DIY Cosmetic Wheel Repair - Bondo Method (also, 56k warning)

So you don’t want to shell out for a professional wheel repair or you just like DIY? You’ve come to the right place.

The bondo method has been documented elsewhere - I’m definitely not the first to do this - but I thought I’d put up this guide anyway.

Note that this applies only to cosmetic repairs. Emphasis on cosmetic. Structural damage to your wheels may result in damage to property, persons, or loss of life. If you suspect significant structural damage to your wheel(s), seek a professional assessment and repair.

Now, with that out of the way.

Things you will need:

sandpaper (I bought 600/1000/2000grit, used 600 the most).
bucket + water
painter’s tape (3/4-1" width is ideal)
plastic wrap
rubbing alcohol or other cleaner
shop towels
paint color and clear coat of your choice (I used Dupli-Color’s Hyper Silver Kit)

Handy to have:
Nitrile/latex gloves
Dremel Tool (to remove any scratches/gouges that result in material above the wheel surface)

Entirely Optional: Sidekick

Setup the wheels on top of the cardboard/newspaper, and clean the tire. What? Clean the tire? Yes, clean the tire. The painter’s tape needs to stick to the tire, so the tire best be clean. Specifically, clean the area right next to the wheel lip where tape will go down.

Now with that out of the way, I found it easiest to just start laying down tape around the diameter of the wheel, under the lip. Once you get the wheel all the way taped, tape your plastic wrap or newspaper to the tape on the lip of the wheel. This will protect the tire from getting painted. Tape the other end of the newspaper/plastic wrap down to the cardboard. This will prevent it from flying up and onto the wheel while you’re working and/or the paint is drying. Alternatively, you can make the plastic wrap piece long enough to just fold it under the wheel and have the wheel keep it down, but I found this to be more of a hassle than it’s worth. Complete coverage around the entirety of the tire. If you don’t care about your tires getting painted, you really don’t have to bother with this step.

In Progress

Complete Coverage

If there are any positive damage features sticking above the wheel surface, use a dremel tool to sand them down. Don’t go crazy and remove lots of material - you’re looking to remove just enough that the surface is roughly flush, or can be made flush with the addition of bondo followed by sanding. Less is more, in this case.

Now, you’ll want to use some 600grit sandpaper to roughen the surface a little. I always wet sand to help with material removal but otherwise keep things smooth. After wet sanding, use shop towels to clean away any debris and water.
The wheel will kind of have a hazed look to it. That’s ok.

Now use shop towels and alcohol (or cleaner of your choice) to clean the surface of the wheel. The big thing here is that a clean surface will mean your bondo sticks as best as possible. Later on, we’ll clean again prior to painting.

Identify all scratched/damage areas, and bondo as needed to fill in all scratches. Your wheel might look something like this:
Areas before bondo:

(Not the same) areas after bondo:

You might ask, Fenixgoon, how do I repair the lip and get a good looking line? Fear not. If you have a credit card or any number of disposable card-like items, you too can create a damn good lip. Bondo the lip area of the wheel. Let the bondo set for a few minutes, then slide the card around the lip of the wheel. Voila - you have a pretty damn good lip made for yoself.

Let the bondo harden - I usually waited ~30mins prior to sanding, but some areas required overnight for the bondo to really stick and let me get a good sand.

Once the bondo is hard enough, wet sand with 600 grit. Some spots may take multiple bondo/sand steps. I think my problem areas required 4-5 passes before things finally got flush to my satisfaction.

So flush and so clean clean

Now that the wheel surface is flush (or flush to your satisfaction, depending on your level of perfectionism), clean the surface again to remove and bondo, sandpaper particulate, dirt/dust buildup, etc. Cleanliness is pretty key here, since the next step is painting.

Paint time! Spray paint uniformly. The big thing here is to not get too close with the spray can. If you do, you’ll see the paint on the wheel start to be “pushed” by the paint/solvent coming out of the spray can. 2-3 light coats is better than 1 heavy coat, so don’t worry about getting absolutely everything covered on your first pass.

For the dupli-color kit, paint layers can be applied every 10-20mins. I put down 2 layers of paint, followed by 2 layers of clear coat.

And that’s prettymuch it. Nothing too terribly complicated. Here are some before/after shots. Not every area turned out perfectly, but it’s definitely an improvement over the level of curb rash that the wheels had before.



Overall shots: