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    Ultimo Miembro Fantástico Gigantesco Galcobar is a splendid one to behold Galcobar is a splendid one to behold Galcobar is a splendid one to behold Galcobar is a splendid one to behold Galcobar is a splendid one to behold Galcobar is a splendid one to behold Galcobar is a splendid one to behold Galcobar is a splendid one to behold Galcobar's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Richmond, B.C.

    Post DIY Wheel refinishing project

    (If this is good enough for sticky material, any corrections to technique or materials are welcome. I'll add them in. If it's not going to be used by other people, don't tell me where I screwed up; ignorance is bliss)

    Decided a little while back that my wheels -- the originals -- were looking pretty ratty. Sanding and polishing them hadn't fixed the appearance, and over the last twenty-two years a lot of curb damage had been inflicted.

    Initially I tried just sanding a wheel and hitting it with Tremclad Aluminum spray paint -- I wasn't planning on putting a lot of time into this, I just wanted the wheels to look better. The results weren't bad, with even the gouges in the rim edge looking much diminished, but the overall impression was one of cheap hubcaps.

    So I sucked it up and went about it more-or-less the right way.

    Materials and tools

    -small flathead screwdriver
    -white crayon
    -60 grit sandpaper
    -120 grit sandpaper
    -400 grit wet/dry sandpaper
    -1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper
    -green scrub pad
    -sanding block, 2cm by 4 cm

    -dish detergeant
    -GoJo hand degreaser
    -scrub brush
    -lintless paper towels
    -isopropyl alcohol
    -Meguiar's Ultimate Compound
    -foam applicator pad
    -microfibre cloth

    -JB Kwik steel-impregnated two-part epoxy
    -table knife

    -painter's tape
    -Dupli-color Scratch Filler & Primer, grey (CFP101)
    -Dupli-color Stainless Steel Coating (CSS100)
    -Dupli-color High Performance Wheel Clearcoat (CWP103)

    Personal choice and background info
    The Dupli-color High Performance Wheel Coatings are acrylic enamels, which makes for a much harder paint that the usual lacquer car paints. You can tell the difference between an enamel and a lacquer by the instructions -- enamels will say to recoat within one or two hours or after five to seven days, while lacquers can be recoated any time.

    This recoat window is required because enamels harden due to a chemical reaction -- a new coat of enamel will interrupt that reaction and cause wrinkling -- while lacquers dry through evaporation of the solvent. This is also why you cannot apply a lacquer over an enamel, particularly new enamel -- the solvents in the lacquer damage the enamel's partially-complete reaction. You can however apply an enamel over a lacquer.

    I went with the Stainless Steel rather than one of the Wheel Coating colours because I was looking for more depth and colour than the HPWC Silver provided, and having seen the Graphite on these wheels dislike how dark it makes them.

    As I couldn't take my car off the road, I did one wheel at a time and did not dismount the tires. Each wheel took about 36 hours to complete, though the majority of that time was waiting for the paint or epoxy to cure. Applying the colour and the clear coats are the only steps where you can't stop once you've started; it took me three hours, though it would only take two if it weren't for an oddity in the Stainless Steel coating.

    I found one can of primer to be plenty. One can of Stainless Steel and one of the HPW Clearcoat would have been enough, but I had a couple issues with the hubcaps courtesy of a long hair and a large drop spit from the clearcoat can requiring me to redo them (one I redid twice after a failed attempt at feathering in the fix). As a result I had to start another can of each; means I have extra now if I need to fix any chips.

    The wheel as it stood:

    The standard recommendation is to clean and degrease, then sand, then clean and degrease. Dismounting the wheel would allow you to use a chemical stripper, speeding up the process. Since I was stripping the wheel with the tire attached, I skipped the first cleaning and went straight to the sanding.

    First though, had to remove the wheel weights. I marked the position on the tire with the white crayon, and made a note of which wheel carried which weight. Since I was refinishing the rim edge anyway I wasn't too worried about making some dents, so I simply pried at either edge of the clamp section of the weights with the flathead screwdriver. On one, however, I found it useful to wedge a chisel under the weight, levering the weight off the rim slightly; doing so gave me room to get the screwdriver in between the clamp and the rim.

    Started with 60 grit sandpaper. Found myself using fairly small pieces so I could get into the smaller curves and still sand in multiple directions.

    Used a scrub brush and dish detergeant to clean the wheel. Using the same soapy water (I made sure not to dunk the dirty brush into the water) I then used the 400 grit to wetsand as smooth a finish as I could mange, with the green scrub pad used for the small curves which escaped the sandpaper.

    The curb rash proved challenging. I eventually found myself using a small scrub brush and GoJo (good at removing road grime without damaging rubber) to get into the thousands of crevices and clean out the accumulated, hardened grime.

    The result doesn't look too bad, other than the rash, from a distance:

    Get up close, however, and you can see the condition of the paint and the rim edge. (I'm going to use photos of the same section of the first wheel to better illustrate the process, and the mistakes I made). Note the gouge on rim in the right third of the photo.

    The depth of the curb rash is more apparent when shown at an angle.

    After all that, I again washed the wheel with dish soap and set it to dry.

    Damage correction

    The right way to fix damage to a wheel is to have new metal welded on, which wasn't an option here. The alternative was some sort of filler. Bondo body filler has been used, but I didn't trust its durability on a wheel and buying small amounts seems impossible in my area anyway. Bondo also makes Plastic Metal which I've seen used in how-tos, but I couldn't find that either. A third option is JB Weld, a steel-filled two-part epoxy, which is readily available in small amounts.

    For convenience, I went with JB Kwik, a fast-setting version which is pliable for about two minutes and cures in four hours as opposed to 24 hours with JB Weld. I figured the tradeoff of lower strength was worth the convenience and the fact I could form JB Kwik and have it set without losing its shape.

    I mixed small batches, using about a BB-size drop of each component at a time. Application was done with an old table knife. A cup of water and dish detergent let me clean the knife between each batch, and have something with which to wipe the wheel if the JB Kwik dripped.

    Working the JB Kwik into each crevice by pressing along the length of the crack and then applying another layer over top seemed to produce the best adhesion.

    As an aside, do not pre-clean or dry the area with the alcohol. The warning is buried on JB Weld's website and appears nowhere on the packaging. Alcohol and any product which leaves a petroleum residue are contra-indicated.

    I also applied the JB Kwik to a couple of pits on the face of the wheel.

    After at least four hours of curing time you can remove the JB Kwik. Whether you use the 60 grit or the 120 grit depends on how thickly you applied it.

    This is where I found the sanding block handy. Being flat, it helps produce a level result by skimming over low sections. Using your fingers makes you likely to dip in and out of the damaged sections producing a wavy profile. The other benefit is that you can wrap the sandpaper so that the block sticks out the end. Then when sanding the edge of the rim the wooden block is rubbing the tire rather than the much-more-likely-to-produce-a-hole sandpaper.

    After getting most of the JB Kwik off, I switched to the 400 grit to smooth out the surface for painting.

    Notice the two black spots on the rim in the right of the image. Those were particularly bad gouges and I didn't fill them in well enough. However, they felt so shallow I expected the sandable primer to fill them in.

    Vacuums work wonders in removing the heavy particles produced by sanding JB Kwik. I then wiped the wheel down with the alcohol.

    Went around the rim of the tire with the painter's tape, and covered the rest of it with newspaper. The table knife proved handy here in getting into the tire-wheel crevice and pressing the tape down.

    Don't forget to wrap the valve stem as well, but try to wrap it tightly so it presents the least amount of interference with painting. If you aren't painting the backside of the wheel, close off the open holes as well. I used a cardboard circle wedged into place just short of the back of the wheel, as taping the holes shut would prevent the paint from covering the edge of the holes and run the risk of it being damaged when the tape was removed.

    Painting should be done at temperatures between 16C and 35C (60-95F) and with humidity at 60 per cent or lower.

    Primed the wheel with three coats, ten minutes between each: a light tack coat with practically no colour change, then two heavier coats. I found making two light passes produced a more consistent coat than trying to apply it in one pass.

    Gave the last coat of primer 30 minutes to dry before attempting to sand it.

    The 400 grit sandpaper proved too aggressive and stripped the primer off. Preferably I would have used 800 grit, but this was nine o'clock at night on a Sunday and even the Home Depot outlet on the other side of town was closed. So, resprayed a couple coats and this time wetsanded it with the 1500 grit sandpaper, then dried it with an alcohol wipedown.

    Followed that with four coats of the Stainless Steel. Again, I started with an almost dry tack coat, then followed with heavier but not wet coats every 15 minutes.

    The Stainless Steel does have one peculiarity: its heavy flakes. The metallic element of this paint is the heaviest I've ever seen, leaving a dry silvery dust for yards around where you've painted. It also leaves excess flakes on the surface of whatever you've painted. Dupli-color's instructions say to wipe it with a clean cloth after an hour; I preferred to use my latex glove to ensure I left no lint behind.

    Even after rubbing off the excess flake, the Stainless Steel Coating leaves a definite texture.

    Once the excess flakes were removed, I applied the clearcoat. The instructions on the HPWC can call for two light coats, 10 minutes apart. However, Dupli-color's application tips sheet on the website calls for 3-4 coats. After reading through various discussion threads and how-tos, I went with a light tack coat, a slightly heavier wet coat, and a final heavy coat.

    I again found that making several passes to get a particular area visibly wet gave me more consistent results than a slow heavy pass, and was less likely to produce paint sagging.

    If you apply a thick coat you will sometimes see the clearcoat go cloudy. As the enamel hardens this cloudiness will disappear, though it will take longer in humid conditions.

    Wetsand and compound
    Give the paint at least 24 hours to harden, or more with higher humidity.

    I inspected the wheel by touch to find the areas in need of more aggressive correction. Generally, the vertical planes were the most in need of help.

    I used the 1500-grit sandpaper and a detergent-water mix for lubrication. I would periodically dry the area I was working on to check how much orange peel texture was left and ensure I did not go through the clear coat.

    Wetsanding the clearcoat should produce at most white particles. If you're seeing colour, you've gone through the clear and will have to recoat.

    Wetsanding will generally leave the finish cloudy. To restore transparency and shine, I used the Ultimate Compound on a foam applicator. This does require putting in a good bit of passion. Try not to scrub back and forth when using a compound; the pressure in your fingertips tends to leave a deeper impression at the end of a stroke, marring the finish. Circular motions help to keep the pressure more evenly distributed.

    The finish is not as obscenely sparkly as this flash photo makes it appear, but you get an idea of its reflectivity.

    Remember those two low spots I expected to be filled by the primer? After I applied it, they certainly seemed to be gone to both my eyes and my fingertips. With the colour layer on, I couldn't guess where they were. Then I applied the clear, and....


    I am not redoing this for a slight indentation. My sore back's worth more than taking it from a ten-foot finish to a five-foot finish.

    And a comparison shot of old (left) versus new (right):

    I'll give them another week to finish curing, then apply a mild abrasive polish and a sealant/wax before putting the wheel weights back on. In the meantime, I'll have to hope that nobody (including myself) dings them only two days after being repainted, as happened to my Celica (yes, still bitter about it seven years later).
    Last edited by Galcobar; 06-06-2012 at 06:26 AM.
    Men call cars "she" because it gives them at least one female they can claim to understand
    Mazda Velocity Red paint; Eibach Pro-Kit; KYB GR-2; rear disc brake conversion; Suspension Techniques rear anti-sway bar; sixth-gen suspension arm conversion; Bosch E-code H4 housings

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