Wheel Well Undercoating and Detailing Wheels and Tires

In order to properly and safely undercoat the wheel wells, it will be necessary to have a way to lift the vehicle so you can remove the wheels and have complete access to the area inside the fenders.

Of course, you can do this job one wheel well at a time, but for that, you'll need a floor jack as well as a couple of jack stands. By the way, never trust a floor jack—regardless of brand or lifting capacity—to hold the car up safely for an extended period of time.

If you choose the floor jack route, you must use jackstands to support your Vette.

I am fortunate to have a QuickJack BL-5000SLX Portable Car Jack for car-lifting duties and consider it one of my smartest and solid investments. The QuickJack allows me to safely remove all the wheels as it holds the weight of the car via mechanical lock bars instead of hydraulic pressure.

With the car fully lifted, I removed the wheels in order to prep the front wheel wells for undercoating and also paint and polish the rims.


Since I cleaned and detailed the front wheel wells about a year ago, they looked okay but they were in need of a fresh coat of undercoating.

Also, I chose to keep the A-arm rubber dust covers in place and carefully brush undercoating around them.

I removed some of the old undercoating and dirt with a wire brush to provide good adhesion.

For the left side wheel well I used a can of Dupli-Color Truck Bed Coating I already had instead of Rustoleum.

The main difference I noticed is that the bed coating by Dupli-Color is a lot thicker which helps with its application. Rustoleum Truck Bed Coating, on the other hand, is a bit thinner but appears to have a lot more solids in suspension when it is stirred properly before application.

Other than that, the results are almost identical and I would use either product again in the future.

A respirator as well as a properly ventilated area are mandatory.

The photos above show the finished front fender left wheel well. I also brushed coating in the areas behind the fenders since they always seem to be neglected and I believe that undercoating helps reduce road noise.

You may also notice what appears to be dripping from several areas. Those were already there and are body panel bonding adhesive when the body was built.

Needless to say, this is a dirty, messy, and tedious job, but the results are worth the effort. You will need gloves, eye protection, and a respirator. Also lots of rags and disposable chip brushes. I used 2-inch brushes from HFT.


Every time I remove one of the wheels, I take a minute to clean the inside area since they get coated with brake dust and other road grime. This process only takes a few minutes but makes a huge difference.

The photo above shows some of the road debris and tar that starts building up as you drive your Corvette under normal conditions.

And the picture above shows one of the rims after cleaning. I used Purple Power this time to clean them, but any similar degreaser will work just as well. I also used the same product to clean the tires.


Kelsey-Hayes aluminum rims, (option XJ8) for 1976 through 1979 Corvettes, had black painted centers. I believe this changed for 1980-1982 models where the centers were polished aluminum.

I like how the black centers look anyway, and they are correct for my car, so I repainted them black again, but this time I used primer for good adhesion as well as durability.

I started by cleaning the rim and tire, followed by a light sanding of the centers. The paint on a couple of them had chipped, so sanding was definitely required.

I used a medium-grit sanding pad and was especially careful around the outside edges. I waited to polish the rims after the painting was done.

You have a couple of options when it comes to spray painting the rim centers. You can always take your time and use masking tape to have a clean and perfect line around the outside edges of the centers, but this is very time consuming and not as easy to accomplish as it sounds.

Option number two, and—as the photo above shows—my option of choice, is to fabricate a shield out of poster paper which yields great results and makes the painting process very fast and easy.

With the shield in place, I used a couple of old towels to quickly cover the rim and tire to avoid overspray. This worked great and, again, it is a huge time saver versus using plastic or paper to mask the wheel.

The photo above shows the finished product after a couple of coats of primer and satin black paint. The paint smoothed out once it dried.


I used Mother's Mag & Aluminum Polish to make my Kelsey-Hayes wheels' slotted aluminum shine like chrome. All you need is the right product and a good dose of elbow grease.

My rims were dull when I first got them a few years ago since, believe it or not, aluminum will oxidize faster than steel because of its affinity for oxygen. That's why it is so important to polish the rims and then give them a coat of wax in order to help prevent corrosion.

I wrote a detailed blog post on how to bring C3 Corvette aluminum wheels back to life. Click here for that article.

I also sanded the raised white letters and then applied a coat of Meguiar's Hot Shine Tire Foam for that showroom-new look.

As I like to say, "It's the little details that count."

Since the center caps are in like-new condition, I just cleaned them and then applied Meguiar's Hot Shine on the black portion, followed by buffing the chrome and center emblem.

And this is the finished product.

The wheel wells are detailed and protected with undercoating (all four of them, finally). And the wheels look brand new again.

I did not keep exact track of the time I invested in this project, but I am guessing it was a good eight hours spread over two days. And like I mentioned before, it is a dirty job but oh so worth it.

For those of you who may want more specific details of the entire process, I shot video of each step and compiled them into a 30-minute video. I hope you'll find it helpful.

Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog!

Product Links... (#sponsored)

QuickJack BL-5000SLX Portable Car Lift
DupliColor Black Poly Truck Bed Coating
RustOleum Black Automotive Truck Bed Coating
Cambridge 2-Inch Chip Brushes | Box of 12
Purple Power Concentrated Industrial Degreaser | Pack of 2
Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish | 10 oz.
Meguiar's Hot Shine Tire Foam | 19 oz.

Corvette Polished Aluminum Reproduction Slotted Wheel