Why do Wheels Peel?

There are number of reasons why wheels will peel. The first reason that everyone thinks of is because of a bad paint finish but this is not always the case. Yes, it is true that a wheel, if not prepped properly, can peel over time. This becomes evident when a bubble occurs in the finish of the wheel and if this bubble is pressed on the paint cracks. Basically, the paint is not adhering well to the substrate. When peeling occurs on a newly finished wheel it is a good idea to take care of it quickly because most reputable businesses will have a standard warranty in place for a set time frame and you do not want to exceed this. Also, by waiting too long to take care of the problem the wheel can get much worse and be much more problematic to fix in the future.

However, even when the utmost care has been taken to ensure proper paint adhesion to your wheel, your wheel may still peel and this is really the reason why warranties are in place. Wheels that have a lot of corrosion develop deep pitting and oils can get trapped in these pits so that on the surface everything is clean but just a tiny amount of contaminant in one of these corrosion pits on your wheel could lead to a “bubble” as talked about before. Once the bubble occurs and the paint cracks other external contaminants will continue to corrode the affected area and the peeling can spread.

I have seen powder coated wheels that have come from the factory with over-baked powder coat primer that has bonded with the metal substrate overly hard that even highly toxic aircraft strippers have little effect on removing it. When this happens, the over-baked powder primer is so hard that even in a sand blaster the aluminum oxide will not scuff the surface enough to allow for a second coating – and many times these wheels will end up with peeling problems in a short amount of time right out of the factory.

Clip on wheel weights will lead to peeling and corrosion on your wheel because when the wheel weight is smacked on to the bead (or lip of your rim) it will break the paint. At this point salts, break dust, and other contaminants (even chemicals from wheel cleaners!) can, and most likely will, lead to peeling and corrosion around where the clip on weight was set.

What it boils down to is this: on newly refurbished wheels there is inherent disadvantage because all the old paint and dirt has to be completely removed and then what is under the paint must be dealt with (pitting wheels). Factory – new wheels have the advantage of using brand new aluminum, uncontaminated, and can still can have issues with corrosion and peeling (many of our customers with early to mid 2000 Lexus wheels have experienced this). Peeling can even be caused by the design of a wheel, like sharp edges on spokes that make it difficult for paint and powder coat to adhere properly. Even stones on the road that hit the wheel and take little nicks out of the finish on a wheel will begin the peeling process.

Regarding most wheel restorations the paint DOES adhere properly. Stick on weights are used at our shop to prevent the damage that clip on weights cause. Proper education on how to take care of your wheels to prevent peeling is also given to all of our customers who want to keep their wheels clean and the finish lasting for a long time.


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