How to use an alloy wheel repair kit and when not to
Alloy wheel repair kits contain all the materials needed to repair scuffed, scraped and kerbed alloy wheels. They contain some sort of filler and a silvery paint, plus tools like sandpaper and brushes.
The kits can fix light and medium damage like shallow scratches and scuffs around the edges of the wheel. They are not suitable for repairing larger areas of damage or deep scrapes.
Alloy repair kits can be cheaper than a professional repair job and could save you money. The big caveat is that the finish is unlikely to be perfect.
We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to using any alloy wheel repair kit, plus our top tips for success.
How the kits work
DIY alloy wheel repair kits work by filling in the damage to create a more even surface, then repainting the area.
The kits contain:
- Paint (spray or brush-on)
- Protective gloves
- Applicator tools, brushes, wipes and sponges
You should have a range of sandpapers, including a very fine grain like 600 or 800. If you use rougher sandpaper you may not get a smooth finish.
Important: Before you buy the kit, check the paint colour match. Some kits come in a selection of colours, so pick the one you think will be closest to your wheels.
How to use an alloy wheel repair kit
Here’s a step-by-step guide to using an alloy wheel repair kit. You should follow the specific instructions that come with your kit very closely, especially regarding drying and curing times.
- Start by cleaning the wheel with washing up liquid. You need to get it squeaky clean and remove all dirt, brake dust and grease before you go any further, or these contaminants may get into the paint and affect the finish.
- Sand down the damaged area to remove burrs, barbs and protruding areas so no part of the alloy is sticking up.
- Choose a finer sandpaper and sand over the area again to smooth it out. Wipe away the dust with a damp cloth or alcoholic wipe and allow to dry.
- Now you need to fill in the damaged area. If you’re using filler putty, mix a small amount and press it deep into the hollows, massaging it to smooth it out and get rid of any lumps. Aim to get it as flush with the surrounding area as possible.
- If you’re using filler spray, spray into the damaged area and build up in layers, allowing the filler to set between applications. Deeper damage may take several applications.
- Let the filler set completely. Bear in mind that it will set faster in hot, dry conditions than in cool, wet ones.
- Use a very fine sandpaper to smooth out the filler and get it flush with the wheel surface. This is where you need the finish to be as good as possible, so take your time on this step.
- Wipe down the area with a damp cloth to remove any dust and allow to dry. Mask off the damaged area really well before you paint, especially if the alloy wheel is still in the tyre.
- Apply the paint in thin layers, allowing it to dry between coats. If you’re using a spray can, shake it well first and watch for drips – thinner coats are better.
- If you’re using a brush to apply the paint, make sure to use a small one and apply thin coats so you don’t leave brush marks in the finish.
- If you build up the paint layers too high or make a clump, use a piece of kitchen roll or a fine sandpaper to take them back down again.
- Allow the paint to dry completely.
- If your alloy wheel repair kit contains a lacquer, apply this at the end. It will seal the paint, protecting it from damage like flaking. Apply lacquer in a light mist to avoid running, allow it to dry and apply another coat.
Tips for using an alloy wheel repair kit
- Our top tip is to wet your sandpaper. This softens it, stops it clumping and reduces the risk of scratch marks. Keep rinsing it in more water as you work.
- Test the paint on a piece of cardboard or similar before you apply it to your wheels. This will give you an idea of thickness and coverage.
- Take care not to sand any undamaged parts of the wheel or you risk adding more scratches.
- The putty filler can dry and set solid very quickly in hot weather, so mix it up in small batches and use immediately.
- Get the filler as flush as possible to the surface of the alloy when applying it, as it saves time trying to sand it down once it’s hardened.
- To get the best finish, the key is to be light and delicate when sanding and painting. Any heavy handedness will show up at the end.
Problems with DIY repair kits
The main problem people have with alloy wheel repair kits is the finish. The damage will still be visibile close up, and may be noticeable from a short distance too. If this will bother you, it’s best to let a professional repair your wheels.
Read: How does ChipsAway alloy wheel repair work?
Another big problem is that DIY repair kits rarely match the paint colour perfectly. There are dozens of colours and finishes out there for alloys and some kits only come with one paint colour. The only way to get a perfect match is to use a colour-matching chromatography machine, which repair professionals like ChipsAway use.
The repairs can also take several hours to complete. You need to allow each step in the process to dry and set before moving on. And if you make a mistake it can be difficult to rectify, so take your time all the way through.
Finally, the kits work best when you take the wheels off the car and lay them out on a flat surface. This stops the paint running and creating blobs and lumps.
Alloy wheel repair kits are great for light damage, but not ideal for larger areas, multiple wheel damage or unusual paint colours and finishes.
If your wheel damage is deep or extensive, or you don’t feel confident trying to repair it yourself, it’s time to call in the professionals! ChipsAway alloy wheel repairs are carried out by trained experts using colour-matching technology. Our mobile specialists can come to you to repair your car.
Find out more about alloy wheel repairs or lighter alloy wheel refurbishment, and apply online for a free, no-obligation quote today.
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19 December 2016