Chrome rims on cars and trucks are standard. While many car owners like this shiny and reflective metallic plating, there are some who dislike it and therefore change the look by painting over them.
Chrome rims are also often painted to match the color of the vehicle or to add a bit of contrast. Sometimes, aftermarket rims are even painted in two-tone colors so that they stand out more and can be sold at a higher price.
However, with time, the paint on these rims starts to chip and peel, making them look old and worn. This usually happens due to road debris hitting the rims while you’re driving or from chemicals in the brake pads and cleaners.
If your chrome rims are starting to show their age, or if you want to update the color, you don’t have to replace them. You can remove the spray paint yourself and have them look like new in no time. Though it is a relatively easy process, you will need to take some time and be careful not to damage your wheels in the process.
Below is a step-by-step guide where I will show you how to remove paint from your old chrome rims without taking them off. So, let’s turn on the engines…
Removing Paint from Chrome Rims Without Taking Them Off
If you want to reveal that old shiny chrome on your used set of chrome wheels without removing them from your car, it can take a bit more time, but it’s doable.
Some of the basic steps involved are:
- Wear gloves and other safety gear.
- Clean the surface of your rims to remove dirt and debris using a pressure washer and a cleaner like simple green, clay bar, or mild dish soap.
- Apply some rubbing alcohol or oven cleaner to the old paint on the rims and let it sit for a few minutes.
- Scrub off the paint on the rims using a scrubber – be careful you do not rub too hard, as it can damage the chrome underneath.
- Once the old paint on all the rims is removed, rinse them with clean water.
- Finally, dry the rims and polish your newly revealed chrome with a premium chrome polish.
For cleaning and removing the paint from your chrome-plated wheels, you can also use products such as acetone or paint thinner. But that can be harsh on the metal and surrounding areas, so it’s always best to try and use a mild cleaner like rubbing alcohol or oven cleaner first.
Removing the Spray Paint from Chrome Rims by Removing the Wheels
You should try the above method only if the old paint on the rims and wheels is cracking and peeling off the surface.
In case you need to remove the paint color that’s still in good condition (for updating your rims), I would suggest removing the wheels from your vehicle and then proceeding. It would be much easier and faster. Plus, it also helps avoid damaging the rest of your car/truck paint.
The steps for this method are:
- Use a jack to lift up your car and remove the wheels.
- Clean the surface of your rims using a chrome cleaner or degreaser, and be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.
- Apply a generous amount of paint stripper (such as oven cleaner, paint thinner, lacquer thinner, or acetone) to the rims.
- Let the paint stripper sit for the recommended time and then scrub the paint off with a wire brush or fine steel wool.
- Wash the rims with soap and water, dry them completely, and fit the wheels on our vehicle with chrome revealed.
When cleaning your rims with oven cleaner, imagine that you’re actually in the inner chamber of an oven and treat them accordingly. Be sure to spray a generous layer of the cleaning product on your wheels and then leave it there for some time before washing it off. This method ensures that they are thoroughly cleaned deep down into their crevices.
Also, prior to applying paint strippers (such as acetone, thinners, or any other) on the surface of your rims, ensure that you test in a small area and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines – this will help avoid possible harm.
What if the Paint is Too Stubborn to Get Off? (A Few Tips and Alternatives)
To remove the stubborn paint from the rims, apply the solvent to the rims using a soft cloth. Cover the rims in plastic wraps and allow them to sit overnight.
Letting the solvent work for a few hours will hopefully break down the paint. The softened paint can then be scraped away with a paint scraper, nylon scrubber, and soft cloth the next day before polishing the chrome.
Another technique for cleaning stubborn spray paints off chrome rims is to use an industrial blasting machine or a sandblaster.
Sandblasting is a chemical-free method of removing paint and grime where abrasive particles and pressurized air is used. To use this method, you will generally need to take the help of a professional as it requires precision and some specialized equipment.
Overall an effective paint stripper or an oven cleaner is your best bet for stripping paint off chrome wheels. However, if you don’t have one to hand, try WD-40, Goo Gine, Goof Off, or Adhesive Removers instead – although be aware that these products may not be as potent and can lead to chrome damage when utilized in excess.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.