As you powder coat the wheels of your vehicle, you may be left wondering if it’s okay to powder coat the plastic center caps as well. The reason behind this thought is to ensure you have a uniform finish on the entire wheel.
You can powder coat metal, but not plastic. For powder coat to cure, it must be exposed to a lot of heat which will melt the plastic.
Even though there are special methods that you can use to powder coat plastic, such as coating it with carbon first. We do not recommend them.
These methods are quite troublesome, and the chances of getting them right, especially if you aren’t an expert at powder coating, are very slim.
The bottom line is, even though the plastic center caps can be powder coated, we would advise you not to. This is because you risk melting the plastic center caps.
If you do, you will have to buy a new set which will cost you more money. Secondly, even if you find a method that will ensure the plastic center caps withstand the heat powder coat has to be exposed to for it to cure, you can’t be 100% sure.
Table of Contents
- What Options Do I Have?
- Can I Plasti Dip the Center Caps?
- Powder Coating vs. Painting Plastic Center Caps
- Will Painted Center Caps Blend with Powder Coated Rims?
- Can I Use UV-Cured Powder Coating on Plastic Center Caps?
- Is Powder Coating Plastic Center Caps a Good Idea?
- Should I Take My Center Caps to a Powder Coat Shop?
- How Do I Paint Plastic Center Caps?
- How to Powder Coat Non-metallic Center Caps?
What Options Do I Have?
If you are powder coating the wheels and want the center plastic caps to match the finish, the best alternative would be to paint them. Unlike powder coat, paint doesn’t have to be exposed to high heat for it to cure.
Just spray some on the center caps, and give it time to dry. The advantage of paint is that you don’t risk damaging the center caps. Even if you paint it incorrectly, it can always be removed easily, and you can apply fresh paint.
When you take your car for professional powder coating, the guys at the auto shop will advise you to paint the center caps, especially if they are made of plastic. That is because plastic caps can’t withstand heat as metal caps do.
Can I Plasti Dip the Center Caps?
The other option is to plasti dip the center caps. As it is, powder coating does have a fair share of drawbacks. On the other hand, painting requires a lot of prep work if you want it to hold on for longer.
The good news is that plasti dip is fairly easy to use, and the application is quite simple. All you need is a can of plasti dip.
Hold it a couple of inches from the center caps and spray the contents. Plasti dip is quite durable and leaves behind an impressive finish.
It is available in a wide range of colors. Therefore, you are assured of finding the right color that will match the center caps to other parts of the rims.
When you want to get rid of the plasti dip, it is easier to remove than powder coat and paint. Plasti dip peels off easily.
Powder Coating vs. Painting Plastic Center Caps
On a head-to-head basis, powder coating plastic center caps has some advantages. The first one is that the powder coat is quite durable. It can withstand a lot of abuse.
Something which paint can’t do. When you powder coat the plastic center caps, you can drive confidently, knowing that they are 100% protected from the elements.
When you powder coat the center caps, they will have a uniform finish that matches the wheels. This will improve the aesthetics of your vehicle.
The biggest drawback of powder coating center caps, especially if they are made of plastic, is that they can melt when exposed to powder coating curing temperatures.
This disadvantage makes painting plastic center caps a better and safer option.
Paint doesn’t need a lot of heat for it to cure. All you have to do is let it dry before taking the center caps for a drive. Painted center caps also look amazing.
It will complement the look of the entire wheels. Compared to powder coating, painting center caps is a fairly simple procedure that doesn’t need special tools or knowledge.
As we wrap up our comparison of painting vs. powder coating plastic center caps, you should know that there is another option that is becoming more popular these days – plasti dip.
Will Painted Center Caps Blend with Powder Coated Rims?
A powder coat and paint finish won’t look the same, but they should blend perfectly if you use the same colors and high-quality paint.
If you are worried that the plastic center caps won’t look the same as powder-coated wheels when you paint them, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Can I Use UV-Cured Powder Coating on Plastic Center Caps?
Plastic is not conductive, and it will melt when exposed to high heat. If you must powder coat the center caps, we advise you to use UV-cured powder coating.
The application of UV-cured powder coating entails the heating of the powder with a temperature of 130 degrees Celsius for at least two minutes.
It is then cured immediately using UV light energy. Before that, the plastic is made conductive by applying a primer.
The presence of a conductive primer, fast melt time, and slightly lower temperatures ensures that the plastic center caps won’t melt.
If you want your plastic center caps to be cured using a UV-powder coat, you should look for a powder coater experienced with this process. Professional UV-cured powder coating is better than doing it yourself.
If you do it yourself, there is much room for error. Professional powder coaters will use the likes of plasma to treat the plastic and remove contaminants.
Is Powder Coating Plastic Center Caps a Good Idea?
Not really. Anyone familiar with powder coating knows that this mainly applies to metal. Materials such as plastic are usually not excellent powder coating candidates.
Even though there are some loopholes that you can use to powder coat plastic, they usually don’t work in most cases. Even if they do, it doesn’t often last very long.
For powder coat to cure on a surface, it must be exposed to a high heat of up to 400 degrees. If the material in question here is plastic, you can be assured that it will melt right away.
Plastic center caps can’t withstand this heat. Therefore, if you powder coat them, you increase the risk of it melting.
The above doesn’t mean that powder coating plastic is impossible. We have already seen some of the ways you can do that. But is it worth it?
If your center caps were made of metal, you wouldn’t experience any complications. But since they are made of plastic, you are better off painting them since it’s safer.
Should I Take My Center Caps to a Powder Coat Shop?
The best solution for car owners who have already made up their minds to powder coat the plastic center caps would be to take it to a professional powder coating shop.
The team of experts will use a wide range of techniques to powder coat the plastic. There is a better chance of the powder coat holding up better when applied by a professional than when you do it yourself.
You will have to part with installation fees at the powder coat shop, but the final results will be worth it.
How Do I Paint Plastic Center Caps?
We have seen how risky powder coating plastic center caps is, and how painting them is a safer solution. How do you do it?
Painting over plastic center caps is easy. You need to get your hands on some quality paint. Prep the surface of the caps by removing contaminants and dirt.
These can prevent the paint from sticking to the caps. We recommend sanding the caps with wet sandpaper. This smoothens the surface. Start with a light coat of etching primer.
Give it an hour or two to dry, then sand it once more before applying two layers of paint. If you want, you can spray a clear coat on top of it. That will improve the final finish.
Alternatively, if you aren’t very technical with such matters, you can always pay a detailer to paint hub caps for you.
For every center cap, you can pay at least $5.
Unlike powder coating, painting center caps is very easy, and spray paint is quite affordable. You need to dedicate an hour or two to paint hub caps.
How to Powder Coat Non-metallic Center Caps?
If you have just found out that your center caps are made of plastic, and you still want to powder coat them, here is another method.
Before we explain how it works, you need to understand the risks. Plastic melts at 100 degrees Celsius. If you expose it to heat higher than that, it will burn right away.
When powder coating non-metallic center caps, you should heat to the curing temperature of the powder coat. Then spray it so that it can bond to the surface.
Powder coat attaches to metal through static electricity. However, for non-metals, it bonds by melting on contact.