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How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:21 pm
by yellow3800
Hello everyone! I am ecstatic at how my indy wheels turned out. I can't bite my tongue any longer. Actually, its just prioritizing to post instead of continuing work at 11pm.

perhaps this post could go in the wheels section... IDK feel free to move it moderator.


I called a body shop to see what they would do. There is this stuff called Bulldog, that is an adhesion promoter, for plastic bumpers... it churns up the plastic [unable to see with eye] and makes it real sticky and paint adheres right over it. its not a flex agent. its a layer to put on when a new black bumper is purchased. THEN goes on the primer. This was recommended to me for aluminum wheels. Based on what I just told you, I had doubts. So I went the way of airplane paint methods since airplanes are made of aluminum and do not tolerate the mako-type paint jobs, although its perfectly legal to do so on airplanes, its generally not found due to stereotypical care of airplane owners.

Brian/Dante recently forced me to buy/rescue an indy feb 2015, so I've been working on it. it basically needed a full paint job and light tlc. I've been an aircraft mechanic for 15years. Certification is coming this year if I can help it. there is a lot of apprentice time!

Aluminum is non-ferrous and lends itself to rejecting primer stick quite vigorously. We can use an ALUMINUM ETCH PRIME, army green in color, but thats not good if we want bare aluminum to be cleared. Otherwise, do this in addition to what I recommend. Aluminum etch prime contains phosphates that differ from iron/steel etch prime. While spray cans claim universally applicable to aluminum and ferrous metal, and we do paint small airplane parts with these cans, its out of convenience when we do.

Much like concrete paint prep, such as garage floors, the metal must be covered with acid. this is liquid sandpaper if you will on such a fine scale its not obtained through sanding. Wash the parts first to strip of all grease/wax. I recommend soap and water [dawn is best to break grease]. You are done with this step when you see no water beading off too soon from oil spots! Lather, rinse, repeat here! Then use wax and grease remover from your local automotivie paint store. After that, I used ALUMIPREP 33 for the acid. I got it from Aircraft Spruce, though it was once in hardware stores. Ace probably doesn't have it.
Next, and after the fizzing, its rinsed with water in accordance with directions. Then ALODINE is used. I used Alodine 1001. Rinse with water. The wheels are now ready for clear after drying. Because I painted indy wheels which has paint in some areas, I then started with acid-etch primer, the green stuff. Duplicolor wants you to wait 30min. Others like TEMPO want 24h... I haven't found a best spray etch prime can yet.

get it all over the rubber tire - it won't matter.

Of course I would never use a spray can clear at this point. Clear is prone to yellowing, so I used PPG urethane as with the rest of the cars color. You have spray enamel [typical found spray can], acrylic enamel [better enamel], laquer [harder to find spray cans], and urethanes top the list in paint chronological progression.

I layed tape over the clear parts of the wheel carefully, and not too hard, to paint the green inserts before the clear. remove tape and cleared the entire thing. It worked and I'm happy.

Corrosion was remediated by gray/maroon scotch brite before Dawn-soap washing. Different color means different grade. this way, I helped maintain the machine swirl. We got most corrosion off, and I'm happy with it. Its as good as new to me, but to the discerner, they could want more corrosion out, and I preferred to keep the original machine swirl, and I did which would have been lost in sand blasting.

welp! thats my recent venture!
Lemon 3800 rock solid still going <---PPG paint 1998
INDY <---Sea Foam, the only newly-painted indy?
89gt daily driver <----Krylon vs. House paint! finding out that house paint is pourous, though both equally defend against elements.

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 8:48 am
by 3X00-Modified
Epic fail... No photos... :P

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:57 am
by yellow3800
no facebook either Jon!

I remember when we had host space issues and its ingrained in me to keep bandwidth and storage space to a min. I remember when we had to have hosting, which I successfully dodged for years! lol

Its amazing how I even function. I do somehow manage though. oh, and I'll have to update this later with a finished picture... that I'll be taking in two min because its still off the car and I can get a good sunlight pic.

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 11:56 am
by 3X00-Modified
How did you strip the existing clear and paint? I have to get my wheels done or think about doing this myself.

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 7:26 am
by yellow3800
You can do it! The largest investment is the paint gun. The more expensive gun, the bigger spray pattern it has. Best guns will spray 18", and the stuff I have in my garage does 6-8". Wheels can be sprayed with a small gun. Maybe they are cheaper. I don't use HVLP. I like my 40psi at the trigger..just preference. ...back to topic. I've tried all kinds of paint stripper. DAD'S is the best. its in a blu-wht gal can with a spray bottle. I think its sold anywhere. In town, our house paint store has the best price. Anything else is just trash. Its a liquid chemical. Its fun to spray it on and hear the paint lift as you watch it lift 1/2" above the surface. Clear is tougher and won't be that dramatic.

Note on paint: I like PPG. A local sherwin williams store is what I use when turning cars, accident repair and that kinda temporary-own stuff. Their clear is called Finish1, and is substantially cheaper. While I haven't owned anything with finish1 clear for any length of years, its probably half the price [PPG is $230/gal at time of this post 2015], and I think its okay.

love the ban hammer.

Lemon <---door handles black single stage PPG
indy<--- door handles sherwin williams black and Finish1 clear
89gt<---original gm paint, house paint interior and exterior, krylon, duplicolor, and rust-oleum

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 7:29 am
by yellow3800
The digital cam apparently didn't wake up this morning. If I can get a sharper pic, I'll post it.

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 11:33 pm
by DanteGTZ
3X00-Modified wrote:How did you strip the existing clear and paint? I have to get my wheels done or think about doing this myself.

It's Shake 'N Bake and I helped... The clear was so bad on these wheels that it stripped within seconds of using a chemical stripper. After the paint/clear was removed, we used a Scotch-Brite pad in a circular pattern to clean the wheels and smooth out some of the imperfections. I think we used the maroon SB pads. This method helped to preserve as much of the OEM machined look as possible.

Sorry to steal your thunder Andy!

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 1:06 pm
by themixer
These wheels look great !

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
by 3X00-Modified
I've got a few spare wheels that I can try this on...

If this goes well hell I may do mine on the 96 too... those are starting to get a bit rough.

Re: How To: Painting Bare Aluminum Wheels

Posted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:26 pm
by yellow3800
Nope, giving credit where its due, Brian did help MUCHO. I also told him it'd be a few hours the day of painting the entire car not realizing that its been a while since I painted an entire car, and forgot about all the parts that we removed for painting, like mirrors, all gfx pieces, .... about 27 parts. I want this nice. A few hours turned into 11pm from a moderate start in the morning of just painting. Brian helped during the painting too and was invaluable by staging parts and taking parts away once painted.