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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
TLDR: Paint stripper has been neutered by the EPA and now sucks, so don't waste your time and money.

I've been working on refinishing a set of wheels and thought I'd share my experience with prepping the wheels for paint.

The wheels I'm working on were already refinished at least once before so there are a few layers of paint, primer, and some filler. I didn't want to just scuff and paint over the flaking paint, so my plan was to remove as much of the old paint using paint stripper and then sand the rest away by hand. I've used this method before in the past with great results, and usually bought this brand of stripper:

Product Font Material property Packaging and labeling Rectangle


The process was to sand the surface lightly, brush on some of the stripper and wait about 15-20 minutes. The paint would bubble up and could be wiped away or power washed from the surface leaving the exposed bare metal below.

But back in 2019 the government banned the use of Methylene Chloride as the active ingredient in all consumer grade paint strippers. A few people didn't read the instructions and used it without proper ventilation and died from breathing the fumes.

So now we're stuck with this reformulated version:

Packaging and labeling Carton Font Box Household supply


It's supposed to work the same way as the old stuff, but requires a rougher grit pre-sanding treatment, 30+ minutes to work, and a thicker layer of goop. It's also recommended to cover the area with plastic wrap to prevent the stripper from drying out as it sits there.

I tried this brand and several others (Klean Strip Ultra, CitriStrip, Rustoleum Aircraft Remover, Jasco Paint and Epoxy Remover). And it's all garbage. I increased the amount of time for the chemicals to work, roughed up the surface more, used a thicker layer of chemical, but it's all totally ineffective at removing paint.

I had the best results with the Klean Strip Ultra, but was only able to remove one top layer of paint and I had to scrub with a wire brush. It did nothing to remove the primer below, and I think it actually smelled worse than the original formula.

So if you're planning on stripping your wheels to repaint, you're better off taking them somewhere to be sand blasted instead. This new stripper might work OK on latex or other weaker paints, but it doesn't do much at all to remove automotive grade urethanes and epoxy primers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
What surprises me the most is that this product is still for sale, due to it's inability to actually strip paint from metal.
Yeah, it's definitely surprising. Some of these products still have positive reviews on a few different websites too. But it's mostly from people using it to strip latex or oil based paint from old furniture.

I had to really dig to find reviews where people were using it for automotive paint. Even then, it was hard to tell if they were referring to the old formula or new.

I figured it was worth a shot to test it out. I asked people at the store ahead of time before buying if I'd be able to return the unused product if it didn't work, and everyone said yes.

There wasn't much info on Klean Strip Ultra online, but the website says it's specifically formulated to strip 2k automotive finishes. It was just slightly better than the other stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Pretty disappointing indeed. Thanks for the heads up. What will your all in cost be on having the wheels refinished? Spraying yourself or at a body shop?
Probably around $600 when I'm all done, and I'll have a few spares that have OK tires still on them.

I've got 9 wheels total from a few mismatched sets. Some were curbed really badly and one is cracked. I've only got 200 into the actual wheels.

I paid $40 to have the tires removed from 7 of them. The other two didn't have much rash and the tires were good.

Sand blasting was $30 per wheel and I just had the best five wheels done. Two rear and three fronts. One of the fronts is to have a full size spare.

The primer, paint, and clear was around $200.

I was considering powder coat now that they are all blasted clean, but I've already got the paint. I'll just be painting them myself.

I probably could have paid a little more and found just one really nice set that didn't need refinishing. I ended up doing that with the style 135 wheels I bought since it would have been a ton of work to sand those thin spokes.

These are the five style 189s that I just had sand blasted.

Wheel Tire White Automotive tire Light
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Really appreciate your detailed posts. And it seems you’ve found another set of e9x wheels well suited for the e46 chassis. The width and offset will look great…style as well. Not too shabby for a winter beater 😉
Thanks! I appreciate you saying that. Just trying to help out where I can.

I've been a fan of the 189's for a while since they are similar to the stock 119's, just a little bigger and slightly more aggressive offset. It's been like two and a half years already since I picked up the first set.

Someone else posted a pic not too long ago running a staggered 189's on their coupe and I thought it looked great.

Found it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It's only consumer grade? Couldn't you just get professional grade then? I'm sure you could find a body shop somewhere that might sell you some.
Possibly? I honestly didn't look into trying to get from an industrial supplier.

I'd have to go back and read up more, but it may actually be banned in all commercially available products intended for stripping paint. So the pros may not be able to get the old formula anymore either.

Methylene chloride has other uses though where it's not banned, so the raw chemical is still out there. Not sure where it could actually be purchased though, or if I'd want to be handling it at high concentration.
 
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