How to Get Rust Off Car Rims

Rusted car rims look terrible, and they can end up costing you quite a bit of money. If you’re tired of replacing your rims and fighting rust every season, you’re in the right place. Removing rust can be done with a simple 8-step process without breaking a sweat or spending too much money.

To get the rust off car rims, start by cleaning the tires, drying them out with rubbing alcohol, and scrubbing the rust with a wire brush. Apply a rust converter to strengthen the surface, then polish the rims with a converting agent. When you’re all done, add a protective coating to seal the rims.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information about rusted car rims:

  • Details about how to clean and remove rust
  • Different product suggestions for the best results
  • When it’s time to replace your car rims
Rust on car rims.

1. Clean the Rims and Tires

Cleaning your rims and tires will free up debris to allow for a solid seal. You’ll be using protective coatings, brushes, and other products that all require a clean surface. Use a stiff brush to scrub away the debris. Make sure that you’re also adding Car Guys Wheel and Tire Cleaner to remove the dirt and brake dust.

For a helpful video about the importance of cleaning your rims and tires, follow this guide by Saabkyle04 on Youtube:

It’ll give you brief instructions to clean your tires and remove rust in a matter of minutes.

Note: Brake dust can darken, which makes it appear as rust. The video above mostly removes old brake dust, but it details how you can prep your rims for the following steps.

2. Use Rubbing Alcohol to Wipe Them Down

When the rims are clean, use rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth to dry out the excess moisture. There will undoubtedly be water left behind from cleaning the rims, so drying them off with a towel and alcohol is the best course of action. Don’t forget to dry off the tires as well to prevent them from dripping down onto the rims.

You’ll need to use rubbing alcohol several times throughout these instructions. Have a bottle handy, as well as three or four clean, lint-free towels to dry the rims when it’s necessary. Microfiber is the best material for automotive parts, but traditional semi-abrasive towels will also do the trick.

3. Scrub the Rims With a Wire Brush

Next, use a wire brush to scrub the rims. Any rust that remains will likely be removed with firm circular motions. Never scrub too hard; Otherwise, you could risk scratching the rims of your car. If you find any chunks of rust that go deep into the rims, leave them behind and proceed to the next step.

You can also use different types of automotive acid to strip rust. However, you’ll need the proper tools and clothing for the job. Failure to follow strict guidelines could damage your rims and tires. The good news is that these instructions won’t cause any harm, as long as you follow them step-by-step.

4. Apply a Rust Converter

Adding a rust converter to rust that gathers along porous rims can preserve structural integrity. Rust converters work by turning the rusted portion of a rim into usable metal coated with protective sprays and paints to expand your rims’ longevity.

XIONLAB’s 2-in-1 Rust Converter and Metal Primer changes your rusted rims into new, shiny rims while also preparing them for paint and protective coatings. It comes in a can that you can attach a sprayer to, allowing you to apply the chemical to your rims in a matter of seconds. You can purchase this product in a one-gallon container or smaller pints.

5. Dry It With More Alcohol

When the rust converter dries, apply more rubbing alcohol with a fresh, clean cloth or towel. If you don’t follow this crucial step, you could risk trapping moisture in the seams of the previously rusted areas. Work in circular motions, ensuring that the alcohol dries before you start moving onto the next steps.

Note: Always apply the rubbing alcohol to the towel, then rub it against the rim. In other words, don’t pour the alcohol directly onto the rims. You’ll end up using way more than you should, wasting your money and extending the drying time frame.

6. Polish the Rusted Rims

Once the alcohol has dried, polish the converter parts of the rims with a fine steel wool brush. Make sure it’s not too abrasive, and be gentle when you’re performing this step. Again, you shouldn’t apply too much pressure if you want to prevent scratches and structural damage. Note that soft, fine steel wool won’t scratch too easily.

If you’re concerned about scratches, you could also use a scouring pad. Although it’s not as effective, you’ll still be able to buff out the surface enough to prepare it for the final step of adding a protective coating. The goal with this tip is to make the rim look level from edge to edge.

7. Add a Protective Coating

When you’re all done cleaning, scrubbing, drying, and doing all of the other steps, it’s time to finish the rims with a protective coating. Without recommending any brand specifically, you should always contact the manufacturer of the rims to figure out which paint code or preventative you should use.

Every set of rims has their own recommendations. You might need to spray or paint them, but never leave them untreated. In most cases, you’ll be able to find the necessary instructions and recommendations by calling the car dealership that you bought the vehicle from or by researching the rims online.

8. Repeat the Steps

Now that you’ve completed the whole process, some people prefer to go back and repeat everything over again. While it’s not entirely necessary, repeating the steps is a good way to ensure your rims’ longevity.

However, you shouldn’t scrub the rims with anything too abrasive. If you’re set on repeating the steps, just follow the final three. Dry them with alcohol, polish them with a wire brush, and add another layer of the protective coating.

Note: Some coatings require a second or third layer, so make sure you know the instructions prior to repeating any of the steps.

Should You Get New Rims?

Unfortunately, some rims are too damaged to be saved. If your rims aren’t responding to the treatment mentioned above, you might want to consider getting a new set. Before you start buying new rims to replace the old, rusted ones, check out the four possible signs that it’s time to replace your rims.

  1. If the rims look too porous or cavernous after trying the steps, they might be too far gone. Giant gaping chunks or broken pieces are too challenging to repair. You shouldn’t ever try to drive a vehicle with rims that are broken or too damaged to fix since they could fall off while they’re rotating.
  2. If the rust goes deeper than the exposed portion of the rim, you might be in trouble. This issue often calls for professional assistance. Although it’s not always a cause for replacement, you’ll want to have them checked out before you start driving on the road again.
  3. If you noticed chips or cracks in your rims, they’re often too damaged to be repaired. Even if you follow the detailed instructions found throughout this article, you could still be putting your rims, tires, and yourself at risk because they could collapse at any minute.
  4. Rims that are bent or warped from rust are unsafe to drive. They can change the course of your direction, pop your tires, and severely influence your wheels’ alignment. After you’ve cleaned your rims, inspect the edges to look for structural changes or negative alterations that might be signs of a necessary replacement.

If the bolts on your rims are rusted, you should remove them, treat the rust, and consider getting replacements. There’s no point in reusing bolts that have been stripped by rust since they won’t hold the rims or hubcaps together. You can get a new set for only a few dollars, and they could end up saving your rims.


Rusted rims can cause severe problems for your vehicle. As you’ve seen throughout this article, you can treat and prevent rust from coming back with a few simple steps. There’s no need to hire a professional or spend all of your money. Instead, you can scrub them down and use the product recommendations in less than an hour.

Here’s a quick recap of the post:

  • Never remove the rust from porous rims (use a rust converter instead).
  • Apply rubbing alcohol between each step to keep the rims dry.
  • Start by cleaning the rims to make the job easier for yourself.
  • Remember that old brake dust often appears as rust, even though it isn’t.
  • If your rims are fractured or bent, it’s time for a new set.

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