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Is It Possible to Fix Curb Rash?

Close-up of curb rash on a car rim.

Parallel parking is no one’s favorite pastime, and many wheels bear the scars of cutting it a little too close. Curb rash only takes a second. And it’s not only an eyesore that will lower resale value, but severe gouges and bends can also compromise the wheel’s integrity or leave your tire susceptible to damage. Curb rash is often something that can be remedied at home. Read on to learn the technique for a good DIY and when to let the professionals handle it.

When to Bring Your Car to a ProfessionalCurb Rash on tire rim

If you have steel wheels and there’s a severe bend as a result of a run-in with the curb, take your car into a shop for potential bigger repairs and wheel alignment and balancing. If you’re left with a large chunk of rim missing that directly contacts the edge of the tire, take that in as well, as you don’t want to risk the tire popping on a sharp edge or unseating. Otherwise, you can fix the rash yourself.

Fixing a Curb Rash at Home

Make sure you’re wearing proper protective equipment, like eye protection and a mask for painting and particulate matter. It might be possible to tackle this project with the tire still on, but taking it off is recommended to help avoid potential damage to the rest of the vehicle. Then, follow these steps:

1. Start With Sandpaper

Fixing curb rash is all about patience and sandpaper. Start with a low 80 grit and focus on the largest scrapes and gouges, working your way up to 600 grit. Get it as smooth as you can without taking too much off.

2. Apply Putty

Next, grab a tube of body filler putty and apply a light layer into the damaged areas, smoothing it over with a knife and letting it dry for at least 30 minutes. Sand down with 800 grit and repeat if it needs another layer to be even with the surrounding area.

3. Remove the Rim’s Clear Coat

Now take a dish scouring pad and rub the rest of the rim until the clear coat is removed. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when it’s no longer shiny.

4. Prepare the Rim for Paint

Thoroughly clean the rim and run a rag with paint thinner around the entire surface in preparation for painting.

5. Protect Surrounding Areas From Paint

Protect everything but the rims. Use masking tape to cover the lug nuts, valve stem and end cap. Stuff packing paper behind the rim, and protect the tire itself. Cardstock jammed in between the tire and rim works well, but tape also does the trick.

6. Prime, Paint and Coat

Spray two coats of primer, letting it dry in between. Then, apply paint in a color as close to the original as possible. Practice your spraying technique to avoid drips and get the best coverage, applying a second coat after 30 minutes if necessary.

Let the paint dry another two hours at least, but more is better. Lastly, apply a thin layer of clear coat. Let it dry for 30 minutes, then apply another. Thin layers are key to keeping drips at bay. Let everything dry, ideally for a day but at least for 12 hours.

7. Make Finishing Touches

Once everything is dry, you can remove any tape or protective covering, polish the rim, put the wheel back on the vehicle and admire your work.

It takes a little time and effort, but getting rid of curb rash is usually a project you can do yourself if you’re prepared.

Check out all the sandpaper products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about curb rash, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.


Blair Lampe View All

Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter.  In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.

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