How To Remove Spray Paint from Wheels (5-Step Guide)

Are you wondering how to remove spray paint from your wheels? We've got you covered!

In this ProPaintCorner.com, you'll learn:

  • What you need to know about removing spray paint
  • Supplies you'll need to remove spray paint
  • The steps required to remove spray paint from wheels

And much more!

Spray paint off wheels

A lot of people like painting their rims or their wheels jet black so that they blend in with the tire and give a darker look.  

However, there are times when you regret that choice, or you messed up and want to start over. In those situations, you'll want to learn how to remove spray paint from wheels, and you'll need to know how to do it properly.  

The problem with spray paint is that it bonds very well with plastic, and a paint stripper or remover can cause some damage to the tire. 

Because of this, a typical paint thinner won't always be the best solution, because you want to ensure that you can preserve the tires and not damage the wheels underneath.  

We'll take a look at the best process for undoing your paint job with a little elbow grease and some simple tools so you can get back on the road with a set of fresh, new looking wheels.

Did you know: In 1949, a man named Edward Seymour produced the first ever canned spray paint in an aluminum color.  But, it was Seymour's wife Bonnie who suggested he make it aerosolized.

What You Need to Know About Removing Spray Paint from Wheels

Spray paint is a great product. Using a simple spray can, you can change the color of your aluminum wheels and make a new, original paint design to spruce it up and make the old paint look brand new.

However, you may also have an issue with overspray, meaning you get spray paint on the tires or on places where they shouldn't be on the rims.  

Additionally, this spray paint can be difficult to get off as a DIY job even if you don't get it anywhere it shouldn't be, especially if you use something like plastic dip or a powder coat, which is a lot more durable and solid than normal spray paint.  

If you look on any of the search forums, you'll learn the same thing - removing spray paint from wheels takes elbow grease and hard work more than anything else.  

However, it can be done, you just need to have the right tools and be willing to put in the effort to get the job done.

Read More >> How Do You Remove Spray Paint From A Driveway?

Supplies You’ll Need for Removing Spray Paint from Wheels

There are a few important tools to have on hand when you're trying to remove the old paint from your wheels.  

  • Goof Off or a similar product - This acts as a paint thinner and remover which cuts through the paint and makes it wipe away much more easily. Be careful though, because it will also damage the tires if it contacts them for too long.
  • Rag or towel - This will be used to wipe away the paint and Goof Off once you've applied it in large swathes. You may want to have several on hand, especially if you have a large project ahead of you.
  • Toothbrush - The toothbrush serves the same purposes as the rag, but it helps you get it in between the small spaces.
  • Sandpaper or drill with brush attachment - Sandpaper is cheaper and easier to use, but a drill with a brush attachment will buff the surface much more quickly.
  • Water - Water will be used to rinse off the surface and make sure it's completely cleared off.
  • Optional pressure washer - A pressure washer is a risky choice for this project because it can damage both the rim and the tire if it's used too long or improperly.  However, if you are having a hard time getting some of the paint off, it can be useful.

How To Remove Spray Paint from Wheels (5-Step Guide)

  1. Spray the affected area with Goof Off
  2. Wipe off the paint with rags
  3. Use a toothbrush to get in the small spaces
  4. Rinse it with water
  5. Use sandpaper or the buffer drill to clean up the alloy wheels

Step 1 - Spray the affected area with Goof Off  

Use your rattle can of Goof Off to cover the affected area. If you're working on the rim alone, feel free to apply as much as you need as it can handle the chemicals and it will make your job much easier.  If you're dealing with the tire, be careful when you apply the Goof Off.  

You may want to test this paint remover on a small part of the surface to make sure you don't cause any damage while you're working.  If it doesn't cause any damage, apply it to the affected area of the tire but be sure to remove it quickly, as prolonged exposure will damage the plastic in the tire.  

Step 2 - Wipe off the paint with rags

Next step is to wipe off the paint with rags, which should be a fairly simple process. The original finish you applied will start to come off quickly and any dried paint will start chipping as soon as you apply the Goof Off because it is a very powerful paint stripper. 

Because of this, you should have quick work when you start cleaning. The spray paint and Goof Off combo will be pretty thick, so you will probably need a lot of rags to properly remove it, but it will wipe off fairly easily. 

Don't worry just yet about getting all of the surfaces perfectly clean or getting into all of the nooks and crannies. If you have applied any of the Goof Off from the rattle can to the tires, be sure to remove that first and do it quickly.

Step 3 - Use a toothbrush to get in the small spaces 

Take your toothbrush and start to work in the small spaces in alloy wheels. This is where you'll need some elbow grease because it takes some hard work to make sure you get all the cracks and crannies cleaned properly.  

While the paint stripper you used is effective at loosening up the paint, you'll still need to work it out of all the threads and interior places to restore them to their original finish.  Remember, though, many of these places won't be seen, they just need to be effective for screws and their intended purposes. 

You may want to use thread tools such as thread cleaners or drills and bolts to run through them and take off the paint for you.

Step 4 - Rinse it with water

Rinse the whole project in water just to make sure that it's cleaned off and you remove the chemicals from the surface. 

Before you use sandpaper or anything to buff the alloy wheels to finish it off, you'll want to make sure all of the paint remover and original paint are completely gone. 

The paint stripper can get sanded into the surface and stick around, causing damage to your future paint job if you plan to do it again. At this point, if you feel the need to use a power washer, you can do so, but be careful not to damage the surface.

Step 5 - Use sandpaper or the buffer drill to clean up the alloy wheels

At this point, all the paint, lacquer, and lacquer remover will be off the surface (assuming you used a clear coat on top of your initial paint project). However, your alloy wheel's surface will still look a bit rough.  

So, you'll want to use sandpaper or a drill with a buffing attachment to clean up the wheels and give them a polished, finished look. If you're using sandpaper, you'll need to work hard to get every surface scraped.

A buffer drill can make this quick work for you, but either way, you'll want to restore the wheels to their original finish and make them look like new. 

Be careful not to damage the threads or any of the internal couplings. If you do, you can use a thread starter to fix them up or make new threads and make sure you still drill into them, but you'll need to use proper tools and bolts for them.

Read More >> How Do You Remove Paint From Vinyl Siding?

Other Valuable Resources for Removing Spray Paint from Wheels

It's a pretty straightforward process, but it does take some hard work and elbow grease.  If you're looking for more information you can always search Google for FAQs or find forums discussing the process.  

If you want a video to step you through the process, here's an explanation of how to remove spray paint from your wheels.  In the end, practice and persistence pay off more than anything else with this labor-intensive process.  

A little bit of effort goes a long way, and diligence when it comes to making sure you don't damage your tires pays off dearly.  

Hopefully, these resources can help guide you through the process without too much issue and you can clean spray paint, plastic dip, and any other type of colorant off your wheels so you can make them like new.

Final Thoughts On How To Remove Spray Paint From Wheels

No matter why you've chosen to remove the paint from your wheels, this guide should help you get them cleaned up and shining like new again.  

Some people just want a fresh start, and some people want to change what the original owner of the wheels did. 

Regardless, paint isn't permanent, but you need to be careful not to damage your wheels.  Take your time, put in some effort, and this DIY project can fix the wheels up and get you on the road again.

Read More >> How Do You Remove Spray Paint From Anywhere?

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Matthew Cain

Matthew Cain

Painting has always been more than just a hobby in my life. Since I first started small painting jobs on the side in high school and early college, I loved the chance to test out new tools and refine my painting skills. In fact, it became much more than a hobby - I used it to pay my way through college and then some while I was looking for jobs after I graduated. I may not be the most seasoned professional on the block, but painting is in my blood - and on most of my shirts. I earned my Master Painter Certification right after college, and I believe the lessons I learned can be useful to others. Hopefully I can help you learn how to not accidentally stain the side of a house while painting a pergola or avoid ruining your brand new table with some off color paint as I teach you how to navigate the world of painting with ProPaintCorner.

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Matthew Cain

Matthew Cain

Painting has always been more than just a hobby in my life. Since I first started small painting jobs on the side in high school and early college, I loved the chance to test out new tools and refine my painting skills. In fact, it became much more than a hobby - I used it to pay my way through college and then some while I was looking for jobs after I graduated. I may not be the most seasoned professional on the block, but painting is in my blood - and on most of my shirts. I earned my Master Painter Certification right after college, and I believe the lessons I learned can be useful to others. Hopefully I can help you learn how to not accidentally stain the side of a house while painting a pergola or avoid ruining your brand new table with some off color paint as I teach you how to navigate the world of painting with ProPaintCorner.

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