Rusty wheel rims - Rust-oleum Rust Reformer?

My 10-year-old Versa has only 89,000 miles on it. But when I lost a hub cap I couldn’t help but notice the rust on my wheel rims. I’m seeing something called Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer Spray that’s supposed to “instantly convert rust to a flat black, paintable surface that is protected and prevents future rust.” Ever tried it? Or should I pursue a more conventional route? Thanks.

Get a
I’d strip wheels first. Then prime/paint.

Yes, rust convertor works… to a point. Follow directions. Wire wheel the steel wheel a bit. Scrub clean the tire and wheel with dish soap and water. Let dry a while standing upright. Mask the tire with tape or it will look like a Bozo-mobile when you are done. Trust me on this.

If you paint afterwards I’d suggest semi-gloss black, “bar-b-que” black or “chassis black” paint. I think flat black looks odd and most chassis parts are not flat black.


Use an old deck of cards to mask the tire off.



Your car may “only” have 89,000 miles on it, but its 10 years old, and thats whats at play here. I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of other parts that you can’t see which are just as rusty, some of which where structural integrity is vitally important. I’d be thinking about a new car.

If you really want to do this. Remove the wheels from the vehicle and do the back side of the rims.

BTW, that Card Trick is genius,


While that is probably true, there is also–IMHO–an additional factor at work here.
I can’t be the only forum member who has observed that the paint on factory-standard steel wheels doesn’t last as long as it used to, back in the '50s thru–at least–the '80s.

My theory is that because of the availability of alloy wheels–on which the mfr makes a larger profit–the car companies just aren’t very interested in the durability of their “steelies”.


Very likely. Girlfriend’s base model Camry, granted it is a low mileage 2006, lives about 10 miles from the Atlantic, has extensive surface rust on the rims.
Yet in the 60s in Mpls, plenty of 10-15 year old cars with rust free rims.

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Wheels generally don’t rust through from my experiences although I do have one exception. Surface rust may be ugly but as long as it doesn’t progress, I wouldn’t worry too much.

My 1997 Ford F250 has a lot of stupid design features about it. This one takes the rare and hard to find 7 lug wheels. Anyway, I ended up having a hole rust through the flange once, resulting in a leak. I thought it was the tire but the shop showed me why. These rims have a stainless steel or chrome cladding spot welded and epoxied to the underlying steel wheel. This is purely cosmetic but there is a tiny space between the actual wheel and the cosmetic veneer. This traps dirt, salt, and moisture, creating the perfect conditions for a rust through. The tire shop said this was a terrible idea from Ford and that I wasn’t the first one they saw.

I had to put a spare on and went to the junkyard. They had several 7 lug rims at a decent price and there were two styles. One was the one I have with the stupid cladding. Another was a more basic wheel with just some sort of rough silver paint and no cladding to complicate things. Of course the ones with the cladding look better and are considered an upgrade so cost a few bucks more at the junkyard. I picked the plain painted ones as I didn’t want anything to do with the rust-prone ones.

A spray of Rust-Oleum seems like a good idea for your rims. If the rim is rusting where you can see it, it may also be rusting where the tire is supposed to make an air-tight seal to the rim. To avoid future leaks, next time a tire needs to be removed from rim, ask your tire shop to inspect that area carefully. I’ve experienced a couple of rim leaks on my truck due to rust forming there. Removing the rust with a wire brush was all I needed to do.

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My experience is these kind of paint jobs will provide some aesthetic improvement for a brief period but it does not last. You didn’t notice the rust until you lost a hubcap. I would just replace the hub cap and motor on. The chances of it being structurally impacted by rust is extremely slim and will probably last the rest of the car’s lifespan without any intervention. For a lasting finish, it would require removing the tire, media blasting to fresh metal and powder coating the wheel. Just not worth all that effort, especially if the thing is covered up by a hub cap…


Another option is to take the wheels to a wheel repair shop to have them reconditioned, they will come out looking like new for a lot less money… I’ve sent out (as a shop) wheels to have reconditioned for under $50.00 and that included straightening the damaged wheel plus all paint and repairs, that is also a baked on paint job… They also like to have the tires already mounted (as long as not junk tires lol) so they can make sure the wheels balance out good after the repairs…

Just something to check into if they have any in your area… Hubcap Heaven is our local one, we have a few more but used HH for over 20+ years…

I watched a guy using a steel wheel restoration machine on Youtube a while back. Pretty amazing how quickly he was able to straighten out a wheel that was crunched in 4 spots like a clover. Looked like they crushed it just as an example of what could be done. Hydraulic press arm to push the dented areas back out and a hydraulic forming roller worked it back into perfect round shape to complete the job.

At one point we were looking at buying one of those machines at a cost of about 30K due to how many bent wheels we were getting everyday… I mean Nashville potholes were getting stupid, I remember one day within about a 30-40 minute range we had 6-7 flats come in from hitting a pothole and blowing out tires and bending wheels… We had people from out of state known for really bad roads saying we had bad roads… lol
BTW, we didn’t get the machine cause as soon as we did, they would fix the roads and it wouldn’t pay for itself…

At that one store we ran 40-50 cars a day (10 bay shop) and averaged 10-15 flat related repairs daily…

It’s always tough to justify when you already have an established working relationship with another shop that is willing to do the sub’d out work for so little. $50 makes a tough decision. Equipment and labor costs probably mean it will cost more per repair, at least until the equipment is paid off, than they are charging. And subbing out means your shop does not have maintenance costs for the equipment either. Tough sell.

Your story about the potholes reminded me of the boat prop repair guy from years back. He was telling me about the people complaining about how much it cost to have props repaired and the investment required in equipment costs to do the work. My buddy was barking about his limited hours- he was open from 7:30 until 11 am. I told him he was probably out in the afternoon removing buoys to generate enough work to pay for the equipment :rofl:

can you add the link for the video?

This is easy - Youtube has a search feature - you put ( steel wheel straigting machine ) in the little box and you will have enough videos for hours of watching.

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I was looking for fine sand at Home Depot to use in my blaster. They had some ground black ash stuff, don’t recall exact name but it worked well. I thought 40lb bag was way too much but I went thru it all.

It’s routinely called “sand blasting” and that’s what we/I used as a media years ago. However, you should be aware that sand dust is actually quite dangerous to breath, it causes Silicosis. So if you use plain sand, be sure to wear a respirator and keep the dust away from anyone else not protected. These days it is more common to hear it called media blasting and there are many choices for media depending on what job you’re performing.

I have my own equipment but it’s somewhat limited. Where I used to live, there was a do it yourself company called U Spray and it was a fantastic option even if you had your own set up. They charged by the minute and had various sized cabinets and media to accommodate just about any size/type part you could pick up by yourself.

The black stuff you bought sounds like Aluminum oxide…

Sorry, I can’t find the one I originally saw which was a pretty dramatic repair. However, if you go on youtube and search for steel wheel repair or straightening, you’ll see quite a few examples.