REPAIRS – Wheels, pt. 4

I’m removing the old hubcap retaining clips from the four main wheels. Most people probably just grind-off the top of the rivet head, and use a punch to remove what’s left of the rivet. I put some grinder marks on the wheel when taking out the rivets from the spare, so decided on this method for the remaining wheels:

  • Remove the old tire valve
  • Strike a mark with a center punch on the underside/bottom of each rivet
  • Drill a hole from the bottom of the rivet through the top (I first used a 5/32″ or 4 mm, then came back with a 3/16″ or about 5 mm)
  • Use a pin punch, just punch out what’s left from the bottom.

REPAIRS – Wheels, pt. 3

Today I started cleaning the wheels. The extra wheel that I have will be my spare. It has some dents around the rim, and I’m not sure how serious it is.

First off, I ripped out the old valve stem. Then, with an angle grinder, shaved-off as much as I could of the underside of the rivets. Then I drilled holes in the rivets. This may have been unnecessary. I used the grinder on the front of the wheel, and ground off the rivet heads, then punched them out.

Finally, I used the wire brush attachment on the angle grinder to clean off the rust and grime.

REPAIRS – Wheels, pt. 2

The spare wheel that I have will not let go of its tire. It looks like the rubber has actually rusted to the metal wheel. Perhaps the steel bands inside? I don’t know, but I’ve tried regular methods of tire removal, and when that didn’t work I started cutting the tire. First, with a hacksaw, then a box cutter/utility knife. Hard work, but I got most of the tire cut away. A ‘ring’ of the tire is still affixed to each rim of the wheel.

While searching the internet for someone with a similar problem, I found a suggestion that the tire may be loosened by saturating the rim area with brake fluid. I tried that over several days. While it removed the paint from the wheel, it didn’t do a lot to free the tire.

Next step — to clean up the area where the tire and wheel meet. Maybe I can see better what is going on. I picked up a wire wheel attachment for my angle grinder.

The wire wheel removed some tire material, until I could see the metal bands/wires inside the rubber of the tire. Eroding the tire rubber smells bad.

Once I got to the metal strands, I used a pair of lineman’s pliers, and then a cut-off wheel to cut through some of the bands. Once I cut enough of them, the tire ‘ring’ came loose of the tire. I didn’t need to cut completely through the tire. It seems that the circumference of the tire had tightened-up over the years. Getting it loose enough allowed the tire to then be pried off the wheel.

REPAIRS – Wheels

After a long break away from the bug, I’m back on the project. My new/renewed approach it to start at the literal bottom, and work my way up. So, painting the VW’s wheels is first. The car is still in storage, and I can’t get electricity to the building, so I’m going to try to bring pieces home and work on them until I can get closer to finishing the thing.

I’m going to attempt to clean and paint the wheels myself. I don’t have access to a sand/media blaster, so it’s going to be a lot of wire brushing and elbow grease, I think.

Also, there are several dents and bends in the wheels — I’m hoping none will prevent the wheels from having a tire installed, or will compromise safety. Once I get them cleaned up, I’ll know more.

Here’s what my approach will be:

  • Remove what’s left of the hub cap retaining clips on each wheel.
  • Clean rust and debris from the wheels with wire brush and/or flap disc and/or abrasive paper.
  • Put a basecoat of Master Series for rust prevention/encapsulation.
  • (maybe) paint over the Master Series with Chassis Black.
  • Build a rivet jig, and install new rivets.
  • Paint the 2-color wheels with the properly-mixed colors.
  • Install new tires.


The rivet tool holds a hubcap rivet and clip while you hammer the rivet and flatten it out. There are several good video tutorials on YouTube, and there are several techniques shown. Here’s one of the simpler ones, from Mike Fn Garage:

He also has longer and shorter videos describing the technique. This method seems to work well. But here’s another method from LastChanceAutoRestore, with a jig to hold the tire in place while installing the rivet and clip:

While I like the simplicity of the first video, I’m going to make a device to hold the wheels, just to make it easier. Something more like the second video. Here’s another video more like what I’m planning:

I have some extra lug bolts from a donor car (a 1966 convertible bug), so I’ll use a couple of those for my 2 hold-down bolts. I have found that a piece of 3/4″ diameter black pipe will accept the lug bolt snugly. I’m going to try to get away with hammering the pipe end to hold the bolt, so I can re-claim it when I’m finished with the rivet installs. That way, I don’t have to weld the bolts to the pipe.


My Volkswagen’s wheels were painted (according to the car’s birth certificate) Pearl White (L87) and Clay Biege (L479). I found a paint company (APSTowerPaint, now Finishmaster) that could mix the VW color codes and put them in a spray can. Since I’m not ready to spray the entire car, I thought I’d try this method for the wheels. The cans are a bit pricey (about $38 each when I bought them).