How To: Fix & Refinish OEM BBS Wheels

First off, let me start by saying that I have never done any type of custom automotive bodywork prior to this project. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure how this was initially going to turn out, but I said to myself “they are my winter wheels; I don’t care what they look like!”.

Now, onto my story: I was driving my car during a winter safety driving school (last year), and long story short, my car and a snowbank had a quick meet and greet :lol:. Unfortunately though, this snowbank had turned into an icebank in the single-digit temperatures of northern NH during January. Therefore this icebank created some serious scuffing/gouging/scratches on my front right and rear right wheels. (the stock 07 silver BBS’)

I drove on them for the rest of the winter, but eventually dirt and other junk started to collect in the scuffed areas, something I couldn’t clean out, no matter how hard I tried.

Therefore, prior to putting my winter wheels back on for the winter this year, I decided to fix the two damaged wheels. Now keep in mind, the damage done to these wheels was purely cosmetic. The “physical structure” of the wheel was still completely solid and showed no signs of damage.

Now, let’s begin with pictures of the two damaged wheels:

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The above pictures should give you a good idea of the extent of damage done. Pretty much the entire face of each wheel was affected.

After doing some research on the internet, I found a “matching” silver paint for the silver OEM BBS wheels. Wurth makes a silver lacquer that supposedly matches the OEM BBS’. They also make a clear lacquer, which is the accompanying clearcoat product. Therefore, I decided to give it a chance and ordered both products. (Link can be found here)

Below you can find a list of materials that area needed for this project. Please note the amounts are based on fixing/refinishing 2 wheels.


Materials Needed:

  • Wurth Silver Lacquer Paint – 1 can
  • DupliColor High Performance Wheel Coating (clear coat) – 1 can
  • DupliColor Sandable Primer – 1.5-2 cans
  • Blue Painters Tape
  • Bondo Spot Putty
  • 220 Grit Sandpaper
  • 400 Grit Sandpaper
  • 1500 Grit Sandpaper
  • AutoPrep Automotive Paintwork Cleaner (removes wax, etc, really strong stuff)

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It should be noted that for pretty much all of the following steps, I was wearing a small white respirator, to protect me from any harmful fumes. (small mouth covering face mask)

Step 1 – Clean the Wheel

Start out by thoroughly cleaning the wheel. I used SimpleGreen for this task, with the added help of a garden hose to thoroughly hose everything off. After getting the wheels squeaky clean, I also used the AutoPrep paintwork cleanser and sprayed it on. After spraying, let it sit for about 1 minute before wiping off. (warning: this stuff is REALLY strong, do this outside and be careful of fumes)

Step 2 – Light Sanding

After cleaning, lightly sand down the wheel. You may opt to tape off the tire sidewall portion of the wheel at this time, although I did not do this until later. Mainly focus on the areas which are going to be repaired. For this task, I used 220 grit sandpaper.

Eventually you’ll begin to see metal, which will actually have a shine to it in certain cases. Also be sure to sand/rough-up any scuffed areas, as this will be important for the Bondo to properly adhere to the wheel.

Step 3 – Bondo

After fully sanding down the wheel, begin to apply the Bondo spot putty. This was my first time ever working with Bondo, and therefore I was quite generous with the product. Applying too much Bondo to an area has no ill-effects; it’s just more material to sand off later on. Please note that you MUST wear a respirator during this step, as many of you know Bondo is really strong stuff, and the fumes/odor can be harmful.

The spot putty consists of two elements. The white putty, and the red hardening cream. When mixed, the bondo has roughly 5 minutes until it hardens. According to the directions, one must mix first, then apply the product to the application. (in this case, the wheel) Although I didn’t feel like getting too messy with things, so I simply goo-ed on the white bondo all over the wheel. Following this, I applied the red hardening cream ontop of the white goo, and mixed it all together while wearing rubber latex gloves. (and while both products were already on the wheel) Also, the Bondo only needs to be applied to the problematic areas. (such as scratches, gouges, scuffs, etc)

A picture best describes this:

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Step 4 – Bondo & Wheel Sanding

Let the wheel sit for some time, allowing the spot putty to full-dry. I believe the directions stated the putty could be sanded within 30 minutes of application, but I didn’t want to risk it. Therefore, I simply let it dry overnight. (not necessary, an hour or so should do)

After the putty has fully dried, take out your 220 and 400 grit sandpaper, and begin to sand the putty down. Again, be careful and wear a respirator, as sanding creates lots and lots of small particles. (bondo flavor!) I started out sanding down the bondo’d areas with 220 grit, and followed up with 400 grit later on. You should also sand down the rest of the wheel at this time, to fully even things out.

Sand the puttied areas down until they are flush/smooth with the rest of the wheel surface. Once sanding is complete, the surface of your wheel should be completely smooth. If not, add more putty if desired and repeat. I managed to get by on the first try, and most likely you will be able to as well.

Once the wheel attains a smooth surface, any pink areas left should represent a scratch, scuff, or gouge that was filled in by the spot putty.

Pictures after getting a smooth wheel surface:

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Step 5 – More Wheel Cleaning

After sanding, be sure to clean the wheel again thoroughly, making sure no sand dust is left behind. Most likely, there will be lots of dust left behind, so I sprayed some AutoPrep paintwork cleaner. Again, this stuff is very strong, and did a great job of cleaning the dust up. I also used my shop vac, which allowed me to suck up the loose dust prior to cleaning the wheel.

Step 6 – Prep Work

Prep work! Now that the wheel is squeaky clean, your going to want to tape off any areas that you don’t want to get paint onto. That includes your beautiful STi! During my project, I actually had my wheels on an old red wagon, so I could wheel them around, and also did all paint spraying outside. (and closed the garage door behind me, preventing any paint from hitting my car)

I recommend taping off the sidewall of your tire, the silver wheel hole bearings, and the black valve stem & cap. I used blue painters tape, which worked well and held up great throughout the entire painting process.

Cut out some newspaper, and tape it to the inside of your wheel, preventing any paint from hitting this area. I also put painters tape onto the backs of the spokes.

During spraying, it’s also VERY handy to have a stack of note cards. You can prop these up between the tire sidewall and the lip of the wheel. These also work great in protecting the tire from getting paint on it.

Prep work shots:

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Step 7 – Primer

After fully sanding down the wheel, your ready for primer! I purchased some “Duplicolor Sandable Primer” for this task. This product is available in different colors, so don’t get confused! All colors are the same formula, and it will be hidden underneath your paint anyways. I opted for the gray color.

Apply 3-4 coats of primer. I sprayed very light coats, and allowed about 15 minutes in between the first 2 coats. After applying coat #2, I allowed the wheel to dry for a few hours, making sure it was fully cured. After fully drying, I was able to see the finish it left, and then applied coats 3 & 4, being sure to cover any areas that I missed. It should be noted: It’s better to apply 3-4 light coats, than to apply 1-2 heavy coats, to prevent running.

If you do get some running, no need to worry, simply be sure to let the primer fully dry, and then sand the affected area, followed by respraying.

After the primer has fully dried, lightly sand it with 400 grit sandpaper. Once sanding is complete, suck up the remaining dust with a shop vac. DO NOT USE AUTOPREP CLEANER ON THE WHEEL AT THIS POINT! AutoPrep cleaner is so strong it will strip the primer right off. If you have remaining dust left over, use a softer/less harsh cleaner. I opted for a light mix of SimpleGreen.

Pictures of primed wheel:

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Step 8 – Time for Paint!

After allowing the primer to fully dry, it’s time for paint. Again, I applied 3-4 coats, and these were very light coats. The Wurth silver lacquer has a very metallic look to it, and the shiny metal flakes will fly everywhere, so be extra careful to protect anything in the surrounding area that you don’t want paint on.

Apply 3-4 coats of Wurth silver lacquer. I applied the first two coats, and waited 15 minutes in between coats. After the 2nd coat, I let the paint fully dry for 1 hour, then applied 2 more coats, again waiting 15 minutes in between.

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Step 9 – Clearcoat

Now I had originally ordered the Wurth clear lacquer as well, so like anyone else would do, I applied it after the paint was done drying. Although unfortunately, it did not deliver the shine that I wanted. Therefore, after doing some reading on the int4rw3bz, I set off to Advance Auto Parts, and picked up some DupliColor High Performance Wheel Coating. (the clear color!!) The product ended up working great, and now technically one of my wheels has two types of clear coat applied to it. (This may have actually helped in terms of durability, I’m not really sure)

After the paint has fully dried, apply 3-4 coats of clear coat. Again, follow the rule of 15 minutes in between coats. (and allow 1 hour drying time after the 2nd coat) Also, I highly suggest allowing the 1 hour drying time after coat #2, to thoroughly check for any missed areas, as it’s hard to see where the clear coat hasn’t been applied to.

After the last coat of clear coat, be sure to let the wheel fully dry. This step is very important, as it’s sensitive to the final finish of your wheel(s). Also, be sure not to use any types of cleaner on the wheel for a few days, to let the recently applied clear coat fully de-gas. (polish should be ok, but hold off on the wax if you can)

Step 10 – Admire the Finished Product

That’s it! Give yourself a pat on the back. I never thought that I would be able to complete a project such as this, but I just did a lot of reading, and pretty much said to myself it’s worth a shot. I wanted to have my wheels repaired anyways, so I figured if they came out undesirable, I would just have a bodyshop re-do them. Though the bodyshop may do great work, they also charge $150 per wheel.

The end product came out looking VERY good, and it’s practically OEM quality! I will admit the texture of the finish does not feel 100% the same, but that can be corrected out with some 2000 grit sandpaper, and some quality polish. I plan on applying some Menzerna Super Intensive Polish (SIP) within the next few days, as this should do wonders on smoothing out the finish. Menzerna makes top-quality polishes, so I figure it’s worth a shot. (You can pick up some Menzerna SIP here)

So there you have it folks: Your BBS wheels are now back in great shape, and all of this was done for less than $50!

Questions/comments? Reply to this post, and I will try my best to answer them! (this way other readers can see the questions/answers)

All of the pictures within this post are thumbnails, and they can be maximized by clicking on each one.

Here are some finished shots of my BBS wheels. Both repaired wheels are on the right side of my car.

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This part of the lip used to be scuffed like crazy, now it looks brand new!

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Non-repaired OEM finish wheel (left) vs. Repaired Finish (right)
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Pictures 1.5 months later (right after washing the car):

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Pictures later that day, wheels dirty from winter salt once again:
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51 Responses to “How To: Fix & Refinish OEM BBS Wheels”

  1. Andrew says:

    The results are astonishing! I only wish I had an STI to try it out on. grrrrrrr

  2. H. Pham says:

    You don’t need an STI… just some wheels to finish.

    I actually have a set of 02/03 WRX wheels I bought for the purpose of cleaning and painting… if I don’t move them (Not really actively selling, but if someone needs a set of ‘winter rims’…), maybe it will be a summer project.

    How long did it take per wheel? Or did you mention that, and my reading comprehension is bad today?

  3. Acejam says:

    @Andrew,
    You can apply the same techniques to pretty much any type of wheel. I’d say the only real tricky part was finding a proper paint match.

  4. Acejam says:

    @H. Pham,
    It took me about 2 weeks to complete both wheels, as I was quite busy with work at the time. I’d say you could probably complete 1 wheel in about 7-8 full hours. (including drying time) Although keep in mind you can have multiple wheels drying at once too.

  5. H. Pham says:

    @Acejam, The wheels I have are more buggered though, because I bought them with the intention of painting them. Paint is bubbled in some places, there’s a good coating of brake dust. Oye. Problem is, in the summer, I just wanna ride my motorcycle, not clean, sand, primer, and paint wheels. 🙂

  6. Autocross says:

    The finished product looks great. I think most people use the duplicolor wheel paint, which is the clear coat you ended up using. Did you like the wurth paint, or if you had the chance to do it over would you use something else? Is the finish still as nice as it was?

  7. Acejam says:

    Thanks for the compliment!

    These are my winter wheels, but even after this past winter, the finish it still just as good. One wheel has developed some light spotting, but I think it’s due to the way I sprayed that way. (perhaps I went too heavy on a few coats. It’s better to do more light coats than less, but heavier coats)

    I used the Wurth paint pretty much because it was an exact color match. If Duplicolor created an exact match, and it was proven to be matched, I’d definitely be up for trying it out. If I was painting them a different color, I’d certainly use Duplicolor as well, as it’s available at any Autozone. (I’ve seen people use the bronze Duplicolor on STi BBS wheels, it came out very nice)

  8. Arazzat says:

    Very good write up. You definitely inspired me to touch up my STI wheels as well. Just need to get rid of this Washington State infamous rain >:( Thanks again this is going to be my first project this summer.

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