How to Powder Coat Alloy Wheels with Precision
Whether you’re tired of your alloys sustaining damage too easily or want to completely transform the look of your wheels – powder coating is the perfect solution for enhancing both aesthetics and durability.
We’ve created this guide as a useful resource for those looking to enhance their body shop skills and juniors beginning their journey in the industry. Here, we’ll walk you through the basics of alloy powder coating, the step-by-step process, and the variety of finish options available to choose from.
What Is Alloy Wheel Powder Coating?
Alloy wheel powder coating involves covering the surface of your rims with a dry polymer-based powder mixed with curing additives, levelling agents, resin, flow modifiers, and pigments.
The powder blend bonds to an electrostatically charged surface, and this is heat-cured in an oven or kiln. Under the heat, the powder melts and coats the wheels evenly. As the alloys are removed and cool off, the surface hardens and becomes smooth.
What are the benefits of powder coating?
Why do car owners choose powder coating for their alloy wheels? Below, we’ll go through some of its pros.
- Improved resistance & durability: The powder coating provides a thick, consistent layer of coverage for the alloys which helps them last longer. When finished to a high standard, alloy powder coating should easily last between 15-20 years. The non-porous surface also provides better protection against common issues like chipping, flaking, or corrosion.
- Cost efficiency: Although the initial cost can often be more than regular paint, the lack of maintenance required can save money for car owners in the long run.
- Better coverage than regular paint: Alloys often have intricate details that can be difficult and time-consuming to paint. Using this method, customers can rest assured knowing that every bit of their alloy is evenly covered.
- Works with any metal:Regardless of whether the alloys are brass, stainless, steel or aluminium – powder coating can be applied on any metal surface.
Types of Powder Coat Paints
Powder coat paint can come in all different finishes and colour options. However, some can be more difficult to maintain than others. Body shop professionals should work with customers to find their perfect colour and finish.
Brighter colours can add a pop to the car’s appearance, but these can collect tar and dirt from the road that dulls their appearance over time. Similar issues can arise with matte finishes since car owners often struggle to keep these clean.
Darker colours with satin or high gloss finishes are among the most common options since these can conceal dirt, debris, and minor surface flaws better. Although some will opt for a more bespoke finish, which can include bright glitters or multiple colours mixed.
How to Powder Coat Alloy wheels: Step-By-Step
Below, we’ll take you through the step-by-step process for applying alloy wheel powder coating to a professional standard.
1. Prepare the wheels properly
The preparation stage is arguably the most important. Without proper prep work, it can be tricky to achieve a high-quality finish, which can also affect durability.
Since powder coating is a full refurbishment, it’s recommended that you remove the entire wheel. It should then be thoroughly cleaned to ensure the alloy is as clean and free from contaminants as possible. A specialist alloy wheel cleaner and sandblaster are usually necessary.
The final step of preparation is ensuring any flaws and imperfections are removed. After sanding any abrasions or curb damage on the surface of the alloys, they should then be heated in an industrial oven or kiln to release any gases that could cause problems.
Before beginning the next stage, it can be helpful to have high-temperature film tape on hand since powder coating involves working at high temperatures. These can work well for marking off the various edges and curves of alloy wheels while protecting them from heat damage.
High-temperature polyester film discs can also be useful for masking off the back of the wheel hub during the powder coating process. Taping can add the level of precision you’re looking for as a professional, and having the right tapes available can make a huge difference to the overall appearance.
1. Spray the base coat
The alloy wheel is suspended in the paint booth, electrically charged, and sprayed with the base layer to create a smooth foundation layer. Ensure you use enough powder, since too little or too much can adjust the cure times and cause under and over-curing.
It should then be placed back into the oven for around 20 minutes or until the powder begins to spread as a gel-like consistency as it adheres across the surface.
2. Add the clear powder coat
After the alloys have been removed from the oven and cooled to room temperature, they can be returned to the painting booth for the clear coat. This is applied using the exact same method as for the base coat, although it will appear white before being baked.
3. Bake the clear coat
The final coat is returned to the oven or kiln to bake for around 40 minutes. This process is often referred to as heat treating.
Once the alloy is completely cooled, you can remove any hooks, tape, or centre plugs before re-fitting the wheels. You can also check the quality at this stage to make sure the customer is getting exactly what they wanted.
We hope this guide gives you the confidence and knowledge necessary to powder coat alloys to a professional standard. Whether you’re a beginner or just need a reminder of the most up-to-date techniques, our experts have got you covered.