How to Fix Curb Rash – 6 Steps To Refinish Rims Like A Pro

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Curb rash on wheel rims is caused by obstructions like hitting curbs, rocks, and the like. This damage appears like a gouge, scuff mark, or scratch. Aside from looking bad, it can weaken the wheel structure, so it’s important to know how to fix curb rash.

Fortunately, scuffed rims can be fixed at home with simple DIY repair techniques.

Tip: Use a wheel repair kit

In 3 easy steps, you can repair different types of wheel scratches with a sand block and touch up pen.

Remember that it takes time, dedication, and patience. Let’s see how to refinish your rims by fixing unsightly curb rash like a pro.

How to Fix Curb Rash

Items & Tools You Will Need

How to Fix Curb Rash in 6 Steps

Do you have the above-listed items at hand? Are you ready to tackle the problem? Great!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how to prepare, smooth out, refine, and polish the rims. The following repair solution works for every type of rim, including aluminum, chrome, and steel wheel rims.

Step 1: Smooth Out the Wheel Rim

Identify the scuffed areas on the rim, i.e. damaged spots to be repaired. Clean that area and sand it down with sandpaper until the scratches are smoothed out.

Start with 100-grit or 120-grit sandpaper. As you switch to smaller spots, keep working your way up to 220-grit and 400-grit sandpaper.

Use 220-grit sandpaper to clear up the most noticeable gouges and scratches. The 400-grit sandpaper can do a great job of smoothing out metal rims, so use it to even out the previously damaged area with the rest of your wheel.

Tips on How to Smooth Out the Rims

  • Apply moderate yet steady pressure while sanding the abraded areas to level the remaining ridges.
  • Go over the scuffed spots using feathering motions and angular strokes outwards from the rash’s center.
  • Avoid going much beyond the scuffed area, as you will end up having unnecessary work.
  • A good rule of thumb is to go about 0.5 inches beyond the scratches or rash when working with 400-grit sandpaper.
  • Every few minutes, you need to wipe off any dust and debris coming off the rim while you are sanding. Use microfiber cloths or a soft cloth.

NOTE: This only applies to metal, painted rims. If your rims are made of magnesium or polished aluminum, then you should skip this step.

Step 2: Apply Spot Putty

Use automotive spot putty. You may also use all-purpose putty such as Bondo.

  • Apply it to the scuffed area by squeezing a small amount on a putty knife and filling in indentations and gauges. The damaged area should be covered in a thin layer.
  • Allow the putty to dry. It takes from 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Once it dries completely, you will need to smooth it off using 400-grit or 220-grit sandpaper. A scraper can also help you remove the excess putty from the trim.
  • Add another layer of spot putty if needed. It might be necessary for deep scratches. Then sand the damaged area as described above. Leave it to dry.

Step 3: Prime the Rim

Perfect the surface. The aim is to get a perfectly smooth wheel rim before priming and painting. That said, prime the rims and wipe the area clean to prevent impurities or dirt from ruining the paint you’re going to apply.

  • Scuff the rim thoroughly with a Scotch-Brite pad or sponge and wipe it down using paint thinner. Put it on a piece of cloth – make sure it is clean and free of lint – and give your rim a good clean-up. That will make it easier for the paint and primer to stick to the surface.
  • The last thing you want is to get your car ruined, so mask your vehicle with masking tape or plastic so that the only thing that’s showing is the damaged rim. Cover everything from the center cap to the valve stem to brake pads and lug nuts. Once you’ve protected the tires, you’ll need to cover the entire automobile with a drop cloth or masking paper.
  • Take the primer and spray it over the whole rim of your wheel. Aim to apply an even, thin coat of the primer using short strokes. Wait about 15 minutes for it to dry and consider applying another coat if needed.

Step 4: Start Painting!

Apply a very thin coat of paint, making sure the entire rim is covered. Shake well before use and hold the spray bottle roughly six inches away for the best results.

The paint color should be the same or very similar to the original rim color. If you have chrome rims, then you need to apply a layer of silver chrome.

As with the primer, it is recommended to begin at the rim top and slowly go towards the bottom using short motions. Sometimes it can be done in a single sweeping motion.

Allow it to dry. That may take from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the type of paint.
You need to add second or several coats of paint if it’s sheer or uneven. Start with a lighter coat and build up between drying times in a gradual way.

Before moving on to the next step, allow the paint to dry completely. If you can’t leave it overnight to dry, wait at least 3 hours before applying the clear coat.

Step 5: Apply Clear Coat

  • Prepare the wheel rim for polishing by spraying a thin and even coat of clear coat over it. Make sure the entire surface is uniformly coated. Allow it to dry.
  • Once it’s dry, you should refine the surface by wetting sand the area with an extremely fine grit like 1200 or 2500.
  • Then add as many layers of clear coat as needed. Repeat it two or more times until you get ultimate coverage. This will make the old paint blend into the new.
  • When the clear coat is done (it takes from 12 to 24 hours to dry thoroughly), remove all masking. The center cap should be replaced before polishing the rim. Do not overlook it!

Step 6: Polish the Rim

You are almost done. The last step is polishing. It is supposed to make your rims look shiny and nice. Restore their shine!

Apply aluminum or chrome polish by scooping out a substantial amount of it with a soft towel or cloth. In addition to the repaired areas, you should go over the surrounding areas as well. This will ensure that the coating matches the existing metal, whether it is steel, chrome, or aluminum.

FAQs About How to Fix Curb Rash

Can Curb Rash Be Fixed?

Do not despair if you notice curb rash on the wheel as a result of a direct hit. Unless your wheel is damaged structurally, this problem can be solved and it may look brand new after being restored. However, if the rims are bent or severely damaged, then getting a wheel replacement is the best option.

Is Curb Rash on Wheel Rim Worth Fixing?

Yes, it’s worth it especially if you plan to sell your car. Fixing curb rush is quite cheap and you can do it yourself without spending too much. In fact, the cost of this repair is about $70 per wheel.


That was how to fix curb rash. Your best bet is to deal with it on a sunny, warm day to make the paint, putty, and primer dry quickly. If you get curb rash on rims every so often, you should consider buying tires that are equipped with rim protectors.

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