How to repair exposed carbon fiber wheels.

Tomster

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Many of us for years were very concerned over using our carbon fiber wheels on the street due to the possibility of damage. Many have resorted to taking them off the car and replacing with forged aluminum wheels. The high cost of a carbon fiber wheel replacement to most is unbearable. MSRP for exposed carbon fiber wheels is $6,316 for a single rear wheel and $7,326 for a single front wheel. The grand total for a set at MSRP will run you $27,284. Street prices are probably closer to $24,554 for a set. So, with those prices, I can see how people have taken advantage of the scare and hysteria and have sold a lot of aluminum wheels. Over the last 6 months, I have obtained an extra full set of exposed CF GT500 wheels that needed a little TLC for $5,200. They now look brand new.



I used to be one of those “save your CF wheels from street damage” people and I bought "all in" to the forged aluminum wheel solution. I had a curb rash incident with one of my forged wheels and found that there was no effective way to repair an aluminum wheel to make it look the same as the rest of them. I reached out to the manufacturer and couldn't get the wheel refinished nor could I get powder to recoat the wheel. That was a simple black wheel and it still came out looking like crap when I had it refinished. Imagine how that would go if you have one of those exotic colors that some of these wheel manufacturers are offering. Furthermore, the powdercoat in combination with sticky cup 2 tires is subject to a lot of chips from normal use. The short story is if you damage the wheel, you may be able to repair non major damage, but you will never, ever, get the finish to match that of factory powder coat. So, kiss a curb and you are essentially going to be buying a new wheel unless you don’t care how it looks.



A long time ago in another life, I used to work with composites, primarily fiberglass. It was a hobby of mine and I eventually started making money repairing all kinds of items such as surfboards and boats and such. So fast forward to today. We have a composite wheel that if damaged, usually is superficial and aesthetic. Most of the damaged wheels I have been buying are simple curb rashed wheels. To be fair, most damage that would be incurred on the street would be exactly that. This kind of superficial damage is easily repaired. If you happen to damage your wheel in a structural manner, then the solution would be to send it off for professional repair. You wouldn’t believe the damage that can be repaired by a professional composite repair facility.



I have collected a total of 5 exposed carbon fiber wheels over the last 6 months (3 front wheels and 2 rear). All but one have been repaired by me and the other was sent to Spyder Composites because it was a brand new front wheel that was curb rashed right off the delivery truck at a Ford dealership. The curb rash was extensive and I wanted it to be like a brand new wheel once again. That story will be another thread at another time. I have written a separate thread a while back pertaining to the carbon fiber wheel repair process and my experience using Spyder Composites. The thread can be found here. The pros and cons of the Spyder Composites option is: Pros) you have someone who can take a badly damaged wheel and repair it back to near new condition. Cons) Shipping a wheel across the country can cost a lot of money, the repair process can be costly, the turn around time can be a while, and there is the downtime associated with not using your vehicle. Again, my position on using carbon fiber wheels on the street has changed. I hope this writeup gives people a better understanding of just how easy it is to repair a carbon fiber wheel and being able to use the GT500 CFTP as it was designed to be driven. By repairing the wheel yourself, you eliminate most of the cons listed above. Keep a sharp eye on ebay and facebook. The deals come along from time to time.

Some ebay examples of wheels I bought:
Screenshot_20210903-082803_eBay1.jpg


Screenshot_20210903-082820_eBay1.jpg



So, you are probably tired of reading all the background information and are wanting to get right into the “how to” portion of the repair process. First, and most importantly, is the selection of the resin. Although I enjoy using polyester resins from my fiberglass days, they would not be suitable for a carbon fiber wheel for a few reasons. First is UV protection. Carbon Revolution does not talk about their resins because it is a closely guarded secret. Their wheels have strong UV resistance as well as high heat tolerance and excellent strength characteristics. If you are not working on a structural part of the wheel, then all you need is two of the above three properties in a resin (UV protection and heat resistance).



I searched high and low for the perfect resin. I came across what I believe is an excellent option. Stone Coat makes a resin called Art Coat. It has high heat resistance (up to 500F) and excellent UV protection. The product cures crystal clear and after a continuous 6 months out in the Florida sun under constant daylight sun exposure, it still remains crystal clear.

6 months in the FL sun:
20210908_142115.jpg




Now, on to the repair process.



What you will need:

Stone Coat Art Coat epoxy

Wetsand paper, 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, 3000, and 4000. (4000 is usually found in a foam polishing pad)

A sanding block so that you are able to sand to a perfectly flat surface

A (round stic) Bic pen (to be used as a small sanding block)

Carbon fiber cloth (if severe damage) as specified above

Masking tape (blue painters tape)

Gorilla duct tape (or tape with an adhesive that will not be broken down by epoxy)

90% Isopropyl alcohol (70% if no 90% is available)

Syringes

A mixing cup (dixie cup)

Bamboo skewers

A flexible metal measuring stick (to determine flatness of repaired area)

An Exacto knife

Polish (I use Presta 2 step Ultra)

Microfiber towels

Denatured alcohol (for cleanup if needed)

(Optional) a two part urethane clear coat





The first thing that needs to be done is assess the overall wheel condition. Most repairs will require the tire to be dismounted. By now, anyone with a GT350R or a CFTP has a local shop that they trust to work on their carbon fiber wheels whenever tires have to be changed. I use my local dealership and only one guy there is allowed to touch my wheels. I take care of him at the end for taking his time and doing the job right. I have never had a problem. So, after the wheel is removed, an examination of the damage is in order.

Intact weave example:
20210607_150145.jpg




Most curb rash or other superficial damage leaves the carbon fiber weave below the resin intact. I have only seen one wheel where the weave was damaged significantly. If the weave is messed up, it really isn’t a big deal. The CF weave that you see is an aesthetic cosmetic layer of the wheel that makes it look as good as it does. When you get significant damage that extends below the weave layer, then I would consider that more than a cosmetic repair. That would be something probably more geared towards a job for Spyder Composites. Again, it would have to be a significant amount of damage before I sent it off. So, if the weave is damaged, you can replace the portion of the weave with carbon fiber cloth. The stuff I bought is from Wicks aircraft and motorsports (wicksaircraft.com). The item number is 282-GFT/FOOT (50”x12”, plain weave, 5.8 oz/yd 12.5x12.5 yarns/inch, 0.22mm thick). Amazon item number is X0012RFQRX. 99% of the repairs should not need carbon fiber weave replacement. You would be surprised at the amount of damage a wheel can endure and still have the cosmetic weave under the epoxy intact.

A non-intact CF weave example:
20210402_155242.jpg




Next, examine the damaged area for foreign debris. One wheel I repaired had damage from a curb and yellow paint from the curb had transferred to the carbon fiber wheel. In this case, you need to clean all that out of the damaged area. My go to for that is a piece of 500 grit sandpaper. Sand the damaged area until all signs of contaminates are gone. If necessary, use an Exacto knife to get into the deeper areas so that you don’t have to sand too much original material away.



Use some compressed air to blow all the loose debris and dust away from the affected area. With a microfiber towel and isopropyl alcohol, clean the area an let dry. Reinspect the area to ensure all foreign debris is clear of the area to be repaired. If it is decided that you need to use carbon fiber due to extensive damage, then cut a piece to fit so that the weave aligns with the existing weave.



Next, use some gorilla tape to create a mold around the damaged area. The following photo shows blue painters tape. The blue painters tape didn't do well when exposed to the epoxy. I'm using these photos because my tire guy couldn't remove the tire from my most recent wheel until tomorrow. Bottom line, use gorilla tape or something that won't be affected by the epoxy. The only problem with the painters tape was that it let epoxy seeped through the tape adhesive. If epoxy does seep through, not only will it make a mess, but it will be more for you to sand away after it cures. What professionals do is create their own molds out of reusable materials, but if you are only repairing one area, it probably isn’t worth your while to create a mold.

Making a mold out of tape:
20210609_104256.jpg



Grab a small dixie cup and mix 1:1 the hardener and epoxy. Using a stir stick, thoroughly mix the two parts together until completely combined. As you can see the epoxy is thick and that you probably created bubbles when mixing it up. The epoxy has a very slow cure time and gives you lots of time to work with the epoxy until it sets. The bad part is that it will run all over, so you have to contain it with some kind of mold to create a boarder until it cures. I like to do is use heat to my advantage. I have one of those BUNN coffee makers that is made of stainless steel. The outside housing is about 110F. I place my cup of epoxy on top of the coffee maker and this does two things, reduces the viscosity of the epoxy so that the bubbles rise to the top quicker and also helps to reduce the time the epoxy needs to cure, in other words, it will thicken faster. I will typically put in on the coffee maker for about a half hour or so.

Epoxy mixed:
20210609_104819.jpg



Its now time to fill the damaged area with epoxy. Fill a syringe by dipping the needle into the dixie cup and draw as much epoxy out as you can. Don’t draw any air or bubbles if any are still left. The epoxy should still be thin enough so that when it lands on the damaged area, it will settle into the smallest of spaces to leave a perfectly filled area over time. Let it sit, check on it from time to time, and if you notice a spill or a mess from the epoxy, denatured alcohol will clean it up. If you need to add a piece of carbon fiber weave, lay a very small amount of epoxy down on the damaged area and lay the carbon fiber cloth on top of it. Orient it exactly as you want it and then put some epoxy down on top of the cloth. Work it in so that the cloth becomes saturated. Next fill the area with epoxy and let it cure.



Let the epoxy cure for a solid 24 hours. Examine the area closely. You want to make sure that the epoxy you placed over the repair area sits higher than the untouched portion of the wheel. If it is (no depressions in the cured epoxy) then it is time to begin the sanding/material removal process. If you notice an area that is depressed (relative to the height of the wheel) then you will have to fill it in before sanding. What I do for this is allow a small amount of epoxy to cure to the consistency of a very thick molasses. I then use a bamboo skewer to draw a gob of epoxy and lay it over the area that needs more fill. By doing this, the epoxy is more likely to stay put as opposed to running all over the place.

An example of a low spot that needed to be filled again (before sanding):
20210609_113725.jpg








Below is to show the viscosity of epoxy for fill:
keep in mind that you do not want to work with the epoxy in this state initially. It must be thin and able to get into all the various "nooks and crannies" of the repair area. If you try to initially use the epoxy in the below state, you will have air bubbles and the job will look like crap. Use the varying degrees of viscosity as needed and applicable to each phase of the repair.




Once you have enough cured epoxy over the damaged area, grab a roll of masking tape (I use the blue painter’s tape) and mask the area around the work area of the cured epoxy. The reason for this is that you will want to sand the repair area, but not the parts of the wheel that were not damaged. Begin sanding using 500 grit wet/dry paper. Start off using the sanding block. Do not just fold the sandpaper and sand. You must create a perfectly flat surface and if you are not using a block, the surface will vary and look like crap. For finer and smaller areas, you can roll the wet/dry paper onto the Bic pen listed in the “what you will need” section above. Re-wet the paper from time to time and when you are getting close to the original contour of the wheel’s profile, stop. Do not sand the material to match the height of the rest of the wheel. You want to stop just prior to reaching the exact contour. Examine the area and see if any area needs any special attention. Replace the painters tape as needed and proceed to the next higher level of sandpaper. The most important thing I can stress here is to take your time. Go slow and keep checking your progress. Sand a bit, check, sand a bit, check, etc. You can always sand more off, you will be starting over if you take too much away.



Repeat with 1000, 1500, 2000, and 3000 grit wet/dry paper. Wipe the area clean between sandpaper changes. You do not want to have the area contaminated with abrasives from each previous step of sandpaper. By the time you are finished with 1500, you should be very close if not on the contour of the wheel’s profile (in other words, the damaged area should look like the rest of the wheel, but only hazy from the sanding). The final step before polishing is using a 4000 grit polishing pad. For areas around the spoke, I used a Bic pen wrapped with the grit of paper I was using at the time. It worked well and was a very useful and precise tool.

Sanding with a sanding block:
20210615_121054.jpg


Sanding around the spokes:




You are almost there. Use the polish of your choice to bring about a perfectly clear surface. At this point it is your decision to spray a two part urethane clear coat over the area that was repaired. You don’t have to. I didn’t. Mine look very nice after the last step shown above.

I have track tested the three wheels that I have repaired using the above techniques at the Daytona International Speedway. As usual at Daytona, the brakes get very hot and the wheels are put to a serious test. Zero issues. Benjamin Bemaro of Bemaro films makes a spoke PPF for our exposed GT500 CF wheels. I installed them and am currently using them on my newly repaired wheels. I was skeptical of the PPF pieces at first. Once installed and track tested, I think that they are a must for those who decide to use their CF wheels on the street. They provide another level of protection to nicks and scratches from normal use.

Again, I reiterate, there is no reason to get scared into driving around on aluminum wheels anymore. God forbid you seriously damage your wheels, There is a solution for that. Spyder can repair some serious major damage. Typical damage as seen in some of the photos you see here, can easily be repaired yourself. No serious downtime, no major expense, and you get to drive the car the way your car was designed. Better yet, you don't have to get sucked into a bunch of BS about how you will ruin your wheels if you use them on the street. For those that want to use aluminum, have at it. I am glad that I took this upon myself so that I can enjoy and drive the car the way it was designed and intended to be driven.

I regret my previous opinions on using CF on the street and how those opinions may have influenced other people. I think I owe the biggest apology to @BillyJRacing. He was a strong proponent of using the CF wheels as the car was built and I recall a strong disagreement with him and that opinion a while ago.

I'll dig into the photographs and come up with some before and after shots later on in this thread.
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Dark Side

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I've done a bit of fiberglass and resin work. I was wondering if this exact repair procedure was what you were getting at.

Very cool work.
 

Cobra Jet

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Wow - very well written and an excellent compilation of CF wheel repair tech!! :like:
 

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Lots of detail there and I think its great you shared your experience here. Looking forward to the before/after shots.
 

PUR_SPD

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Couple of comments here.

Outstanding job. Not enough superlatives. Wow. Hope I never need to do this.

I was one of those that bought a set of aluminum wheels. I don't regret it as having a second set of wheels/tires is a must for us track dudes - you just never know. With this information I may be on the hunt for a set of slicks - or maybe not.

Thanks so much for this post!
 
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Tomster

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Wow - very well written and an excellent compilation of CF wheel repair tech!! :like:
Thanks, a lot of effort and thought went into this. I couldn't share sooner because the moment I did, I would probably never see another CF wheel on ebay again.


Lots of detail there and I think its great you shared your experience here. Looking forward to the before/after shots.
Yes, it was my intention to share all along, but as we privately discussed, the moment I did, I would never see another wheelnon ebay again.

I'll take some pics of the wheels as they are on the car tomorrow.


Couple of comments here.

Outstanding job. Not enough superlatives. Wow. Hope I never need to do this.

I was one of those that bought a set of aluminum wheels. I don't regret it as having a second set of wheels/tires is a must for us track dudes - you just never know. With this information I may be on the hunt for a set of slicks - or maybe not.

Thanks so much for this post!
Yes, I too bought into the aluminum wheel thing. I did it mostly to protect those precious CF wheels that came with the car. I say precious, and they are, but they are easily repaired. If you are a hands on mechanic like most of us are, then this repair procedure is simple. If you are a cars and coffee kind of guy who has his oil changed at the dealership, then this probably isn't for you (I know you are not, lol). The folks who aren't mechanics like us will either do 1 of 3 things. 1)just write a check to spyder composites or 2)sell the wheel on ebay or Facebook, or 3)run aluminum wheels all the time and keep their CF wheels locked up in a safe room for some day that may not ever come.

This is the point of this thread. The wheels are not little snowflakes that are perishable. They are resilient, tough manufactured wheels that also have the ability to be readily repaired due to the materials that they are constructed of.

I dont thinkni will dump my aluminum wheels. They are good for something. Maybe I will take a road trip and want to limit my exposure.... who knows... but hiding from a BS threat that CF wheels will be damaged and destroyed on the street is just a means to, well, im not going to say it.....
 

PUR_SPD

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Thanks, a lot of effort and thought went into this. I couldn't share sooner because the moment I did, I would probably never see another CF wheel on ebay again.




Yes, it was my intention to share all along, but as we privately discussed, the moment I did, I would never see another wheelnon ebay again.

I'll take some pics of the wheels as they are on the car tomorrow.



Yes, I too bought into the aluminum wheel thing. I did it mostly to protect those precious CF wheels that came with the car. I say precious, and they are, but they are easily repaired. If you are a hands on mechanic like most of us are, then this repair procedure is simple. If you are a cars and coffee kind of guy who has his oil changed at the dealership, then this probably isn't for you (I know you are not, lol). The folks who aren't mechanics like us will either do 1 of 3 things. 1)just write a check to spyder composites or 2)sell the wheel on ebay or Facebook, or 3)run aluminum wheels all the time and keep their CF wheels locked up in a safe room for some day that may not ever come.

This is the point of this thread. The wheels are not little snowflakes that are perishable. They are resilient, tough manufactured wheels that also have the ability to be readily repaired due to the materials that they are constructed of.

I dont thinkni will dump my aluminum wheels. They are good for something. Maybe I will take a road trip and want to limit my exposure.... who knows... but hiding from a BS threat that CF wheels will be damaged and destroyed on the street is just a means to, well, im not going to say it.....
Funny you say CF in a safe room. Mine are in storage right now but will be coming back on the car shortly.
 
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Tomster

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Funny you say CF in a safe room. Mine are in storage right now but will be coming back on the car shortly.
I will be honest. I am so happy to get the car back on the CF wheels and drive the car as the car was designed to be driven.

Drive and enjoy those CF wheels. I will always be here for any member who needs some tech support should they encounter a problem with their wheels.

If anyone who would like to keep their OEM wheels pristine, then do what I did and buy slightly damaged wheels and repair them as you go.

The aluminum wheels are off my car. I am riding around without worry or guilt and now enjoying the car as it was designed and intended to be driven.
 

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Very impressive Tom!

I never bought into the fear and aluminum wheel switcharoo. I drive my car like I stole it at the track and on the street. I treat my CF wheels just like my aluminum wheels in that I avoid pot holes, debris and curbs. The only thing I do differently with the CF wheels is when I come off the track. I typically go for a cool down drive down the road and back to cool the front brakes more than what I got on the cool down lap at the end of the session. Coming straight off the track with smok’n brakes and parking is not the greatest thing for the front wheels.
 

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Tomster, awesome write up. Thank you for the post. I do have a question if you don't mind me asking. I have a wheel that is damaged in the barrel and loses about 1-2 pounds of air a day(seems to be a rock got between the caliper and barrel). Non structural. Would you just apply resin over the crack of have it send out to Spyder composites? pics are below

Carbon wheel damage 1.jpg


carbon wheel damage 2.jpg


carbon wheel damage barrel.jpg
 
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Tomster

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Tomster, awesome write up. Thank you for the post. I do have a question if you don't mind me asking. I have a wheel that is damaged in the barrel and loses about 1-2 pounds of air a day(seems to be a rock got between the caliper and barrel). Non structural. Would you just apply resin over the crack of have it send out to Spyder composites? pics are below

Carbon wheel damage 1.jpg


carbon wheel damage 2.jpg


carbon wheel damage barrel.jpg
That wheel can absolutely be repaired. In fact, another member had a similar issue, but decided to send it off as opposed to repairing it himself. The best advice I can give is that if there is any structural damage, then it should be sent off to spyder. I cannot determine if your barrel is cracked from the photos.....i should say structurally cracked.... the other member that this happened to was the result of a tire iron that scratched the inside of the barrel IIRC. Anyway, he sent it off and had it repaired and it is now as good as new.

So I will say this, if you think its a structural crack (which it may be) then you should send it out for professional service.

I can say with certainty that wheel can be repaired like it never happened.
 

Goose17

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Tomster, awesome write up. Thank you for the post. I do have a question if you don't mind me asking. I have a wheel that is damaged in the barrel and loses about 1-2 pounds of air a day(seems to be a rock got between the caliper and barrel). Non structural. Would you just apply resin over the crack of have it send out to Spyder composites? pics are below

Carbon wheel damage 1.jpg


carbon wheel damage 2.jpg


carbon wheel damage barrel.jpg
I am that “other member.” When speaking with Carbon Revolutions, the rep said any barrel damage is not a strength/structural issue like damaging a spoke. It’s really just a pressure sealing issue. You could always try to seal it yourself. My damage was more significant. I chose to leave it to a professional, which gives me better peace of mind for track wheels.

 
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Tomster

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When I say structural, I do not necessarily mean load bearing. I am referring to the overall integrity of the actual fibers that hold the wheel together.

The face of the wheel (the part that I focused on above) is nothing but aesthetics and cosmetic to make it look pretty. That's the majority of issues that you will run into. The barrel would be the next most common area of damage. Each person is going to have to make their own assessment whether they feel the damage is significant enough to "bring in the pro". It is difficult to make that call based upon a few photographs. The decision comes down to each individual. As Tim stated, he had concerns about tracking a wheel that he repaired. I may or may not, it just depends on the damage that I can personally inspect and examine. Its hard to look at a photo and say sure, fix it yourself because a picture doesn't tell the whole story.

I will always leave it up to the individual involved. They have the wheel in front of them and most people on here are very mechanically inclined and have enough common sense to determine their own course of action.

Now, with that said, if I decided to repair that myself, I would probably attack the problem with a different epoxy. You would no longer be concerned with crystal clear aesthetics but instead more concerned with strength and temperature resistance.

I'll attach an epoxy selection guide. A quick look at the chart, and I might go with something along the lines of an EP33 epoxy specifically for the properties as I mentioned above.
 

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Tomster, awesome write up. Thank you for the post. I do have a question if you don't mind me asking. I have a wheel that is damaged in the barrel and loses about 1-2 pounds of air a day(seems to be a rock got between the caliper and barrel). Non structural. Would you just apply resin over the crack of have it send out to Spyder composites? pics are below

Carbon wheel damage 1.jpg


carbon wheel damage 2.jpg


carbon wheel damage barrel.jpg
it has been determined by an expert that you certainly have no issue repairing that yourself. It was recommended that you use an epoxy as I suggested above and maybe take a dremmel cutoff wheel and make a very slight (like maybe 1/32") cut along the crack and then fill with epoxy. If you have the ability to push the resin into the cut so that some adhesion can take place, then the better off you will be. If you have a slow curing resin, it will probably just seep into the void on its own, but if you are able to push it in or use suction on the other side that would be best.
 

Wilson & Co

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Very nice!

If youre interested in making some cash back on this hobby, please put me down for a set.

Thx
 
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