An unfortunate consequence of the trend toward larger diameter wheels is that previously hidden mechanical components are now clearly visible. I'm referring to your brake calipers specifically. These dirty, frequently rusty parts used to function in obscurity, but with plus size thin spoke wheels; they're on display for all to see. Now if you drive a Ferrari with a nice set of multi-piston Brembos this is not an issue. Nor is it a concern if you have the coin for a set of Wilwoods. But what about the regular Joe that just blew is wad on wheels and tires, what can he do?
The choices boil down to painting or caliper covers, so let's take a look at each option. We'll examine painting first. The first thing to consider with this option is the design of the caliper. Some calipers, particularly some of the basic single or 2 piston models, just aren't that great looking. Painting them will pretty them up, but won't change their basic design. The second thing to consider is how much work you want to do. You can clean and paint the calipers while they're installed, or remove them from the mounting brackets and rotors, remove the brake pads, and then clean and paint them.
It's claimed that a good job can be achieved painting the calipers in place, but you'll have a lot of work to do trying to clean them in this position and the paint won't adhere unless they're absolutely clean. You need a brush to paint the calipers while they're installed, but even if you pay great attention to detail, there will probably still be areas you won't be able to get to. A more thorough job can be done if the calipers are removed, but there's all that disassembly work and you'll still have a lot of cleaning to do. With this method the calipers are painted with an aerosol can, so you'll also have a lot of masking to do to make sure you don't get overspray where you don't want it.
Regardless of which way you paint them, you'll have to allow for a lot of downtime for your car. You'll need to get it up on some sturdy jack stands for safety, because you'll be spending a lot of time working in the wheel wells. And even when you're finished you'll still need to allow time for the paint to dry thoroughly. Going forward, after all that work, you'll have to hope that your calipers stay looking good, because it's not uncommon for the paint to peel, particularly if the surface wasn't clean.
So let's review: Painting means a lot of time and effort for possibly questionable results. Now let's take a look at caliper covers. First off, you can always count on caliper covers to look great, regardless of the caliper they're attached to. For the average popular late model car they're available in multiple colors and can even be engraved with the vehicle logo in chrome. They're laser cut from 6061-T6 aluminum or T304 stainless steel and hydraulically formed to perfectly fit the caliper. Color finishes are powder coated on and stainless steel is polished to a mirror-like finish. And unlike paint, caliper covers will stay looking great for many years. Installation is far less involved and time consuming compared to painting. You can raise one end of the car at a time or even do one wheel at a time; there's no need to remove all 4 wheels at the same time and you don't have to remove the calipers. Cover installation only takes about 10 minutes per wheel, and attachment is secure with the included hardware or with automotive-grade 3M™ double-sided tape.
Caliper covers also have additional benefits beyond appearance and ease of installation: They reduce the amount of brake dust that gets on your wheels, so your car will stay looking cleaner between washings. And contrary to some opinions, they can actually reduce caliper temperature. MGP ran tests with an infrared thermometer gun and found that their caliper covers acted as a heat sink, reducing caliper temperature by 30°-50°F.
To conclude, the only downside to caliper covers is their higher initial cost compared to painting, and that's only if you do the painting yourself. But what's your time worth? If you're like the average working person these days, extra time is in short supply. And should you opt to pay someone to do the job, then there's no advantage to painting. On all other counts, initial appearance, long-lasting good looks and ease of installation, caliper covers win hands down.