How To Paint Your Wheels (Pro spec) - Toyota Celica Forum
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Default How To Paint Your Wheels (Pro spec)

Hey guys, I'm from the 7th gen area but am posting this in multiple generations since it isn't generation specific and I don't think most people randomly check other generation's boards.

Alright, I've almost finished refurbishing and painting all my wheels and have enough pics/experience to make a thread for this now. Let me start by saying that this was a major pain in the f*cking ass and I've already put in about 23 hours of work and still have the base/clear coat to go on the rear wheels. If you want to do this right, and put in 100% effort to get the best backyard paint job you can, you're looking at min 20+ hours of work and around $100 in supplies if you're going the spray can route like I did.

Supplies list:

1. We begin with the primer. No you can't cleanly sand down normal paint, I've tried it. This will give the base coat a nice surface to stick to and ensure it won't flake off with time. This will also be used to fill in minor imperfections. I used Duplicolor Gray Perfect Match Scratch Filler Primer.

2. Next is the base coat. I decided not to use wheel paint because I couldn't find a color that I liked. I THINK stand automotive paint will be okay in the long run, and so far it has held up on my front wheels with no bubbling or anything. Automotive paint will look better and be more durable than most paints on the market and is a good compromise between durability and aesthetics. I used Duplicolor Titanium Metallic Toyota Exact-Match Automotive Paint.

3. Finally the clear coat. This isn't as important an extra step as the primer in my opinion, but it will give your paint significantly more protection from damage and will make it shine. I used USC Spray Max 2k High Gloss. This is a 2 part clear coat and hence will expire 48 hours after you pop the inner chemical balloon in the can. From what I read, 2 parts have much greater adhesion and damage resistance than 1 part spray paints - you just need to use the can once activated within the time frame. It is also highly toxic, so you must have item #4 too.

4. Spray paint specific mask. Without this you could die, just sayin'. So buy it.

The steps:

1. Aggressively clean your wheels with a degreasing solvent of your choice. I used Simple Green.

2. Sand every part of the wheel that you intend to paint. I only painted the outer front face and not the inner barrel. You may want to use a lower grit if there is a lot of damage on your wheels, but I used 320 grit wet sanding paper. Your goal here is to remove all high spots in your paint, any curb damage you find, to remove contaminants from the surface, and to give your primer a nice clean rough surface to bite into. I wouldn't use over 320 grit as this would make the surface too smooth. You'll want to wet sand the surface until you have clearly made a new texture on your wheel relative to what it was before - you will both feel and see this texture. If you don't see the water turn the color of your paint, you aren't sanding it enough.

3. Clean your wheels again, first with a normal degreasing solvent and plenty of water while aggressively scrubbing with a car sponge/wheel brush, and after with 90%+ isopropyl rubbing alcohol. When cleaning with the alcohol, try to use an applicator that generates as little dust/fibers as possible. With the first step, only dry your wheel with COMPRESSED AIR. Not some weird chemical, but AIR. I used a 5 gallon air compressor with a high pressure attachment. This is to minimize particle displacement onto your wheel. The word of the day with paint prep is CLEAN. Act like you are a doctor performing heart surgery. Once clean, don't touch, sneeze on, or as much as look at the surface for too long with dirty thoughts in your mind. After the alcohol cleaning, run over the surface with compressed air again to knock off any debris that may be there. Another option is to use Brake Lean instead of alcohol, as you don't need an applicator for this and hence you'll generate less dust.

4. Masking. Use masking tape to cover the inner barrel of your wheel, valve stem, and lug nut holes if you aren't painting them. Remove your center cap gently using a wood chisel. For masking off your tire, I used 3 x 5 index cards per a trick I learned from Haggard Garage; see pictures below as a reference. Make sure the cards are firmly seated in the gap between the tire and wheel, and that they overlap each other at least 1/2 way. I bought a pack of 100 cards to do this.

5. Primer! Paint cans are finicky, so you must use them in a certain way. First shake your primer can for about one minute, and then heat it up with either hot water or a hair drier. The cans spray better when warm. Then shake the can again for about 2 minutes vigorously. Every time after shaking the can you must fire a quick burst of paint out the can onto a newspaper or something to clear out any resting droplets in the nozzle - this helps prevent large drops getting shot onto your paint job and creating a bad finish. Now with the painting - this will be the same method you'll want to use for the base coat. Spray no closer than 8 inches away from the surface, spray in light even coats so that you are just barely getting any paint on the surface, never spray with the can at more than a 45 degree angle relative to the ground (this will cause sputtering and large paint drops), and do not move the can too quickly (this will cause turbulence in the paint mist and will lead to an uneven finish or runs in the paint). For reference, one stroke of the can between two spokes on the outer rim of the wheel takes me between 1 and 2 seconds to complete. I used only 3 strokes/passes of paint at a time for each area. Since the areas of the wheel will obviously overlap, only cover one designated area at a time, like the top of the spokes, or sides of the spokes, and then wait 1-2 minutes for the paint to tack up before continuing to paint on a different area. Wait at least 3-4 minutes before painting over the exact same sector of the wheel again. This is tedious, but it is important to avoid runs. I have ZERO runs on my wheels, so clearly this approach works. You will want 4-5 full coats of primer on your wheels. Wait at least an hour for the primer to dry before moving onto next step. And don't forget to use your respirator.

6. Sanding the primer. This is an optional step. Do this if you could not apply your primer and base coat in the same day, or if your wheels have significant damage. Wet sand with between 250 and 500 grit paper. I used 500 grit since I could not apply my primer and base coat in the same day and had to rough the surface up again to promote base coat adhesion. Do NOT completely sand your primer down. If for my reason, only sand enough to generate a new texture on the surface. You will see it go from slightly bumpy/rough to smooth. Remember, you want micro roughness, not macro roughness. Visible bumps don't help adhesion, its the microscopic scratches and bumps that help, which 500 grit causes. If you have significant wheel damage, sand down until you begin to see your remaining paint/aluminum beneath showing in certain spots. At this point, stop sanding. You want at least 75% of the primer remaining, so once you begin to sand through the primer, stop sanding in that area. Once you are done wet sanding, clean with degreaser/water/brush, and then clean with ALCOHOL ONLY. DO NOT use Brake Lean or an aggressive solvent like Acetone to clean the sanding dust off your primer.

7. Base Coat. Apply in the same manner as the primer mentioned in step six. You will not be able to readily sand out mistakes with this step, so be careful and take your time. Try to be in an area where leaves and debris aren't in the air or falling on you. I did this in the corner of my garage. If you do it outside, do it on a day with no wind, and stay away from trees. Wait at least an hour to dry before moving on. Wear your respirator!

8. Clear coat. You MUST apply the clear coat in the same day that you apply your base coat, otherwise you will loose proper chemical adhesion. Sanding your base coat to improve adhesion is not an option as you will destroy the finish, and sanding at a high enough grit to preserve the finish won't scratch the surface enough to adhere the clear coat. The spray cans I listed are 2 part chemical sprays, so you need to use the provided cap to press the rod on the bottom of the can and release the second chemical inside the can. These last 48 hours once activated. You must tightly secure your respirator for this step, and provide considerable ventilation when using this paint. Now, this paint goes on a little differently than the Dupli-Color stuff. The cans spray faster and wetter, so only do 2 passes at a time before letting it tack up for 2-3 minutes. You will want many coats for the clear coat...I did around six or seven. This paint superficially dries in an hour, but takes at least 24 hours before fully hardening and gaining scratch resistance.

And you're done! I asked around, and a paint job of this quality would cost about $1000 for a pro shop to do. So you've just saved $900, which is nice if you're a poor SOB like myself.


Clean wheel before painting:

Wheel after initial sanding:

Wheel after priming:

Wheel after base coat and clear coat:

This took awhile for me to write, so pass it on to as many people as possible!

2000 GTS 6-speed. Performance Mods: Apexi Power FC, BC Racing DR coilovers, Injen CAI, Catback exhaust, EBC 'USR' rotors, Hawk 'Street/Race' pads, Stoptech brake/clutch lines, Castrol SRF brake fluid, Exedy stage 2 clutch, Mishimoto radiator, Moroso oil pan, 11# flywheel, Braille 11.5# car battery, Energy urethane suspension/motor bushings, BFGoodrich G-force tires.
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