.

What You Need

Although you may already know how to use a chemical-based wheel stripper, you might not be familiar with the water-based version. This product is easy to use, safe and effective. It also saves you time and money.

Apart from the stripper, you need your usual tools. These should include a stainless steel or high-density polyethylene tank for immersion, and mesh to go along the tank's bottom.

Water-Based Alloy Wheel Stripper

When you use a water-based wheel stripper, you don't need a filter press. The stripper doesn't turn the paint from the wheels into a sludge that you have to filter out. Instead, the paint comes off in strips. These fall to the bottom of the tank. To remove them, you pull out the mesh.

Another advantage of a water-based paint stripper is that it's non-toxic and free from odours. It's a lot safer to handle than its chemical equivalent. By opting for a water-based wheel stripper, you don't have to worry about the health and safety risks from chemical fumes because there are none. You also eliminate the risk of chemical burns from any spillages.

Temperature and Time

Pour the water-based alloy stripper in the tank and heat to 600 C. Go as high as 800 C if you prefer. Immerse the alloy wheels in the tank. At 800 C, you could see results in as little as 90 minutes. At 600 C, you may have to wait two to four hours.

Apart from temperature, the time the job takes depends on the quality of the paint. However, even primers applied by high-end car makers such as Porsche usually succumb to a water-based wheel stripper within four hours.

Remove the Alloy Wheels

Remove the alloy from the tank and pull out the mesh. As mentioned above, strips of paint will come out with the mesh. You're left with a tank of stripper you can immediately reuse for your next job.

Tidy the Wheels

Tidy the wheels by sanding down any abrasions around the rims. If you find any deep nicks, fill them with liquid metal. Once the liquid metal is dry, smooth it down with sandpaper.


If the customer has asked you to repaint the wheels, it's probably wise not to compromise on quality. Car wheels come in for a fair amount of abuse from the road so be sure to use durable paint products.

Spray on two coats of primer followed by a topcoat. Work in a ventilated area to keep paint fumes to a minimum but ensure the environment is warm. This way the paint sticks to the wheels more quickly and successfully, and you will have a very satisfied customer.
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