Hi guys. I have been getting a lot of questions about how I did my wheels so I thought I would copy my write up I originally did for this process a few years ago. As an update to the rims, they have been through a few winters and they have held up great. No chips or scratches on them. Just clean them like regular painted surfaces and they look great. Anyway, here is the write up I did.
Do It Yourself Wheel Painting Using the Dupli-Color Products
Step One Get a Set of Wheels ($250)
The first thing you need is a set of rims that you want to paint. In my case I managed to find myself a nice local set of four wheels and tires in the classified on another forum for $250. They were cheap enough that I wasnt afraid of ruining them if I messed up this process. There is a picture of the rims that I started with at the end of the post. They are the brushed aluminum rims that came stock on 3rd generation Rams starting in 2006.
Step Two Buy the Product You Will Need. Item One = Sandpaper ($6)
On my way home from getting the rims I stopped in at Pep Boys to get the items that I thought I might need for this job. The first thing that you will need is sand paper. I went with some nice small sheets of 320 grit sand paper. I purchased two packs of 5 sheets each. 2 ½ sheets per wheel seemed like it should be enough.
Step Two Buy the Product You Will Need. Item Two = Degreaser ($4)
Since these rims are used and have some road grime on them, I purchased some degreaser to use on the rims. I went with a bottle of Simple Green. It has always worked well for me and it is inexpensive. Even if your rims dont have road grime on them, a degreaser is going to be needed after you get done all your sanding steps, trust me.
Step Two Buy the Product You Will Need. Item Three = Tack Rags ($2)
Personally whenever I paint something I like to keep the Tack Rags handy just in case I need them. For a couple of bucks it cant hurt to have a pack on hand.
Step Two Buy the Product You Will Need. Item Four = Self Etching Primer ($8)
Since I will be painting on metal, I always feel like a good etching primer helps ensure good adhesion of the paint to the surface. Since these rims are going to be constantly barraged with pebbles, salt and everything else, I want the paint to have the best chance possible of sticking to the rims. I purchased two cans of the primer.
Step Two Buy the Product You Will Need. Item Five = Fill Primer ($8)
The rims I purchased had a couple of rough spots on them. If yours are in good shape all around you will probably not need this product. But since I have a couple areas that are a little rough, I purchased some Fill Primer. This primer will let me sand on the rims a little more after being primed to get the surface of the rims as smooth as possible. I purchased two cans.
Step Two Buy the Product You Will Need. Item Six = Wheel Coating in Your Color ($18)
Now it is time to pick which color you want your rims to be. Personally, I am going for the black look so that is the color I went with. It is the Dupli-Color wheel coating product. I have a read about this product in a few places and it seems to have good reviews. The store I went to offered black (which I purchased), silver and graphite. I thought about getting two cans, but then I decided that I did not want to run out in the middle of the job since there is a short window for working with this product. So I decided to go with three cans just to be safe.
Step Two Buy the Product You Will Need. Item Seven = Wheel Coating Clear ($18)
This product like some of the others mentioned previously is optional depending on your application and desired look. After doing some reading, painting the wheels with just the wheel coat color will leave a flat finish. In order to achieve a gloss finish you need to apply the last item I purchased, the Clear Wheel Coating. At the time I was buying my items, I was unsure if I wanted to go with a flat finish or a gloss finish. The thing is, when you paint using the wheel coating you have to apply the clear within two hours of applying the color or it could cause the color to wrinkle. So again, I figured I would buy the clear and decide if I liked the flat look or gloss look after I had painted the rims the flat black. I went with three cans of the clear just like with the color. All told I spent $64 on all the products I believed I would need to do this job.
Step Three Remove the Weights from Your Wheels
All of the rims I am using have the lead balancing weights on them. I have no intention of painting the wheels with these weights on here because when I go to get new tires put on these rims, the weights will end up someplace else on the rims leaving spots without paint. So I used a screwdriver and a hammer and gently tapped the screwdriver under the weight and pried it off. I used the junkiest screwdriver I have because I dont like hammering on my good tools. After I got each one off I marked on the wheel with a silver sharpie the location of the weights. This way I can put them back on the wheels in the proper place when I am done. The weights are getting painted too so they blend in. I may just leave them off since I am getting new tires soon anyway, we will see. (Update: I decided to leave the weights off).
Step Four Start Sanding
Here is where the fun begins. After getting the weights off all the rims and giving the rims a good cleaning with the degreaser, it is time to start sanding. On the exposed side of the rim, I found it works best to get the piece of sandpaper, fold it up a few times and go at it by hand. With all the curves and angles on the rims, doing it with the paper on a block would be almost impossible. As far as the inside of the rims (and yes, these do need to be done as well) I used the die grinder with a scotch brite scuffing pad on it. This will not leave as smooth of a surface as the hand sanding did, but since this is the inside of the rim I just want it to be cleaned and scuffed so that the paint will stick. Dont forget to do in the lug nut holes as well as along the lip of the rim. These were two of the hardest areas to get to and took the most time to get right. Total sanding time for all four rims was about 2 hours. You could probably do it faster than that, I stopped a lot for drinks and to talk. You could probably get each one done in about 15 to 20 minutes if you work straight through.
Step Five Degrease the Rims (again)
Now that they have all been sanded down, I took the rims outside to give them a nice cleaning. I saturated each one with the Simple Green and then rinsed it off with the hose. After they were cleaned and rinsed I blew them dry with the air compressor.
Step Six Tape Up the Tires
These rims are not small, and it takes a good amount of tape to cover all the areas you dont want paint on. I had already popped out the center caps, so it just left me with the tire itself to tape up. I found that it works best to tape along the edge and then put some sheets of newspaper or something on the rest of the tire.
Step Seven Tack Rag
Now that everything is prepped and ready, give all the rims a good wipe down with the Tack Rag to get off any contaminants that may be left on the rim.
Step Eight Self Etching Primer
It is finally time to start doing some painting. I started with the Etching Primer in very light coats. The purpose of this product is to promote adhesion between the wheels and the layers of paint which are soon to follow this primer. I found that three light coats of Etching Primer front and back gave the wheels a good even base for me to put my next layer of primer onto.
Step Nine Fill Primer
After the Etching Primer dries, it is time for the Fill Primer. This primer is going to fill in any small imperfections in the surface of the rim. Fill primer is not going to fill in huge gashes out of the metal, but it will help fill in small scratches and things like that. Again, I went with three light coats of the Fill Primer. Between coat two and three I gave the rims a light sanding before putting on the final coat of primer. Again, the rims are primed front and back.
Step Ten Paint the Rims
Well, the time has finally come to add some color to the rims. Just like with the primer, use light coats of the wheel coating. I found that four light coats gave the rims a nice uniform finish. It took about ten minutes for each coat to dry to the point that another coat could be applied. At this point I had to decide if I was going to stay with the flat look or go with the clear finish. I liked the flat black look and I think it would look go on any color truck except a black truck. When I put the flat black rim against the gloss paint of the truck, it just looked a little off to my eye. If you want the flat look, you are now officially done and can go to step twelve. However, if you are like me and want to go with the gloss look, go on to step eleven.
Step Eleven Clear the Rims
Like I stated earlier, I decided to go with the gloss finish for my rims. After the black coating had dried, I went right into the gloss coats. Do not wait too long after the black is applied to apply the clear. According to Dupli-Color, if you wait too long, the color coat could wrinkle if you apply clear more than two hours after applying your color coat. With this coat I went with three light coats. Once they were all coated I sat and waited for them to dry.
Step Twelve Finish the Rims
I had forgotten to mention this earlier when I posted this originally, but after the rims had ample time to dry and cure, I went into the finishing process. First I wetsanded them with 1000, then 1500 then 2000 grit sandpaper. After sanding I used rubbing compound and finally polishing compound.
Step Thirteen - Enjoy the Results of Your Work
You are now officially done. Step back and look at your work. It was a lot of prep, a lot of coats of paint (13 coats to be exact) and a lot of time, but it should have been worth it. In the end I loved the way mine came out and it was WAY cheaper than paying someone to paint or powder coat the rims. For $64 worth of products I got something that looks almost exactly the same as if I had paid someone $400+ to do it. Good luck with your wheels and you can always PM me any questions you have about the process. I will update as to how well the wheels are holding up once I get some miles on them.
The pictures below are in this order:
The rim in its original finish
Etch primer covered rim
Fill Primered Rim