Paint Mag Wheels

Add color to your mag wheels with a coating of paint.

Mag wheels are automotive wheels built using a magnesium alloy that leaves the wheels lighter than other types while retaining strength throughout the wheel body. Due to the look of most mag wheels, they’ve gained popularity as aftermarket car add-ons, purchased primarily for the wheel appearance alone. To increase the visual impact of mag wheels, many owners have the wheels painted to complement the vehicle color. This can be an expensive process when done professionally, but you can do it yourself if you’re willing to tackle the project. The paint and accessories are all available at any well-stocked auto supply store and, while the painting process can be time consuming, it’s simple enough that even a beginner can complete it successfully.


1. Cover the work area with a drop cloth to prevent messes made during the painting process. Remove any previous paint or clear coat present on your mag wheel using paint stripper. Pour about a cup of the paint stripper into a small metal can. Dip a brush into the can and apply the stripper onto the mag wheel. Wait 20 minutes after application for the stripper to dissolve the paint.

2. Put on a pair of rubber gloves and safety goggles to protect your skin and eyes from the paint stripper. Remove the stripper from the wheel using a stainless steel wire brush. Scrub the wheel with the bristles, working your way around the wheel and into the small crevices of the spokes until you remove all traces of the paint. Rinse off any stripper and paint residue using a power washer.

3. Sand down any portion of the mag wheel you wish to have a polished rather than painted look, such as the rim of the wheel. Make the first sanding pass with 120-grit sandpaper to remove any gouges in the wheel’s surface, evening out the surface. Use 220-grit sandpaper if the surface of the mag wheel is in good shape. Make subsequent passes with increasing sandpaper grits to smooth the surface of the wheel going from the 220-grit to 320, 400 and then ending with 600-grit. Switch to wet/dry sandpaper and using the sandpaper wet, sand the polishing area with 600-grit paper, followed by 900, 1000, 1500 and ending with 2000-grit.

4. Place masking tape over the polished area of the wheel. Scuff up the rest of the wheel

with medium-grit sandpaper, smoothing the surface but leaving a slight texture to which the paint can adhere.

5. Remove any sanding residue from the scuffed area with an absorbent blue shop towel. Go over the surface a second time with a wax-embedded tack cloth to remove any lint left by the towel.

6. Spray the mag wheel with a coat of sandable primer. Build up the primer coat using thin layers of the spray. Apply three layers of the primer, allowing five minutes between each coat and 20 minutes drying time after the final coat. Sand the primer with 600-grit sandpaper to remove any painting flaws. Wipe with the shop towel followed by the tack cloth.

7. Spray the basecoat of paint in your choice of color onto the mag wheel using an HVLP spray paint gun. Fill the paint canister and connect the spray gun to its air supply. Aim the gun toward the mag wheel and, starting slightly before the edge of the wheel, pull the trigger to begin the paint flow. Pass the spray gun with paint spraying over the wheel, releasing the trigger once you’ve passed the other edge of the wheel with the spray gun nozzle. Apply three layers of paint to coat the wheel, waiting 10 minutes between each layer. Examine the wheel for coverage, making sure it’s been entirely covered with the paint. If not, apply a final coat. Allow the wheel to dry for 30 minutes.

8. Apply a coat of clear coat paint to the wheel to protect your base coat of paint. Spray three coats of the clear coat onto the wheel, allowing 10 minutes drying time between each. Let the wheel dry overnight.

9. Remove the masking tape from the polishing area of the wheel.