How to repair alloy wheels and refurbish them
A good set of alloy wheels can make a standout car—but only if they’re in tip-top condition.
Alloy corrodes. It’s also pretty soft compared to the steel construction of a more basic and cheaper wheel. What that adds up to is, over time, your alloys will suffer corrosion, dents and dings will appear from kerb damage, old paint finishes and coverings will flake and peel, making your once beautiful shining rims look old and tattered.
So, how are you going to bring your beautiful and bold rims back to looking like new?
It all depends on your budget.
Do you DIY or call in the professionals?
How much does it cost to refurbish alloy wheels professionally?
There are a variety of different methods available when it comes to refurbishing your alloys, so to be able to pick a price out of the sky and consider that ‘job done’ is as accurate as determining ‘how long is a piece of string?’
We’re not going to leave you hanging though, so here are some ballpark figures to get you off the ground. So, how much is alloy wheel repair?
You can probably get a typical one-piece 20” wheel rim clean up and polish for around £50. Two-piece wheels will cost a little more; let’s say around £70. You might even get a basic paint job for that too, but that depends on who you choose to do the work.
Larger wheels will cost a little more, with the extra work required for a greater surface area. You can add another £20 there, bringing a single-piece 20” wheel in somewhere close to £70 and a 21” at £90.
Having your wheels diamond cut (we’ll get to what that is a little later if you don’t already know) will cost a little more. Depending on your wheel, possibly from around £70 for the outer rim and edge, and £80 and up for the rim and face.
How much to refurb alloys when you DIY
At the other end of the scale, a DIY job can cost you as little as a healthy dose of elbow grease and a few cans of spray paint.
Don’t be put off by the idea of DIY, though; you can achieve some excellent results with a little care, plenty of patience, and a keen eye for attention to detail.
If you consider that some liquid metal filler and a selection of spray paint can cost you less than £30–40 for the lot, that’s a massive saving over what could be a £300 plus professional project. So, how much does it cost to repair alloy wheels if you do the job yourself? A lot less than taking them to the body shop.
Professional alloy wheel refurbishment
How to refurbish alloy wheels
You can break down professional services into:
- Cosmetic repair
- Coatings and paint finishes
- Diamond cutting
How to repair scuffed alloy wheels
If your wheels have suffered damage, then a professional wheel service can level off any protrusions using a range of sanding techniques. Dents or chunks of missing wheel can be filled using metal fillers; once set they will be sanded back down to the profile of the wheel.
For many repairs, the metal can be sanded back to match the existing wheel colour, but where this isn’t possible, a new coating will cover any repairs and render your wheels as good as new.
Coatings and paint finishes for alloy wheels
Most professional wheel technicians will be able to match your existing finish without a problem.
- Powder coating is a hardwearing specialist paint, available in pretty much any colour or a range of metallic finishes. It’s a great way of protecting the wheel to extend its life.
- Clear lacquer and spray painting offer both protection and a change in style if required.
Professional alloy wheel polishing
Polishing your wheel will give a lovely finish. However, a plain polished wheel will be left vulnerable to the elements and further corrosion if not cared for regularly. Applying a layer of wax or other professional polish can help protect your wheel surface but will need regular applications to give continued and lasting protection.
Diamond cutting alloy wheel refurbishment
Diamond cutting is the process of fixing your wheel to a CNC lathe to recut the wheel.
Where corrosion has been severe, this process will skim a super fine layer of the wheel’s surface, levelling out any pits, dents, marks and scuffs. There are a finite number of times you can apply this method before it impacts the integrity of the wheel structure.
Generally, once cut, the wheels will have a clear coat of lacquer applied and cured in a suitable oven for the chosen finish.
How much to refurbish alloy wheels if you DIY?
Ok. So, your wheels aren’t in too bad a state of repair, and that £350–£400 price tag to get them looking as good as new from your local professional is just too far out of your budget.
How do you get them back to their best for under £50? Here’s your quick ‘how to refurbish alloy wheels’ guide.
1. Scrub them back to basics
The first and possibly most important part of the process is the work that goes into removing the problem looking areas. Preparation is everything in just about any process that involves a new coat of paint.
You’ll want to attack the heavy areas of damage or old paint finishes with a wire brush, plenty of soapy water and some decent wheel cleaner.
2. Scrape and sand down to a smooth finish
Level off your wheels’ surface with some wire wool, wet and dry or a Scotch Pad. Whatever you use, be patient. Take all the time you can at this stage, as the longer you spend preparing your wheels, the better they’ll look when they’re finished.
You should also make sure you get into every nook and cranny. The better key you provide for the paint, the healthier its adhesion to the metal.
3. Fill in any dents
You can fill any dents and dings with metal filler. Fill them up and once the filler is completely set, sand it back to a smooth finish level with the wheel’s profile.
4. Thoroughly clean your wheels ready for painting
You must remove every last bit of dust, oil and grime prior to starting the painting process. Give them a once over with some panel wipe or degreaser.
5. Apply a couple of coats of primer
Priming your wheels will give your top coat of paint a great base to adhere to. It also gives you a chance to spot any last-minute areas that need a little extra smoothing or work.
6. Apply your paint finish
Whether you’ve chosen a fresh metallic spray paint or a radical change of colour for your upgraded wheels, make sure you apply enough coats to create the best finish and leave plenty of time to dry between each one.
Don’t rush to get your newly painted wheels back on your car either. Give them plenty of time for the paint to harden to their full strength.
DIY alloy wheel repair and refurbishment kits
If you’re going to go down the DIY route, then it’s worth considering one of the many kits available from all the usual motoring retailers.
Each kit will contain paint wipes, cloths and filler to prepare and repair all 4 of your wheels. All you need after that is to choose your finish colour and pick up enough spray paint to complete the job.
Fixter is revolutionising the car maintenance industry, one repair at a time. Fixter was founded to make car maintenance as easy as booking a taxi. Digital, transparent and stress-free, with world-class customer service. Since launching in Manchester in 2017, Fixter has expanded to more than 100 cities across the UK and provided thousands of car owners with honest, convenient and affordable car repair services.