Wheels & Tires

HRE Brushed Dark Clear Wheel Refinish

After attending Big SoCal Euro 2019 I got the itch to have my wheels refinished (again).

I had been toying with the idea of a gunmetal finish for a while, but after seeing the “Brushed Dark Clear” finish by HRE in-person, I knew that was the right choice.

Brushed Dark Clear is a two stage process where first they strip all of the finish to bare metal, then brush the faces to give it the cool etching look. They then finish the wheel with a tinted clearcoat to give it a darker finish, while still having the raw metal visible.

Close up of Brushed Dark Clear Finish.

When you get up close you can see the wheels take on a bunch more personality, and the tint actually seems to shift from light to dark based on lighting and where you are standing relative to the sun’s reflection.

In direct sunlight they look lighter, and in shade they look a lot darker – it’s a really cool finish.

From afar, it looks just like a “normal” gunmetal finish and is the right amount of tint – not too dark that it looks black, but not too light that it looks silver.

Like the last time I got my wheels refinished from black to gold, HRE was incredibly easy to work with. They are located about 30 miles north of San Diego so I was able to drop off the wheels directly at their headquarters, and then got them back in about two weeks in the new finish.

They charge $150 per wheel for a standard color, $200 for a premium color, but a two stage process like this is $350 a wheel. That being said the extra cost was totally worth it, and they threw in new center caps, valve stems, and tire removal/rebalancing for free, as well as a small discount for being a repeat customer of their refinishing service.

Besides just changing up the look of the car, another benefit is that any curb rash or imperfections are removed, making the wheels look brand new again – most people know I’m very OCD with detailing my Audi – and getting the wheels road-force balanced also smooths out the ride.

Once I got the wheels back, I applied Gtechniq C5 Wheel Ceramic Coating like I did before, as that coating held up extremely well and kept cleaning and maintenance easy.

You don’t need to refinish your wheels to do this, but it definitely saves a lot of time in preparation as the wheels will be 100% clean and damage free if you do it right when you get it back…plus they’re already off the car, so application is easier and you can hit the inner barrels too, and then let it cure for a few days before driving on it.

Before installing I also made two more minor changes – can you spot them?

One should be easy – the OEM Brembo calipers are now red, and have Brembo logos rather than TTRS logos. With the rest of the car being fairly monotone (white, black or carbon fiber), this small pop of color really goes a long way to brighten up the car. I DIY’d this application and found it to be a pretty easy and straightforward process, so I plan to document this all in an upcoming blog post for others who are interested as well.

The second one is very hard to tell, but still made a huge difference. I installed titanium lug bolts from USP Motorsport. I had heard of these for a while but when they first hit the market they were prohibitively expensive ($500+ per set), but now they’ve become more widely available and were only about $120 when on-sale. Not only do they look a ton better, but they’re much lighter too – expect a blog post on these soon with way more detail.

With an all-new wheel finish, fresh ceramic coating, painted calipers, and new lug bolts, the look of the car has been transformed, and most importantly my shoe game remains strong.

It’s crazy how changing or refinishing wheels can totally change the look of the car, and in this case I think it was a change for the better. I never really loved the gold finish and am glad to have something a little more subtle and classy.

This is the longest I’ve ever kept a set of wheels, as I have a history of changing or selling wheels every 6-9 months, but these HREs are one of my favorite designs, are super light, and were custom made for this car so they fit perfectly. Why mess with success?

This will probably be my last wheel refinish for a while on this set – which was your favorite? I’ve included all three finishes below.

Finish 3 – Brushed Dark Clear
Finish 2 – Gloss Gold
Finish 1 – Satin Black

If I had to rate them myself, I think I like the current finish best, followed by black, followed by gold…and I wish I had painted my calipers when I had the black wheels, as that would have had a nice contrast too.

Thanks for checking out my blog and I’d love it if you leave me a comment with your favorite finish below!

Nick Roshon

Nick has been an Audi owner and fanatic for the last 10 years, and started Nick's Car Blog in 2009 to share DIYs and pictures of his A4. Currently he drives a 2012 Audi TT-RS, and has previously owned a B7 S4, B7 A4, and an 82 Audi Coupe (GT) LeMons race car. In his day job, Nick is a digital marketer and lives in San Diego, CA, USA.

One Comment

  1. Nice beard Nick looking good, we need Rick Grimes during times like these. I sold my Audi and bought a pontiac fiero. The world is over, the end is near, I will be driving all the Audi’s I want in heaven until then I’ll drive a beater that I can douse with ethyl alcohol and hand wipes. Stay safe.

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