One of the awesome things about motorcycles is that they can be customized a lot easier 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.
Powder Coating Pros
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.
During the powder coating process, the motorcycle wheels are thoroughly cleaned and cleared of any dirt or grease. They’re then dipped in a chemical solution to neutralize the the surface. Once it is dried, the motorcycle wheels are hung and electronically grounded.
A special blend of polymer resin is then placed in a sprayer that charges the particles which is then sprayed on the rims. Since the wheels are grounded, the particles are attracted to it and will stick. Once the wheels are covered, they’re then placed in an oven at a minimum of 320° F to cure the powder.
Because of the type of material they use to coat the wheels, powder coating is more durable compared to paint. Wheels on a motorcycle are specially susceptible to dings and scratches from rocks on the road and powder coating is able to withstand most of that.
Powder coating can also impressively handle tire mounting machines quite well. 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.
In addition to being more durable, powder coating also lasts longer than paint. You can rest easy knowing that after a powder coating job your wheels are set for years to come.
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. But the nice thing about that is that you know that the task will be thorough.
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. And even if there was a spot that was missed, you should be able to take it back to the shop and have them fix their mistake for free.
Powder Coating Cons
As perfect as powder coating motorcycle wheels may sound, there are a few drawbacks of it that you should be aware of before you make your decision about whether or not this is the right choice for you.
The first drawback you may notice is the less choices in colors that powder coating has. 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 also takes a lot more time to complete. It’s not a project that can be done in your garage on a Saturday afternoon. As I mentioned before, powder coating is usually something that is taken in to a professional to have completed.
Most shops take an average of 7-10 business days to get the whole job completed and back to you. And this doesn’t include calling around to get quotes and scheduling an appointment in advance which likely adds on several more days.
If you have aluminum wheels on your motorcycle (which most do), the curing process of powder coating can actually change the molecular structure of the wheel. This is something you should seriously consider before powder coating.
This was something I had never thought about until I was a mechanical engineering student taking a Materials Science class that discussed this very specific topic.
During the curing process of aluminum wheels after a powder coating job, the molecular structure of the wheels break apart which limits you on how fast you can go on your motorcycle after. 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 the reason why I usually stick to just painting 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 a task that can be completed a lot faster than powder coating. Whether you paint the wheels yourself or you have it professionally done, the process is a lot more simple than powder coating thus it takes much less time to get to the finished product.
In addition to the process being faster to complete, it’s also something that can be considered a “DIY” project that can be done in your garage. Because you can do it yourself, that means it will be a lot less expensive compared to powder coating.
If you’re experienced enough, you can even paint the wheels on your motorcycle without dismounting the tires on them. That in itself can save you up to $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 if you do the paint job right, you can make it look just as good, if not better, than powder coat. 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 had mentioned 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.
Painting motorcycle wheels is something that most people end up doing at home, which is awesome. 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 also no stranger to them either. If dirt is simply painted over, the paint will chip away and leave the wheel looking terrible. Click here to see my article about more helpful tips and tricks on how to customize and rebuild a motorcycle.
Along with the lack of proper prep work, people often get over spray on other parts of the motorcycle that was unintentional. This is especially common when people keep the tires on the rim and even keep the rims on the motorcycle. It’s pretty hard to get over spray off of various parts of the motorcycle, especially the engine.
Should I powder coat or paint a motorcycle frame? There are pros and cons to powder coating and painting a motorcycle frame similar to the pros and cons of painting motorcycle wheels. One is not better than the other, it just depends on your preference. Click here to see my complete pros and cons list of painting a motorcycle frame.
How much does it cost to powder coat motorcycle wheels? The average cost of powder coating motorcycle wheels runs between $300-$600. A lot of it depends on if you are just doing the outside of the wheel or the whole rim and if you want two coats instead of just one.