How To Refurbish & Paint Steel Wheels

Completed Steel Wheels

On this post, I will show you how easy it is to refurbish and paint steel wheels yourself with the use of spray cans and some elbow grease. The best thing about painting your own wheels, is you can choose the colour you like, and even change the colour if you don’t like it to start off with.

As its winter time, it’s always a good idea to take off your alloy wheels and protect them from the winter elements such as snow and all the salt that gets put on the UK roads at this time of the year. You can pick up a set of steel wheels (steelies) from just about any online market place, or even your local scrap yard fairly cheap (I would recommend getting some new winter tyres for them) – We managed to get a set of 4 steelies for £50 with fairly new tread on them (which didn’t matter as we got new tyres for them).

It may be worth trying to find a set with do not have tyres on, as this will save some time and money getting the tyres taken off for when we start to prep and paint the steel wheels.

Prepare And Paint Steel Wheels

First you will need to remove the old paint from the wheels, now if you have a set that has already been painted by someone else, a bit of elbow grease and some sand paper will get this off easily. If it still has the manufacturers powder coated paint on the rims, it may be easier for you to take the wheels to a local firm that can sand / shot blast the paint off (this is what we did and it only cost us £5 a wheel).

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Once the paint has been removed, and back to bare metal, you will first need to etch prime the rims. Etch primer should always be used on bare metal, to allow paint or other primers stick to the metal. We started off with one light coat, and left that to dry for 20 min, then went over the rims again with another light coat, and left that to set for another 20 min. One final coat should see the whole rim completely covered and etch primed.

Steel Wheels - Etched Primed

As the rims were not a smooth finish after shot blasting, we went over the etch primer with some filler primer, which will fill in all the groves and little imperfections on the rim. Again, we started off with a light coat, and left that to dry for 2o min, and then applied a further 3 coats till the rim was completely covered in filler primer.

Filler Primer Applied To Steel Wheel

As you can see, there are black specs on the rim of the wheel – this is done intentionally as this helps with the next step of our process (sanding) – As most car DIY’ers will have some spare rattle cans hanging around, spray the surface of the rim lightly with a contrasting colour. We lay this light over spray layer of paint on the surface of the rim, so we know where we have sanded to get a smooth finish on the front of the steel wheels.

Over Spray

The next step is to leave the rims to dry over night, we left ours 24 hours to dry (as it was out in the garage and very cold outside at the time) Once the primer has dried, it is time to use some fine grit wet and dry sandpaper to smooth these steelies down. We have to soak the wet and dry sandpaper in warm water (its also better to add a little bit of fairy liquid into the water).

Wet Sanding Steel Wheels For Smooth Finish

We will sand the wheels till completely smooth, and all the black speckles have vanished. Once complete, wash the rim down to get rid of any sandpaper residue. Then leave the steel wheels to dry (we used a heat gun to completely dry the rim).

Dry Wheels After Washing

Now its time to decide what colour you want to paint your refurbished steel wheels – As it was winter time, my brother (who’s car these wheels are going to be fitted this winter), decided he wanted a totally outrageous colour, and went with luminous yellow (which actually glows in the dark!)

This paint required the surface to have a white primer coat. So we went ahead and gave the rims another primer coat, but this time a white primer coat.

Steelie White Primer Coat


As you can see the finish is really smooth, and this is only the primer layer.

Steel Wheel White Primer

As the paint was quite expensive and only came in little tins, and also the fact that you would only see the surface of the rim, it was only required to paint the actual face of the rim this colour. The inside of the rim would actually be sprayed matt black (as no one would really ever see this).

Once the three layers of white primer was sprayed and allowed to dry for a couple of hours, it was time to lay the colour coat. This is what the wheels look like after one light layer of the glow in the dark paint.

First Coat Paint - Glow In The Dark Wheels

If you are painting your rims the same colour, or even another glow in the dark colour, you will notice the paint is extremely thin, so lots of light coats will be better then less heavier coats – we don’t want the paint to run. We also allowed 3o min for this paint to dry enough before adding more coats of paint.

Glow In The Dark Steel Wheels


This is what the wheels look like after 5 light coats of paint, which is how we left them. Now its time to leave these to dry for another day, before we mask the holes up and paint the rear and the rest of the steel wheel.

Luminous Green Steelies

As you can see, we messed up a little on the wheel closest to the camera, we soon sanded this down, and painted the outer rim again, but you can see the inside of the rim and where the tyre will go is now painted black.

Finally its time to seal all this paint in by applying lacquer to the whole wheel. Again lots of light coats of lacquer is better.

Finally the

Completed Steel Wheels

We used a matt lacquer on these wheels. And as you can seed from the image above, they look stunning. And the final test, what do they look like with the lights off

Glow-In-The-Dark-Steelies-Green Glow In The Dark WheelsFinally fitted to the car

Ford Fiesta Glow In The Dark Rims - Luminous Green

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