How to Fix A Scratch On A Rim? All About Curb Rash Repair

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By Douglas Mercer

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Rims are the joint of wheels and tires, strengthening the whole assembly to assist the steering system with better traction and balance. Thus, even the slightest scratch on the rims demands immediate fixes.

While taking the car to a shop is arguably the most convenient way, I strongly suggest scratched rim repair at home to save labor costs. Keep scrolling for my inclusive guidelines. 

How to Fix Scratched Rims/Wheels?

1. Clean The Rim

Step One. Spot The Damage On The Rim

Spot The Damage On The Rim

Before starting, clean the rims thoroughly first. Identify where the dents, dings, or scratches are so that you can return to them later.

Step Two. Remove Excess Dirt With A Washcloth and Mild Cleaner

Spray wheel cleaner on a rag, then use the rag to scrub/remove grime and dirt off the rim. 

If the entire tire is dirty, it would be best to clean it thoroughly before getting down to the damage. 

Step Three. Use Paint Thinner To Clean Your Rims

Paint Thinner To Clean Your Rims

Paint thinners are the best weapon against residual debris or dust. 

Dip your washcloth in the thinners and use the cloth to coat the rims lightly. Rub the spots while applying gentle pressure until the grime comes off. And for safety precautions, do not forget gloves and respirators. 

Step Four. Use Lint-Free Cloths To Dry Off The Rims

Dry Off The Rims

The follow-up repairs will only stick if the wheels are dry, so use a lint-free, clean cloth to wipe the wheels. Or – if you do have free time – let these rims dry on their own.

2. Sand and Fill The Damage

Step One. Draft Masking Tape Over The Tires

Put masking tape around the rims (1 to 2 inches) and to the tires behind them. That way, as you apply paint and sand the rim scratches later on, none of these materials will stain the tires. 

Step Two. Sand The Scratches Using Sandpaper

Rub the dents and scratches with 400-grit sandpaper to straighten out rough edges. Keep rubbing until they feel smooth under your hands (instead of coarse).

Once done, pick a dry rag to wipe off sandpaper dust. 

Step Three. Fill The Dents or Scratches With Spot Putty

Lift the putty off its container using a putty knife, then apply it to the rim’s damage with light pressure. Use the knife to spread the putty around. 

Such methods allow the putty to fill the dents and scratches to the brim. If needed, you may use your own fingers to reshape the putty, smoothing it out to keep raised areas away.

Step Four. Leave The Putty For Two Hours to Dry

How long it takes for the putty to dry out depends on the damage size and putty brand. Nevertheless, the overall process naturally fluctuates between 30 minutes and 2 hours; read the guidelines carefully to assess exactly how many hours you need.

Step Five. Sand This Putty With Sandpaper to Give A Smooth Finish.

Now that the putty has been 100% dry, use sandpaper to tackle raised areas (if any are left). Simply hold the sandpaper above the putty-filled area and rub to and fro until those raised areas become level.

3. Apply Paint and Primer

Step One. Put On Gloves, Respirators, and Goggles Before You Start

Primer and spray paint might cause lung, eye, and skin irritation, so make sure to protect yourself. If you feel lightheaded or nauseous, leave your workspace immediately and contact emergency services (ex: the Poison Control department) for more instructions.

Prepare Wheels for painting

Step Two. Use Kraft Paper and Tape to Mask The Wheels

Wrap the tire (or any rim area you will not paint) using kraft paper, then secure it with some masking tape. After all, removing spray paint is tough, so you should do your best to protect the rest of the wheels from accidental staining. 

Step Three. Spray Alloy Primer on The Scratched Area.

Primer gives the paint a more natural look, allowing it to stay longer on the rim.

Stand about 6 to 8 inches from the wheel rims, then spray in circular, sweeping motions. You don’t have to do much; one single primer layer is more than enough to get the paints to stick.

Step Four. Leave The Primer For About 30 Minutes – One Hour

Check your primer instructions to confirm how long it takes to dry. In most cases, the period requires half to one hour. Only when the primer is 100% dry should you proceed with the paint spraying. 

Step Five. Apply Base Spray Paint Coats To The Scratch

Choosing paint colors that match the rim (mostly silver paints) is best. Hole the paint can about 10 to 12 inches from the surface, then paint the scratch in sweeping motions.

Step Six. Give The Paint 30 to 60 Minutes to Dry

Waiting 30 to 60 minutes should give the coat a smoother layout. Do not touch the paint during this period to avoid smudging it. 

Step Seven. Apply Several Extra Light Coats of Paint

Once the first paint coat has dried, apply two or three more coats until the color turns out what you want: glistening and natural-looking. There should be a 30- or 60-minute gap between the two coats. 

Step Eight. Seal The Deal With Spray Lacquer

Spray paints might scuff or flake away over time, so some paint lacquers are strongly required to keep that disaster at bay.

Spray your lacquer in light mist (like how you sprayed the paint earlier) and leave it to dry on its own. The drying process should take from 8 to 24 hours. 

Can I Drive With Scratched Rims? 


The car can still travel at least a few hundred more miles on shallow scratches without issues. Things only start to look bad if the rims are bent or leak air – which means the damage is more serious than expected.

When Are The Scratches Unrepairable? 

If cracks and deep dents are shown around the rims and even spiral down the tires, you are facing a much more serious issue than simple scratches. Failure to fix it might lead to leakage, structural damage, and even power loss.

You can still repair them if you want; but the labor cost can be as expensive (or even more expensive) than purchasing new rims

When too many scratches litter on the rim, you should inspect it carefully to detect any tiny crack soon.


Will Scratched Rims Rust? 

Yes; scratches are like open wounds, giving way for water, dirt, and moisture to reach the bare metal under the coat (if any). But not just those scratches are to blame. Some materials are just more prone to rust and oxidation than others. 

Are Scratched Rims Expensive To Repair? 

The pricing is medium – about $200 to $500 for regular and minor scratches. Serious scratches, however, might charge much more than that or even require replacements. 


Repairing wheel curb rash at home should not cost you much money and elbow grease. Although the process is straightforward, caution is still needed to protect both you and the rims from unwanted risks. Keep my tips in mind, and write to me for extra support if needed.

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Douglas Mercer

Douglas Mercer

Automotive Service Manager

Douglas Mercer is an automotive service manager with 12-year experience at Stockton Wheel Service, Douglas excels in addressing intricate tire and wheel concerns as plating wheels, straightening bent wheels, widening stock wheels, and precisely correcting offset and back-spacing…

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