Clear Coat Peeling on Alloy Wheels? Have Them Painted

With the rising cost of metal, replacing the wheels on our 2015 Lincoln Navigator was out of the question. A quick search online for OEM replacement wheels quickly returned results well over $2,000. Our Navigator is in excellent shape, but a quick glance at the wheels would send you running the other direction. Enter wheel restoration and painting.

The company we hired was Wheel Medics out of San Antonio, Tx. Everything from the assessment, pricing, and scheduling was handled by text message. They had exceptional reviews on Google with many happy customers. The company was so busy, we had to wait a couple of months for our appointment. After pricing new and used OEM wheels for our vehicle, I could understand why.

I am not going to explain how to paint the wheels on your vehicle. Instead, I will give an account of what we saw, the time it took, pricing, and photos of the final product, so you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Before: Clear Coat Peeling on Wheels

Before photo of factory two tone wheels on Lincoln Navigator peeling.

The wheels on our Navigator were getting worse and worse as time went on. I’m sure there was some kind of recall, but dealing with car manufacturers is a long, exhausting process.

Close up photo of factory two tone wheels on Lincoln Navigator peeling.

Here is another photo of some of the issues we were having with the wheels. This area is darker and started to stand out more overtime. Some of our wheels did have some road rash from curbs, which was sanded down as well.

Steps in Painting Alloy Wheels

1. Sand Down Finish on Wheels

The gentlemen who showed up was well-equipped with a small cargo trailer loaded with air compressors, lights, and floor jacks. The bulk of the sanding was completed with an air sander, while the harder to get areas were completed by hand. The sanding and preparation took most of the time.

2. Clean Wheels With Air Hose and Rag

After sanding was completed, the wheels were cleaned off with an air nozzle to remove all the dust and fine particles. This combined with wiping the wheels down with a rag ensured a clean, smooth surface for the next steps to follow.

3. Apply Automotive Paint Adhesion Promoter

According to the wheel medic prepping and painting the wheels, the adhesion promoter was one of the most important steps when painting wheels on your vehicle. He stressed everything they used was automotive grade, but the adhesion promoter is the step that guaranteed the bond between the paint and the car wheel.

4. Spray Wheels with Automotive Paint

Our original wheels were two-tone, like so many wheels on newer vehicles today. The wheel medic stressed in the beginning there was no way to re-create a factory machine finish or chrome plating. We understood and chose to have the wheels painted a color similar to the lighter silver color we already had on our factory wheels. We felt this would give the wheels a bright pop with a fresh look.

5. Spray Clear Coat on Wheels

The clear coat was the last step applied to the wheels after painting. According to the wheel medic, this is a critical step that gives wheels a fresh, mirror like shine. It’s not a factory machine finish, but it looked great while saving us thousands by not having to purchase new wheels.

After: Wheels Painted and Clear Coated

2015 Lincoln Navigator wheel restored and painted.
2015 Lincoln Navigator wheel restored and painted one solid color.

Here is the final product after our wheels had been sanded, painted, and clear coated. We opted to have the center cap covering the lug nuts painted as well to match. We could have left that in the original finish, so you will need to decide this if you have your wheel restored.

Here is a wide angle shot of the alloy wheels freshly painted on our Lincoln Navigator. Looks clean!

As you can see if the photo above, the wheels look much cleaner and fresh after having them painted by a professional. We asked the wheel medic to paint them a color similar to the factory machine finish that was originally on the wheel. The final product is a simple wheel restoration with automotive paint and clear coat for a beautiful restored look.

When looking close, the uneven surface can be seen, but overall the wheels look much better.

Before starting the process, the wheel medic did inform us that the edge of the coating that is peeling might still be visible up close after the wheels are restored. We accepted that and thoroughly understood, as we weren’t looking for perfection. We just didn’t want peeling wheels like we had before.

How Much Does Wheel Repair Cost?

You would probably think having the wheels restored and painted on your vehicle would be close to a grand or so. Much to our surprise, it only cost $360 to have all four wheels completely restored. This price included parts, labor, and tax.

How Long Does Wheel Repair Take?

Wheel repair and restoration is a lot of work. I would have gladly paid more than $360 to have the job completed by a professional like we did. Our wheel medic showed up at 9am and left around 4pm. I think he took a short lunch break, but for the most part, it took a good six hours or so to complete the job.

Paint on the Vehicle or Floor?

The wheel medic that restored our wheels did so with by jacking up the vehicle and leaving the wheels on. The vehicle and floor were not taped off which caused me some concern thinking there was going to be overspray all over the vehicle paint or our warehouse floor. Much to my surprise, there was none.

I asked the wheel medic why this was, and he said he doesn’t use a conventional paint sprayer. He used an air brush, which is very controlled and doesn’t leave the mess normally associated with other types of sprayers.


The experience we had with our local Wheel Medic company was a good one. Everything was delivered exactly as promised in a professional manner. We would recommend them to anyone. I can’t say the same for a wheel restoration company in your area, but Google reviews go a long way in ensuring you hire the right company for the job.

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