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Airbrush Application: Wheel Coatings


Application of wheel coating can be quite the tedious task.  Some wheel designs make it quite difficult to reach everywhere due to tight areas that are difficult to get your fingers into, resulting in quite a bit of time to coat such a small area.  I have found that using an airbrush for applying the coating makes this tedious task quite simple.  I will go over the process I use when coating wheels via air brush.

For this example I used a brand new 2015 BMW M3 I recently did a new car prep on along with various coatings on the paint, wheels, glass, leather and fabric.

KMG - Air Brush Wheel Coating

In this example I have the wheels off the car, however you can certainly do just the face of the wheel while it is still on the car if you choose to do so.  With the car safely on either a lift or jack stands you can proceed to remove the wheel/wheels to begin.

KMG - Air Brush Wheel Coating

With the wheels off the car you will want to thoroughly clean the wheels.  Being that this car was brand new with less than 200 miles and very little dirt built up on the wheels I just used Meguiar’s APC+ and a wheel brush, however Meguair’s All Purpose Cleaner D101 will work exactly the same since APC+ is no longer available.  Depending on the condition of the wheel you may need to use a more aggressive product such as Sonax Wheel Cleaner Plus or P21S Gel Wheel Cleaner, for more information on these cleaners, check out the reviews by Ivan Rajic.  I also cleaned the back side of the tire with Tuf Shine Tire Cleaner and a Tuf Shine Tire Brush.

KMG - Air Brush Wheel Coating

The back side of the tire along with the barrel is now nice and clean after being thoroughly rinsed.

KMG - Air Brush Wheel Coating

The same products were used to clean the front side of the tire and wheel.  I like to use various Wheel Woolies when cleaning wheels as they work great for getting into tight areas when using the various sizes available in the 3 piece kit.

KMG - Air Brush Wheel Coating

Once the front and back side of the wheel and tire is cleaned and dried, I will spray the wheel down with Carpro Eraser Intensive Oil & Polish Cleaner and wipe it down with a clean microfiber towel to prepare the wheel surface for the coating application.

KMG - Air Brush Wheel Coating

Once the wheel is prepped and ready for the coating application you can hook up your airbrush.  You do not need to spend a ton of money on an airbrush to do this.  I picked up an airbrush kit for less than $30.  I typically put 5-10 ml of the coating I am using in the glass container and adjust my air pressure to 15-20 psi roughly.  I will work the tighter areas of the wheel first then proceed to work my way around the wheel.  Once the wheels are coated front and back I typically will place them under my IR lamp before placing them back on the car.

KMG - Air Brush Wheel Coating

The wheels were slick and glossy after the coating was applied, which should make cleaning the inevitable brake dust from the performance brakes on this M3 very easy.  The tires were also dressed front and back using CarPro PERL Plastic Engine Rubber Leather Protectant to finish off the clean look.

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Kevin M. George
KMG Detailing
Lebanon, PA

22 comments on Airbrush Application: Wheel Coatings

  1. Mike says:

    Kevin this is a great article. That’s a nice technique.

    Thank you for answering all my coating questions. I will be asking you soon about the coatings you recommended in 22ple or cquartz when I get ready to recoat my dad’s Camaro.

  2. Steve K. says:

    Great article Kevin.

    Maybe it shouldn’t matter but have noticed if certain brands are easier to work with than others?

    • Kevin George says:

      Steve, I have notice that products that flash slower seem to work better for me. So far I have tried DLUX, CQUK, Americoat, Ameriarmour and CQuartz Finest. I would say they are all fairly easy to apply, however on a few of these the application varies a bit as you do not go back and level the product after it is applied. I also have a bottle of 22ple sitting waiting to try out which I am hoping to get to possibly this week sometime.

  3. Jeff McGoveran says:

    Good article. I do the same. For your health, please switch to a respirator immediately. A particle mask will not protect your lungs from the atomized coating. It’s a serious health risk. They’re only about $30 at any hardware store.

    • Kevin George says:

      Jeff, I was expecting to get one of these comments and surprised it took as long as it did. I do wear a respirator and it was something I wanted note this in the post. Thanks for pointing it out however, as safety and your health are very important and if anyone is to try this on their own be sure to purchase a respirator to use.

  4. Bill says:

    Kevin, what was the product you used to coat the wheel?

    • Kevin George says:

      Bill, the wheel in this example was coated with CQuartz Finest which is a professional only coating. There are quite a few popular coating options for wheels however. Some of the more popular consumer options for wheels are Carpro DLUX or 22ple VM1. These are the three coatings I typically use on wheels.

  5. John says:

    After you have coated the wheel, how are you cleaning your spray gun?

    • Kevin George says:

      John that is a great question, you would clean this similar to how your would clean a paint gun. I typically will spray a bit of thinner or mineral spirits through the gun to clean it out afterwards.

      • John says:

        Thanks Kevin, I was going to do Americoat via air gun but worried about it crystalizing! Thanks!

        • Kevin George says:

          John, Americoat actually works very nice with airbrush. I have done a few sets of wheels with it and would say next to Finest, Americoat was my favorite to use with airbrush so far. I have a few other coatings I am trying however, include 22ple which I am going to try out this weekend.

  6. Liam says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Have you gotten around to trying out 22PLE’s VM1 via airbrush yet?

    • Kevin George says:

      Liam, I had a conversation with the owner of 22ple and he had recommended not applying VM1 via airbrush. For this reason I had not tried it yet. At some point I am sure I will give it a try.

  7. Patrick Jacobs says:

    Will the airbrushed on coating flash as if you were applying it via hand. If so after you spray, do you still wipe away after the coating flashes?

    • Kevin George says:

      Patrick, most of the coatings I have used do not really have the flash characteristic to them. You should go back over and level the surface however until you get the process down. A few coatings you can get away without wiping if you get it sprayed on nice enough, however you should have an IR lamp to cure the coating right after application.

  8. Charlie Jones says:

    Kevin, I’ve been researching airbrush and compressor kits and I’m overwhelmed by the amount of options and mixed reviews which is hard to take into account due to the many uses of airbrushing. Would you mind pointing me in the direction of an entry level setup? Thanks – Charlie Jones

    • Kevin George says:


      Sorry I see you posted this question quite a long time ago, however I will still post the answer for future reference for others. You can purchase kits online from Harbor Freight that include the air brush and a small compressor setup. This would be a decent unit if you don’t have a larger compressor to run off of and is pretty inexpensive.

  9. Primož says:

    How do you clean the airbrush after applaying a ceramic coating?

  10. jae says:

    Do you buff off with MF towel after applying coating this way?

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