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Motorcycles are a lot more customizable than other vehicles. There’s an endless list of what you can do to them to make them look like the specific style you want.
Whether you’re customizing your motorcycle or you’re simply doing some touch ups, you might have some questions about the best options out there to make the new look last. I’ve often heard the question/argument concerning motorcycle wheels specifically and whether powder coating or painting them is better.
I’ve restored over a dozen motorcycles and have been able to get a good idea about the pros and cons of both. I’m not here to tell you which one is better because they both have good qualities. Rather, I’ll go through a pros and cons list of each and let you decide.
Pros in Powder Coating
First, we’ll start off with discussing the pros and perks of powder coating motorcycle wheels. There are a lot of advantages to powder coating and I’ll discuss the most important ones.
The motorcycle wheels must be thoroughly cleaned during powder coating. They’re then dipped in a chemical solution to neutralize the the surface. After drying, the motorcycle wheels can be hung and electronic grounded.
The special mixture of polymer resin and water is then charged in a sprayer. This charges the particles, which are then sprayed onto the rims. The particles will stick to the wheels because they are grounded. Once the wheels are covered, they’re then placed in an oven at a minimum of 320° F to cure the powder.
They use a different material to cover the wheels. Powder coatings are more durable than paint. Motorcycle wheels are especially susceptible to scratches and dings from rocks and stones on the roads. Powder coating can withstand most of this.
Powder coating can be used to mount tires very easily. So when you get your new tires mounted on your freshly powder coated wheels, there’s no need to worry about the machine tearing up the new look.
They are also more durable. Powder coatings last longer than paint. After a powder coating, you can rest assured that your wheels will last for many years.
UV rays from the sun don’t have much of an effect on powder coating, so you don’t have to worry much about the color fading, at least for a long time after the job is done.
While I have known a few people that have gotten powder coating kits and done the job themselves, it’s wise to have a job like this done by professionals. The great thing about knowing that your task is complete is the best part.
You won’t have to worry about parking your motorcycle, looking down at one of the rims, and noticing a spot that was missed. It’s hard for spots to be missed because of the electric charge that’s involved. You should also be able take the spot you missed back to your shop and get it fixed for free.
Although powder coating motorcycle wheels can sound great, there are some disadvantages to it that you should know before making your decision on whether or not this is the right choice.
Powder coating offers fewer color options than other powder coatings. Many shops will advertise that they have an array of colors, but if you’re wanting a very specific kind of color to go on your wheels, you may have a difficult time finding it.
That’s not saying you can’t find a color in powder coat that you won’t like, but paint has literally hundreds of thousands of different colors that you can choose from whereas powder coating doesn’t have as diverse of a color wheel. And you’re usually confined to the limited chart of colors the specific shop you’re using has.
Powder coating can also take a lot longer. It’s not a project that can be done in your garage on a Saturday afternoon. Powder coating, like I said before is typically something that must be completed by a professional.
It takes most shops 7-10 business days to complete the job. And this doesn’t include calling around to get quotes and scheduling an appointment in advance which likely adds on several more days.
Aluminum wheels can be damaged by powder coating. This is something to think about before you apply powder coating.
This was something I didn’t think about until I was a student in mechanical engineering taking a Materials Science course that covered this topic.
After a powder coating job has been completed, aluminum wheels are left to cure. The molecular structure of the wheel’s wheels is broken down during curing. You are limited in how fast your motorcycle can go after that. If you are going too fast, the changed structure of the aluminum wheels can be dangerous and can actually break at some point because of how fast they’re spinning. This is why I prefer to paint the wheels.
Now that we’ve covered both sides of powder coating, let’s discuss the pros of painting motorcycle wheels. Again, there are many benefits on painting the wheels, but I’ll highlight the most important ones.
Painting motorcycle wheels is an easier task than powder coating. The process of painting the wheels is much simpler than powder coating and takes less time.
In addition to the process being faster to complete, it’s also something that can be considered a “DIY” You can do any project in your garage. You can do it yourself which means that it will be much cheaper than powder coating.
If you’re experienced enough, you can even paint the wheels on your motorcycle without dismounting the tires on them. This alone can save you as much as $100. The price of the paint and materials for prep shouldn’t be more than $50 (at least that’s what it was for me during all my restorations).
The last perk of painting motorcycle wheels I’ll mention is that You can paint it just as well, if done correctly, as powder coating. With the right prep work and skillful painting, you’ll leave onlookers none the wiser about how the wheels were painted.
I’ve painted a lot of motorcycle wheels in the last few years and have been able to see a few of the drawbacks that can bring. As I said before, painting the wheels isn’t as durable as powder coating them.
Again, motorcycle wheels are a lot more susceptible to scratches and dings from rocks and other various items the road has to offer and paint just simply doesn’t handle those as well. You’ll likely get a few scratches you’ll need to touch up every once in a while.
Most people paint motorcycle wheels at home. This is a great hobby. However, most people aren’t experienced in pursing such a task and often don’t do the prep work correctly which eventually leads to chipping.
It’s important to do the right prep work because a lot of dirt, grease, and grime builds up on the wheels. Rust is another problem. The paint can chip off if dirt is not removed. You can click here for more tips and tricks about how to modify and rebuild a motorcycle.
This is in addition to the fact that there was not enough preparation. People often spray other parts of their motorcycles that were not intended. This is most common when the tires are on the rims, or even on the motorcycle. It’s pretty hard to get over spray off of various parts of the motorcycle, especially the engine.
Whether or not you’re planning on restoring or rebuilding other parts of your motorcycle, you may be interested in an entire video series I’ve created about restoring a motorcycle from start to finish. Included in this video series are restoration tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else as well as tutorials on hard to tackle components such as carb rebuilds, body work, and electrical. Click here if you’re interested in restoring or building your dream motorcycle!
What should I do with a bike frame that has been powder coated or painted? Powder coating and painting a bike frame is not the same as painting motorcycle wheels. There are pros and con’s to each. The best option is the one you like. You can click here to view my complete pros/cons list for painting a motorcycle frame.
How much does powder coating motorcycle wheels cost? Powder coating motorcycle wheels costs between $300 and $600 on average. It all depends on whether you’re powder coating the entire rim or just the outside. Also, it will depend on whether you need two coats.