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
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.
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 email
us pictures, 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 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Full-Face Machined Wheel
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
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
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
If you have a multi-piece wheel that requires refinishing, please
call so we can determine the cost.
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.
Salt Corrosion on Chrome
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!