How to Fix Scratched Rims: And Other Car Tips

Using a pressure washer to clean tires and rims.

While correcting scratches on your vehicles paint may be an easy repair, can the same be said about your metal components? 

Components such as your bumpers and rims receive a ton of abuse as you drive down the road, taking the impacts from weather, pebbles, and other road debris. 

Thankfully, there are some easy ways you can repair scratched rims without breaking the bank with the help of high-quality car detailing products


“Rims” or “Wheels?”

Alright, let’s get to the bottom of the wheel or rim statement quickly. You’ll hear a lot of people say they aren’t rims, they are called “wheels,” and that’s not always true. A wheel is the entire assembly, including the spokes, lug face, and the rim. 

The rim is the outer surface that is closest to the tire. 

So as you read and see the two terms used, they are often interchangeable simply due to the care being the same. 


Wheel Finishes

It’s important to note that not all finishes are treated the same, and you need to know what you have in order to fix your scratches. Various polishes and treatments are designed for very specific surfaces, and it’s important to be confident in what you own. 


Painted Rims

Common on many vehicles are painted rims, using a similar method to your car’s body. While this is a great way to add color to your car, many manufacturers have found popularity in black or silver paints. 

Compared to some other coatings, this is easy to apply especially in mass productions, and quite cost effective. Painted rims can be either steel or aluminum. 


Repairing Painted Scratches

With the paint being similar to your vehicle, the repairs will be similar as well. You first want to visually determine the depth of the scratch, determining if it has remained in the clear as a shallow scratch, or if it has etched deeper and must be repaired as a deep scratch


Shine armor concentrated car soap


When repairing shallow scratches, the area can often be treated with a scratch remover, known as a cutting compound. This will be applied with an applicator pad, massaged into the area removing small amounts of the surface clear, one wiped clean with a quality microfiber towel

For deep scratch repair, it’s important to set an expectation for the repair. One option for deep scratches is to fill the area with a clear coat pen, removing much of the visual damage, and finishing the area with wet sanding or a cutting compound, while other options include sending the wheel off for paint correction. 

Either way, it’s important to correct this damage sooner than later, before rust or oxidation begins.


Powder Coated

A growing option, especially for aftermarket wheels, is powder coating. Applied as a powder, the piece and particles are magnetized causing them to attract and stick together, then put in an oven and heated till the powder melts into a liquid. This application is known for getting into the nooks and crannies, and applies quite evenly.

Powder coating is quite tough, making it a great option for these high wear items. 


Repairing Powder Coating

When looking at a powder coated surface up close, you will find the surface isn’t super smooth like paint. It often has a texture known as orange peel, and sanding or using cutting compounds could remove some of this texture, causing a visual difference.

There is also no clear coat over your powder coat, and for this reason is a good option for color matching paint pens. There are a lot of variations of paint colors out there, one company estimating more than 60,000 variations of standard colors can be found on the market. Using a black that differs from the black on your vehicle will cause an eyesore often worse than the scratch itself. 

As you’ve read through our articles here at Shine Armor, we often discourage using colored pens since adding color on top of your clear paint looks, well, less than ideal. A single stage, or paint without clear is the only exception to this.


Polished Metals

A great option for metal surfaces is to polish the metal itself. This can be found primarily with aluminum rims due to its natural rust resistance, but can sometimes be found with steel. 

This involves sanding the surfaces to a near mirror finish, then adding a protective layer over the top such as a polish or sealant. 


Repairing Polished Metals

When repairing polished metal surfaces, it’s important to take things slowly. For surface scratches, you will be using a polish that’s specific to your metal type. Aluminum polishes are designed to clean and protect aluminum, and shouldn’t be used on steel, and vise-versa

For deep scratches, you may need to wet sand the area depending the depth of damage. For deep scratches you will often start with an 800 grit wet paper, and finishing with 2000 grit or more. Once you’ve reached 2000, you will work your way back through the polishes to get a mirror finish. 

If issues are left alone, over time rust and oxidation will cause pitting, which damages the surface of the metal. Pitting is not simply removed, while surface pitting can be reduced, deep pitting can cause risk to the wheels structure. 


Chromed Finishes 

A popular option for wheels and bumpers for decades has been chroming. To chrome a product, it involves a chemical acid bath and application process creating an extremely hard, resistant surface. 

While these high gloss surfaces are a great sight, having items chromed is expensive, meaning you should maintain your finish. Polishing is the primary defense with chrome wheels, since the coating is hardened the surfaces are known to get minor scratches. 

You can use high grit sandpaper lightly with chroming, but with this being a multi-layer process -- sanding too deep could cause damage. 



Clean wheels are a great way to let your car truly shine in the sunlight, while dull rims could take away from your clean look. Repairing these scratches can reduce the eyesore, and stop corrosion and rust in their tracks. 

Repairing scratches can be time consuming or costly. Adding protective coatings such as those from Shine Armor can protect your surfaces for years to come, maintaining that deep shine and reducing the risk of damage. 

Understanding your surface will allow you to take control of all of your car's needs and imperfections, and growing your vehicle knowledge, you will become a true at-home-pro!



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