Cosmetics And Wheel Finishes:

It's no surprise that rims come in all different sizes, shapes and even finishes. Whether painted, machined or chromeplated, keeping those expensive rims safe from the mean streets can be a difficult task, and sometimes knowledge is the best defense. Here at Rim & Wheel Works, we have seen all kinds of wheels and all kinds of finishes, and we have repaired all kinds of damage, from "curb rash" to salt corrosion.

There are many types of finishes used for automotive wheels, including paint, polish, machine polish, hypersilver, anodization, and chromeplate. Each process is different, and methods of refinishing wheels have changed dramatically over the past fifteen years we have been in business. The illustrated descriptions, along with our new YouTube video below will help you identify the cosmetics of your wheels, and tell you what you need to know to keep them looking great and of course, what we can do to help when they need to look better.

While we do straighten while you wait, we do not recondition while you wait, as refinishing wheels will take at least 7-10 business days. We can either store your car while your wheels go out, or we can sometimes loan you wheels while your wheels are out so your car remains on the road. This is obviously a service we can only provide for local customers. If you're unsure about how we can arrange to have your wheels restored, please feel free to call us. Refinishing prices are difficult to estimate exactly without seeing the wheels, as they can be subject to multiple variables. We encourage customers to , especially before spending money to ship wheels to us. Mounting and balancing of tires is a separate charge.

Click on any picture below to see a larger view.

Painted Finishes

Painted wheels are sprayed with an automotive-style paint using an HVLP (High Velocity Low Pressure) spraygun. The process of painting a wheel consists of prepping the wheel, priming it, painting it and applying a clearcoat, which seals the finish against corrosion.

The pictured BMW wheel is finished with a full face paint in a normal BMW flat silver. Notice that the color is uniform across the entire wheel. Although we used to do most of our painting in house and were justly proud of our work, our refinishing is now performed by vendors who do an even better job. Among other improvements, our reconditioned wheels are now all finished with a powdercoated clearcoat, which is baked onto the wheel at high temperatures, creating a much tougher protective coating than liquid-spray techniques.Our vendors use standard OEM paints for restoration-quality refinishing of all types of wheels.

Not so long ago, painted wheels came mostly in shades of silver with an occasional white, black or red wheel. Now there are many new types and colors of paint, giving many more and different effects.For a change of pace, however, many people like to paint their wheels in different colors - very often an anthracite grey, gun metal gray, or even a plain black or bright white. Some of our customers have had their wheels painted the exact same color as their car! It's often surprising what an effect this kind of thing has on the "look" of the car. Using a slightly different silver, for example, tends to make the car stand out, but in a more subtle way.

A clearcoated wheel should be cleaned with a product that is non-acidic and non-abrasive. Any product that says to spray on and remove within 2-5 minutes is probably a low-acid solution, which burns off the brake dust, but also eats away at the clearcoat. Some full-service carwashes will use acid-based cleaners to clean wheels as quickly as possible. Be careful out there!

The only products that we will use or sell for clearcoated wheels are Auto Magic Magnificence and Wheel Wax. Auto Magic Magnificence is a non-acidic, non-corrosive and non-toxic cleaning product, which removes brake dust by neutralizing the ionic charge that causes dust particles to stick to the wheels. Wheel Wax, designed for application on clean wheels, uses an opposite ionic charge to prevent brake dust from sticking to the wheels in the first place, and making particles that do stick easier to remove. Our customers love both products because it takes off the brake dust without breaking their backs.

Hypersilver Paint

Hypersilver is a paint process developed in Europe that uses a metallic paint laid over a black undercoat to produce an extremely deep, shiny finish. Many BMW, Audi and Lexus wheels have been finished in Hypersilver. Unfortunately, the metallic paint contains large amounts of lead and cannot be imported into the U.S. It has taken the refinishing industry in the U.S. several years to find a way to reproduce this finish without the lead paint, but it is now possible to refinish Hypersilver wheels to restoration quality.

The cost is more than a regular paint because it's a multi-stage process and the paint costs three times the cost of a regular painted wheel. (But we don't charge three times as much!) You care for your Hypersilver wheels just as you do your other clear-coated wheels with a non-acidic wheel cleaner.

Most OEM wheels that are Hypersilver can also be painted in a regular flat silver color. If that's true about your wheels, you can have them painted regular silver and save the cost. You can also "color match" another color to your car. Generally speaking there is no "up charge" for a different color unless they have to create a non-OEM color, which generally costs $50 for the set.

Another option for Hypersilver is a paint that was originally created as an alternative called Reflectachrome. Reflectachrome is very similar to Hypersilver but not quite as shiny. However, the price for reconditioning with Reflectachrome is the same as a regular painted wheel, so that saves you money over the Hypersilver process.
Machined Wheels

This is a machine polished or "machined" wheel. The entire wheel face is machined on a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) Lathe. The whole wheel is then clearcoated. As with painted wheels, our vendors use a powdercoat for this process.

The surface of the wheel is very shiny and has tiny lines in the finish which resemble the grooves on a record or CD. Many people think this is a natural metal finish, but it is not. The natural color of a wheel that is untreated is a very bleak gray.

Machined wheels can also be painted in a contrasting color, giving a two-toned effect. The wheel is painted and then the lip and spoke surfaces are machined, leaving the paint on the low spots around the spokes. This is called "paint in the pockets." Some wheels are machined only on the outer lip, leaving the center painted. We call this type of finish "flange cut." You care for this wheel as you do for any clear coated wheel.

Polished Wheels
Some wheels are polished by machine and/or by hand, giving them an extremely shiny, almost chrome-like finish. Older polished wheels did not have a clearcoat at all, requiring owners to clean and wax the wheels nearly every week, as the bare metal remained exposed to the elements. Most of us are too busy to do this. Our vendors now use a powdercoated clearcoat on polished wheels. Always insure that anyone who is reconditioning a polished wheel for you is an expert on polishing wheels (a wheel refinisher) rather than a polisher (who does many objects). Wheels can be very tricky to polish because of their dimensionality.
Multi-piece Wheels

In addition to one piece wheels (not counting the center caps) wheels also come as two piece (attached by rivets), "fake" two piece rims (decorative rivets, but actually a one piece wheel), and three piece wheels (the face plate, the outer flange and the barrel). If a wheel has any rivets, either because it's a two or three piece or fake two piece, that adds to the reconditioning cost, as removing and replacing rivets adds significantly to the labor, even when the rivets are only decorative.

Multi-piece wheel w/ rivets

True multi-piece wheels need to be disassembled before reconditioning and reassembled after reconditioning. This is labor intensive. The rivets need to be torqued to the proper strength or there can be problems. The reconditioning plants that perform this work for us do these wheels day in and day out and have the expertise to insure your safety.

If you have a multi-piece wheel that requires refinishing, please call so we can determine the cost.


Chromeplating is a process in which the wheel is usually polished, and then plated individually with a layer of nickel, then bronze, then chrome. The nickel adheres to the wheel which then allows the bronze to adhere to the nickel which then allows the chrome to adhere to the bronze. The wheel is then finished - there is no clear coat applied to the chrome. If the materials are good, then the chrome should last many years.

We do not offer rechroming services for wheels any longer. Chromeplating is a process with extreme environmental impact, and is close to being banned entirely in Europe and the U.S. The EPA has set a very high bar for new chromeplating companies to earn licenses, keeping the industry very small and mostly centered in California. We are no longer able to find a chromeplating vendor who can consistently meet our standards or those of our customers. Additionally, most wheels that are chromeplated have had the face of the wheel "eaten" by the process so that painting or other refinishing processes are no longer a usable option on the wheel, as the paint will not stick very well.

Because chrome wheels do not have a clearcoat, they should be cleaned carefully with a metal polishing product such as Nevr-Dull, which is available nationwide.

Chrome wheels should always be taken off your car during the winter weather, particularly in areas like New England that use road salt. Salt and salt water are chrome's worst enemy. When chrome is exposed to salt, a chemical reaction occurs in which the salt literally "eats" the chromium right off the finish. This causes the chrome to eventually flake off and pits the metal surface of the wheel, often causing a condition in which the tires cannot seal correctly because the underlying surface of the wheel is flaking and pitted. We can usually correct this problem by removing the flaking chrome and underlying corrosion with a special grinding disc. Salt corrosion will destroy a chrome finish within a very few years. Many of our customers with chrome wheels keep an extra set of steel or alloy wheels with snow tires mounted for winter driving.


We love wheels here at Rim & Wheel Works, and we hope this information will help you navigate the labyrinth of wheel-related information, not only to care for your wheels, but also to know what to do if the worst happens and your clearcoat peels, or that curb just jumps out at you!

(c) Copyright 2007 Rim and Wheel Works Inc.
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