I agree. Paintwork is at least 1/2 prep. You should definately take the cover off, and make sure to strip off ALL of the paint. And I would definately paint it, even if you just use silver wheel paint! (FWIW, someone around here did his with Duplicolor gunmetal wheel paint, and I think it looks SICK! I'll look for the link...)Dominick331 on Feb/05/06 said:Painting it looks cheap if you do a crummy Job, I have seen just as many cheap looking paint jobs, as nice ones. Just my two cents, good luck with what you decide.
My friend stripped and hand polished his Civic's cover, but didn't apply any clearcoat, or sealer, or anything, and while it looked good for a few weeks, it eventually discolored (from heat cycling?) and stained (from harsh underhood chemicals.) He re-polished it, and when the same thing happened again, he regretted ever stripping the still perfect paint from his '01 cover.
He has since painted it black, but it's much smoother and glossier than OEM, so he still hates it... (I don't think it looks horrible, just a little odd being black. Who paints their black cover black? *L*)