Create Whimsical Wall Art out of Dirty Old Hubcaps

A few months ago, I took my parents on a tour of The Plant, a net-zero energy, urban vertical farm (including aquaponics!) and business incubator, started by our pal John. Driving back from the South Side, my father hit a pothole and heard one of his hubcaps pop off. He pulled over and ordered me to get out and find the missing cap.


The Plant wants you to know that it is not responsible for any loss of hubcaps resulting from your visit.

So, I didn’t find his hubcap, but was surprised to discover at least a dozen others spread out across Ashland Avenue.  The more of them I saw, the more I noticed how beautiful they really were.  Each hubcap had a unique design. Some resembled grimy snowflakes, others dirty chrome daisies, blooming with bolts. But why were they all in this one spot? 

Turns out, I had just discovered my first HubCap Hotspot.™ These are places where lost hubcaps congregate, typically near expressway on/off ramps (Fullerton and 1-94), or long stretches of stop-free roads where citizens can drive recklessly (Sacramento in the middle of Humboldt Park).

hubcap map

Click on this Interactive Google Map to find a Hubcap Hotspot!

Now that the record-breaking snow of this winter is melting, you, too, are bound to see orphaned hubcaps loitering on every street corner. Why not turn them into something beautiful?


STEP ONE – SCAVENGE:  Using my interactive HubCap Hotspot™ map as a starting point,* gather up as many lost hubcaps as you can carry. The scavenging step requires you to temporarily swallow any embarrassment you may have about picking up dirty things off the side of the road.  If you care about what your neighbors might think, scavenge in another neighborhood.  Or, wear a neon vest and carry a clipboard, because then it seems like you’re conducting Official Hupcap Business.

IMG_3482STEP TWO – CLEAN: First, give your children a bath:
IMG_3485Next, take your children out of the bath, but don’t drain the water. Drop your hubcaps in the Baby Broth, and then go to bed.
IMG_3490After a good overnight soak, get down and scrub those hubcaps, first with dishsoap on an (old) sponge, and then with a toothbrush for those hard-to-reach places. I recommend wearing an old swimsuit for this step, since washing hubcaps in your bathtub isn’t quite trashy enough:
IMG_3492PRO-TIP!! Only do this in your bathroom if you are a RENTER. This type of grime (and behavior) does not suit the dignity of property owners.

STEP THREE – PAINT:  When your hubcaps are clean and dry, take them out to the porch for two coats of white, high-gloss spray paint.


IMG_3499 Look, I’ve been known to say “Everything is better with a coat of white paint.” But after I painted the hubcaps white, Scott declared, “Those just look like hubcaps that you painted white!” Which wasn’t really the look I was going for.

I needed a way to make their lines pop, to bring out their inner sunflower. I ran out and grabbed a small can of oil-based paint in Gloss Sunburst** Yellow. Using a small paintbrush, I colored in some the negative space, indentations, and other details (like the faux bolts). 

IMG_3503I think we were all a little surprised by how nicely these came out:

IMG_3509IMG_3510IMG_3511IMG_3512IMG_3513STEP FOUR – HANG:  My original plan was to hang the hubcaps above the bed, since we’ve got a lot of empty real estate up there, and the colors would really harmonize with the white+yellow chevron headboard.

But yesterday, I asked a visiting friend what he thought of hubcaps over the bed.  After a moment of reflection he shrugged and said, “I guess it depends on what you’re into… you know… in there.” That was enough for me. Hubcaps are going over the dresser, also part of my white-on-yellow theme.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t put much planning into the wall arrangement, other than for it to be somewhat whimsical (these are hubcaps, after all).  Using a regular picture hanging hook, I placed my favorite cap in the middle of the wall:

IMG_3516After that, I simply arranged the other four hubcaps around the first one:
IMG_3521Now, if you can ignore that pink (!) radiator, you’ll see that my bedroom dressing area is full of recycled light and whimsey!
IMG_3538IMG_3540 * Sorry, I already took the hubcaps on Fullerton. There’s still about a dozen along Sacramento, though.
  ** I don’t know what type of astronomical phenomenon a “Sunburst” is, but I bet it’s REALLY yellow.


16 thoughts on “Create Whimsical Wall Art out of Dirty Old Hubcaps

  1. Once again, I’m giggling helplessly. Baby Broth… Official Hubcap Business… I do like the grey, white and yellow colour scheme you have going there. I’m not sure I’d top it with unorthodox wall art such as this myself, but those objects formerly known as hubcaps do look pretty good. Husband thinks they look really good. Perhaps it’s a man thing…


    • Yup, the men in my life really seemed to like this one. Maybe there’s something inherently macho about car parts, even “decorative” parts like hubcaps. Though on second thought, I wouldn’t consider any of the men in my life to be particularly macho, either.


  2. Now I know what to do with my safety vest until the potholes in the bike lane are filled! (Which means I could be on Official Hubcap Business for a VERY long time.)


  3. Cool! I discovered your blog thanks to Scott and I recently discovered a stray hubcap on California over by Township, which I feel was destined to be a clock. Can I borrow one of your pictures of your finished product so I can show folks where I got my inspiration?


    • Hi Lisa! I actually had the same thought about the clock. A couple months ago, I had made a custom clock for a friend of mine and still had a couple of spare “clock innards” from thrift store clocks I took apart (they’re yours if you want them). I thought hubcap would make a good clock, but couldn’t get past drilling a hold in the middle to insert the mechanism. Probably not that hard to do, though. Feel free to grab any of these photos, or could email you more if you need them.


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  6. I was looking for pictures how to paint hubcaps in two colours, to bring some life to plain silver coloured car. Luckily I found this page. Nice reading, nice idea, copycatting, thank you 🙂

    This is how they ended up

    I have no idea how they’ll look installed, they need still some time to dry properly…


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  9. I have some old hubcaps from my grandma’s old car and I’ve been storing them as mementos (yes, I am just that weird) and wondering what to do with them… I think this will definitely be an option once I have a place to hang them up!


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