How to Fix Curb Rash – Fixes for Scratched and Scuffed Wheels

If you take pride in how your car looks – and who doesn’t? – noticing any dings or scratches on it can quickly ruin your mood.

However, no matter how much you look after your car, as you rack up the miles and particularly the number of times you park it, getting curb rash is practically inevitable.

But don’t despair, this can easily be fixed, and in fact, is almost entirely within everybody’s capabilities.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about today, how to fix curb rash.

A woman's hand polishing an alloy wheel with a blue cloth

In this article, You’re going to learn everything you need to know about curb rash: what it is, how to prevent it, and even how to fix it, depending on the type of wheels you have and how extreme the scratches or scuffs are.

Skill Level: Beginner.

Time to Complete: A few hours.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Several grades of sandpaper (80, 220, 400, 2000, 2500).
  • Water.
  • Soft towel.
  • Polishing towel.
  • Aluminum polish.
  • Eye protection.

What is Curb Rash?

Curb rash is the term given to the bumps and scrapes that your wheels experience when parking or generally hitting the curb.

We’ve all heard that head-turning sound when metal meets concrete, but it can occur on any surface, not just from curbs.

For vehicles that have large rims and low-profile tires, the sidewall and bead aren’t going to stick out much. This means that your rims aren’t going to be protected from side impact.

If the impact occurs at the wrong angle, it’s going to push the tire out of the way. The tire is going to end up flexing and giving, but the rims won’t. Instead, they become the victim of being banged and scraped.

Tires Can Protect Against Curb Rash

Some tires have extra rubber that goes around the bead, which provides more protection to the wheel rim. However, this type of tire design has both pros and cons.

For example, if you’re driving your car slowly, the extra rubber will serve its purpose. Unfortunately, driving at such slow speeds isn’t a constant.

Additionally, you can only get these types of tires if your rims are compatible with them. Even then, the tires don’t guarantee protection. Unless your car is equipped with a set of giant tires, the rims will always be somewhat vulnerable to impact.

Why Should You Fix Curb Rash?

Aside from the fact that curb rash doesn’t look too appealing, there are some practical reasons why leaving the curb rash on your tires the way it is, isn’t a good idea.

For starters, if you end up hitting a curb with the wheel, there’s no guarantee that the tire is going to be unharmed. In fact, what’s more likely to happen is the tire is going to take the initial impact, and then, after the tire gets deformed, it’s going to damage the rim.

The sidewall of any tire is actually its weakest point, especially if there is no reinforcement for the steel belts. Even with added reinforcements, tires are not made to survive any impacts from the sides. If you keep hitting things with the sidewalls, you can also tear up the rubber.

If the tire and the rim are both damaged, the wear on your tires will then be uneven, which not only means you’ll have to get a replacement sooner, but also the handling of the car is going to be impacted.

Remember, safety is paramount whenever you’re driving a vehicle!

Finally, it can increase the sale value of your car when you wish to sell it on, which is always a good thing.

Can Curb Rash Always Be Fixed?

This depends mainly on how bad the damage is and their base metal.

If there are large chunks of material missing, then this is obviously more difficult to fix. Don’t fear, though. We have plenty of solutions for you to try.

A more preventative cure is to take more care when driving. This is easy to say, of course. In our busy lives, sometimes just getting the car parked is the priority, not looking after the rims.

Steel Wheels

When it comes to steel wheels, they tend to be more durable than alloys. This means they can take a few hits and not show any curb rash. And even if you see any scratches, there’s very little to worry about.

However, if there is a bend on the steel wheels, you should always take them to a professional to have them fixed. The bend leads to a weakening of the metal, so they might need some welding.

Aluminum Wheels

Aluminum wheels usually come with a clear layer over them for protection. To check whether your rims have this layer, you can easily do so with some sandpaper. If the dust that comes off while sanding is white, then you know the layers are there. If the dust is gray, your rims don’t have a protective layer.

As for curb rash, you’re going to have to remove the entirety of this protective layer so that you can get to the curb rash before fixing it.

Buff the entire wheel with some sandpaper until you start seeing gray dust. After this layer is off, then you can process the surface underneath with some wet-sanding of the damaged parts of the aluminum.

After sanding, wipe everything down and let it dry. Finally, you can put a layer of aluminum polish over the top to give the fixed wheels some extra protection.

Chrome Wheels

Curb rash on chrome wheels is much easier to notice and harder to repair. However, if you’re willing to put in some hard work and time, it’s still curable.

First, wet-sand all of the areas that have curb rash, until there are no visible pits.

Then, rinse everything and let it dry.

Next, tape over the undamaged parts of the wheels, as well as the air valve stem, and spray a layer of chrome spray paint designed for chrome wheels. You’ll need 3–4 layers of the chrome spray paint.

Let all surfaces then dry, which can take up to 8 hours so park your car somewhere accordingly; your car shouldn’t be driven during this drying time.

Finally, polish the chrome wheels with some chrome polish on a cotton towel.

How to Fix Curb Rash at Home – Step by Step Guide

If you have aluminum or chrome wheels, you can easily repair curb rash at home. All you need to do is invest some time and hard work. And your wheels are going to look as good as new in practically no time.

As we mentioned earlier, steel wheels are more complicated and you should consult a professional instead of attempting to fix these yourself.

Step 1: Check for Protection

There are many types of car wheel coatings. Before you start, check whether or not your wheels have any protective layers on them. This is where the sandpaper comes in. The sandpaper needs to be dry so that you can clearly see the type of dust that comes off.

Start by sanding off a small part of the wheel and look for the color of the dust. If it’s gray, there is no protective layer. But, if it’s white, it means your wheels have added protection that you need to remove before fixing the curb rash.

Don’t forget to use eye protection when you’re doing the following steps, to avoid getting any small particles into your eyes.

Step 2: Remove the Layer

Using sandpaper, remove the entirety of the protective layer over your wheels so that when you’re done, the wheels will have the same color as well as texture all over. There must be none of the protective layer remaining on any part of the wheel.

You should be using sandpaper with 220-grit, and work on this layer until you see that the dust has a gray color, proving you are down to the metal.

If you don’t do this step, there’s going to be some visible discoloration when you finish.

Step 3: Fix the Curb Rash

Only work on the spots that are damaged. Start with 80-grit sandpaper and work your way up to the 220-grit.

After you’ve dealt with the biggest spots, then you can switch over to sandpaper with 400-grit and use a feathering motion with your hands. This way, you can even out the rest of the wheel with the area that was previously damaged.

Make sure you regularly wipe away any dust that comes off while you’re using the sandpaper, with a soft towel.

Step 4: Perfect the Surface

Refine the repaired surface using 2000-grit sandpaper. Use it lightly and in circles, over the spots that you were previously fixing, and make sure that you even out all of the edges.

This step takes a bit more time and care to see the best results, but please do take the time to get the best results.

After that, wet the sandpaper with 2000-grit and work over the curb rash for about 5 minutes. Switch to 2500-grit sandpaper for about a minute while it’s dry. Then wet the same sandpaper, and go over it again.

Finally, make sure you wipe down any dust with a wet, and then a damp, towel to remove all residue.

Step 5: Use Aluminum Polish

Use a soft towel and put a large amount of the aluminum polish on it.

Go over all of the previously sanded areas, as well as a small portion of the surrounding areas so that the new protective coating will blend in with the existing metal.

Use a lot of pressure when you’re polishing your wheels, enough for the towel to start going black.

Then go over everything with a clean part of the towel until everything looks nice and shiny.

This video is a great visual representation of the process in action:

Curb Rash Final Thoughts

Try to be careful about how you’re driving and be mindful of your surroundings. This will help to avoid hitting anything and preventing curb rash.

However, if you do happen to scratch or scuff your wheels, whether they are aluminum or chrome, you can fix any dents or scratches to them with the steps we go through above.

But do remember, if you have steel wheels and they are bent from the damage, it’s best to see a professional to have them repaired, or maybe even replaced.

Now that you know how to fix curb rash go ahead and give it a try. Your car will thank you for it!

Please share any tips or experience you have in the comments section below. If you have any questions or comments, please do let us know!

Kyle Palmer

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars. Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned. Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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