The rims on your car are one of the easiest ways to tell how much care someone puts into their car. Many paint finishes hide a degree of dirt, but brake dust on your wheels will be visible no matter what finish the wheels have. This makes scratches on your rims painfully obvious. Pair that with the fact that your rims are attached to your tires that spin at ground level (and scrub curbs and other surfaces regularly) and you can understand why it is so important to know how to repair scratched rims. Read on to learn more.
What are Rims?
Rims are technically just the outer surface of your car’s wheels that touch the tire, but most people use the terms wheel and rim interchangeably now. Since the care steps would be the same for the rim as for the rest of the wheel, for purposes of this article rims will refer to the entire wheel.
Painted rims are not as common as they were ten or so years ago, but they are still out there and are a great way to add color or character to the look of your car. Painted rims can be repaired in a similar way as the rest of your painted vehicle. Shallow textural scratches that don’t go through the paint layer might be able to be buffed out with rubbing compound or wet sanded with an ultra fine-grit sandpaper.
If the scratches are deep enough to pass through to the metal, you need to something before the heat of your brakes and outside conditions like road salt combine to cause your wheels to pit and rust. In this case, consider a color match pen, but know that a mismatched paint has the potential to make the scratch look worse than it already did. Deep grooves might justify sending them to a pro.
Powder coating creates an extremely durable finish, so it is popular for motorcycle frames as well as car and bike rims. Powder coating involves spraying an electrostatic powder onto the metal object, which is then baked at extremely high heat until the powder liquefies. Once cooled, this finish can take a lot of damage. Unfortunately, the texture of the powder coat is tough to fix once it is damaged. Minor damage might be able be wet sanded away, but be aware that the impact on the orang peel finish can make your wheels look worse than they did before. It might be worth it to send powder-coated wheels back to the professionals.
Polished metal finishes are relatively easy to repair. They are typically a solid metal with a buffed surface, so a proper polishing agent can bring them back to new. The most important thing to remember is that you must get a polish specifically designed for whatever metal you are working with. Aluminum and stainless have very different hardnesses, and the polish for one might not anything, or it might discolor and scratch the metal you are working with.
There are some products on the market that can do a great job of blending scratches on a variety of surfaces. These polishes work on the clear coat, rather than repairing the underlying layers. Regardless of what kind of finish your wheels have, these will work as long as your wheels have a clear coat on top.
In any of these scenarios, don’t take drastic measures without really knowing what you are doing. Stay calm, research the specifics of your finish, and you will be able to repair your wheels beautifully.