Refinish your own clearcoat aluminum rims !


Active member
Aug 19, 2018
Space Coast FL (321 area code)
2015 Passat TDI SEL, phase 2a
Here is a crazy one: REFINISH YOUR OWN WHEELS ! if you have the clear-coated aluminum rim with scrapes and oxidation you can actually refinish all 4 for less than $60 and 2-4 hours of time. what you need: quart of Walmart paint stripper, 2" plastic scraper, 3M masks, rubber gloves, goggles, 400/800/1000/2000 grit wet-sand paper, $8 Clear-coat wheel spraypaint, $5 mothers aluminum wheel polish, qt of acetone, car wax, many cotton rags like old tshirts. some good youtube videos are posted on this topic, which I will summarize what worked for me:

remove the wheel and work on this away from all your cars (anything with paint)
1. dremel smooth any curb bites
2. sand any dremel repairs with plenty of water. first 400, then 800,1000,2000 until smooth
3. apply paint stripper according to directions - saran wrap over the gel if needed to prevent evaporation (florida summertime)
4. old finish literally POPS and cracks off
5. scraper and wash off all the stripper with hose -- works BEST with a pressure washer and saves alot of time with minimized scraping. I'd rent a $35/day ace-hardware high pressure gasoline engine powered washer if you want to save the most time. dont get this residue on your skin and keep animals away from it too... it burns like a mother. chemical burn.
6. now polish the aluminum with Mothers. machine polish is best.
7. with very clean rags wash down the rim with acetone and get all the residue and hazing off. wash several times. watch scratching the rim, as you will see it forever.
8. mask off the tire. one video guy suggested inserting like 50 index cards around rim -- i couldnt get that approach to work with the thinner walmart notecards. painters tape was fine for me because Im getting new tires soon.
9. 2 light coats with 5-10 minutes between and then one medium-wet looking coat that makes the entire surface wet without drips or runs. pull the tape off after 15 minutes. mine dried in an hour but I left it out overnight before reinstalling.

They look like NEW rims..

downside -- if you have GREY-PAINTED relief then you should tape off the grey because the stripper will eat into the grey paint. You COULD repaint the dark-grey before the clear coat.

This beats $200/wheel for shop refinishing and now you can fix a damaged finish without breaking the bank.

To get a real factory wheel finish use 2K clearcoat from an automotive paint store. Its a 2 part, epoxy activated clearcoat in a self-pressurized spray can and its hard as factory crystal clear. The spray can has a T you press underneath that releases the activator and then you have 24 hours to use the clear -- it will harden solid in the can in a day if not used. In Florida, it is $22 a can and it does 2-3 wheels.

either type of clearcoat can be buffed and polished if you have a little bit of spray-dust. I didn't need to polish mine, but after a day some wheel-wax really made it shine! Put the saved $750 toward a Colorado or Cali trip, new tires, new cross-drilled rotors, or spread the love.

post your results..