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Bscott94

Polishing Aluminum Rims

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I’ve done some searching on here and I think I have a good idea of what I need. I’d like to get some confirmation though. First, I think they’re aluminum rims. I’ve noticed some oddities though. The barrels look like they have/had paint on them and it looks like there might be rust? I’ve been pretty aggressive with cleaning in the past but I want to get them looking amazing. A couple years ago, I scrubbed them front and back with steel wool and used aluminum polish in a green bottle (turtle wax maybe?). They looked better than they ever had. I could never get the “bullet holes” and bolt holes clean though. I’m thinking about using my dremel to get those areas as well as to smooth some knicks and chips.

 

When it’s warm enough to keep water from freezing on the drive, I want to get started. My plan was to use wheel cleaner to get them as clean as possible. I’ve read that’s not good for “raw” aluminum. Is that what these are? If so, I’ll go with car shampoo. After most of the crap is off, I want to polish the “bullet holes” and bolt holes. Has anyone used a dremel for this? If so, what attachments are best? I’ve tried a mother’s ball/cone but it’s sort of textured in the holes and I could never get them clean and shiny.

 

After I get the holes cleaned up, I think I could use the ball/cone to polish out the face. Should I try Adams metal polish or do I need something more aggressive? Would #1 and #2 be most effective? I’m trying to get the mirror-like finish. 

 

Then once I’m happy with them, I need them to stay that way. I’d say ceramic coating would my best bet. Would it be cheaper to pay someone to do it? The wheel coating kit is around $100. I think I’d be comfortable doing it myself but I might feel better having a pro do it just to make sure it’s done correctly and lasts. 

4D95DAFE-1791-417A-BA75-C9E94CA44FF3.jpeg

582E8C83-A843-46ED-ABCB-D8457029D0E6.jpeg

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The best way and the most effective is a grinder/polisher and airway buffing pads and rouge blocks, this is how professionals polish aluminum wheels. Now I don't know if you're looking to get them looking like mirrors or just want them to be clean. As for the ceremic coating, I personally wouldn't on aluminum wheels. The aluminum will still oxidize underneath and the coating will make it way more work to burn through that before it actually starts to polish the wheel.

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Just now, Bscott94 said:

I’ve done some searching on here and I think I have a good idea of what I need. I’d like to get some confirmation though. First, I think they’re aluminum rims. I’ve noticed some oddities though. The barrels look like they have/had paint on them and it looks like there might be rust? I’ve been pretty aggressive with cleaning in the past but I want to get them looking amazing. A couple years ago, I scrubbed them front and back with steel wool and used aluminum polish in a green bottle (turtle wax maybe?). They looked better than they ever had. I could never get the “bullet holes” and bolt holes clean though. I’m thinking about using my dremel to get those areas as well as to smooth some knicks and chips.

 

When it’s warm enough to keep water from freezing on the drive, I want to get started. My plan was to use wheel cleaner to get them as clean as possible. I’ve read that’s not good for “raw” aluminum. Is that what these are? If so, I’ll go with car shampoo. After most of the crap is off, I want to polish the “bullet holes” and bolt holes. Has anyone used a dremel for this? If so, what attachments are best? I’ve tried a mother’s ball/cone but it’s sort of textured in the holes and I could never get them clean and shiny.

 

After I get the holes cleaned up, I think I could use the ball/cone to polish out the face. Should I try Adams metal polish or do I need something more aggressive? Would #1 and #2 be most effective? I’m trying to get the mirror-like finish. 

 

Then once I’m happy with them, I need them to stay that way. I’d say ceramic coating would my best bet. Would it be cheaper to pay someone to do it? The wheel coating kit is around $100. I think I’d be comfortable doing it myself but I might feel better having a pro do it just to make sure it’s done correctly and lasts. 

4D95DAFE-1791-417A-BA75-C9E94CA44FF3.jpeg

582E8C83-A843-46ED-ABCB-D8457029D0E6.jpeg

 Found some pictures from past cleanings. 

 

08D32225-5E95-484E-BF18-F68316DAB3CB.jpeg

08166E49-CB0C-4B1F-9D20-50E0C366B3B0.jpeg

0B13937E-7906-4640-98C8-8CEA532BCB54.jpeg

C1FFD11C-A415-40D4-9652-569418903C99.jpeg

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Hard to tell but it does look like aluminum. The paint is the remnants of long gone clear coat. That stuff was there to prevent what you are now seeing.... pretty bad corrosion. Some of those pits look pretty deep. You should be able to test on the back of the rims without too much grief. 

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5 minutes ago, Devon527 said:

The best way and the most effective is a grinder/polisher and airway buffing pads and rouge blocks, this is how professionals polish aluminum wheels. Now I don't know if you're looking to get them looking like mirrors or just want them to be clean. As for the ceremic coating, I personally wouldn't on aluminum wheels. The aluminum will still oxidize underneath and the coating will make it way more work to burn through that before it actually starts to polish the wheel.

I'm pretty happy with this. I'm sure I can get it back pretty close to that. I haven't even washed them off yet to see how much brake dust just washes off. I want to get the bullet holes and bolt holes cleaned up before I mount them. Do Dremel sized buffing pads and rouge blocks exist? I'll have to do some searching. Will polish protect them for a time so that I don't have to wash them all the time? I've read that polished aluminum is a chore which is fine but I'd like something on them to make it easier to keep them clean. 

0B13937E-7906-4640-98C8-8CEA532BCB54.jpeg

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2 minutes ago, Bscott94 said:

I'm pretty happy with this. I'm sure I can get it back pretty close to that. I haven't even washed them off yet to see how much brake dust just washes off. I want to get the bullet holes and bolt holes cleaned up before I mount them. Do Dremel sized buffing pads and rouge blocks exist? I'll have to do some searching. Will polish protect them for a time so that I don't have to wash them all the time? I've read that polished aluminum is a chore which is fine but I'd like something on them to make it easier to keep them clean. 

0B13937E-7906-4640-98C8-8CEA532BCB54.jpeg

I dont know if these are dremel sized, but back a year or so I bought a kit like this for my cordless drill that worked great for smaller spots.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Hakkin-Polishing-Compound-Suitable-Stainless/dp/B078BSC78Q/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1550588031&sr=8-13&keywords=aluminum+polishing+kit

 

I wouldn't say yours are polished necessarily but they are aluminum. So maintenance on them will be minimal compared to most polished wheels. But to answer your question, polish will clean them up but does not protect the wheel really. You'll just have to keep up on the washing regularly I'd say. Just be glad your wheels aren't polished out like mine, these are a real pain lol

ukl.jpg

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2 minutes ago, Devon527 said:

I dont know if these are dremel sized, but back a year or so I bought a kit like this for my cordless drill that worked great for smaller spots.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Hakkin-Polishing-Compound-Suitable-Stainless/dp/B078BSC78Q/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1550588031&sr=8-13&keywords=aluminum+polishing+kit

 

I wouldn't say yours are polished necessarily but they are aluminum. So maintenance on them will be minimal compared to most polished wheels. But to answer your question, polish will clean them up but does not protect the wheel really. You'll just have to keep up on the washing regularly I'd say. Just be glad your wheels aren't polished out like mine, these are a real pain lol

ukl.jpg

Oh sweet. I'll take a look at that kit. Thanks.

 

Oh dang! That looks like a real chore. They look awesome though! I don't think I'd ever want anything like that. There is no way I could keep up with it. 

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If you aren't looking to maintain them as aluminum needs, I would look into getting them sandblasted and powdercoated. 

 

If you're wanting a polished finish, you'll need to sand them down first to get rid of the severe pitting and step out your polishes to bring the shine back.  Adams metal polishes aren't really designed for that level of polishing.  Not saying it can't be done but it's a lot of work for what looks to be a beater/winter vehicle.

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36 minutes ago, red94chev said:

If you aren't looking to maintain them as aluminum needs, I would look into getting them sandblasted and powdercoated. 

 

If you're wanting a polished finish, you'll need to sand them down first to get rid of the severe pitting and step out your polishes to bring the shine back.  Adams metal polishes aren't really designed for that level of polishing.  Not saying it can't be done but it's a lot of work for what looks to be a beater/winter vehicle.

I'm fine with maintaining them as aluminum needs. I just don't know what that is. 

 

I don't necessarily want them to be a mirror. I just want to know what tools/products to use to get them as clean and shiny as possible. All that I have ever used is SOS pads and auto parts store metal polish. I was hoping to get some tips and tricks on how to take care of these better than I have.

 

This was my first car and I drove it daily for 4-5 years. It's been parked for a while with some issues but I'm now that I have other vehicles and a little more time and money, I'm trying to clean it up and make it something I can be proud of. Since I first started driving it, I've spend an ungodly amount on it. There is no way I could get rid of it so I figured I'd fix it up and make it as nice as possible. Eventually, I'd like to get the rust fixed and get it repainted but for now, I want to do what I can. 

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I'd say best option in my mind, is to get that polishing kit I mentioned, and then after that either use eco wheel cleaner or just normal car shampoo and a mitt on them. If down the road you notice them getting hazy you can use metal polish and just hand jive them back to a nice shine. Simple and easy steps I'd say. 

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Well I guess you have 2 options then, brushed finish or polished.  Both processes start out the same.  Brushed finish will look something like your older pictures.

 

I would start with 220 grit sandpaper to knock down the bulk of the corrosion and pitting and work your way up to 1000 or 1500.  You'll end up with something similar to what you had in your before pics.  On the last stage of sanding, try to sand in a uniform motion around the wheel so you get a nice consistent look.  Here's a link for reference.  https://www.clublexus.com/forums/the-tire-rack-s-tires-wheels-and-brakes-forum/522813-diy-brushed-aluminium-wheels.html

 

If you want to polish, start with the above process.  The kit that Devon linked would be great to start with, those buffers are 1/4" shank so they won't fit in a Dremel but you can use them in a die grinder or on a drill. A good step after that would be a Powerball with something like Adams metal polish.  Think of those compound bars as Adams Heavy Correcting Compund and Adams Metal Polish is more like the Finishing Polish.

 

Then maintain with Eco Wheel Cleaner or just shampoo and touch up every once in a while.  Aluminum is pretty sensitive to harsh chemicals.  Hope that helps a little.

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3 minutes ago, red94chev said:

Well I guess you have 2 options then, brushed finish or polished.  Both processes start out the same.  Brushed finish will look something like your older pictures.

 

I would start with 220 grit sandpaper to knock down the bulk of the corrosion and pitting and work your way up to 1000 or 1500.  You'll end up with something similar to what you had in your before pics.  On the last stage of sanding, try to sand in a uniform motion around the wheel so you get a nice consistent look.  Here's a link for reference.  https://www.clublexus.com/forums/the-tire-rack-s-tires-wheels-and-brakes-forum/522813-diy-brushed-aluminium-wheels.html

 

If you want to polish, start with the above process.  The kit that Devon linked would be great to start with, those buffers are 1/4" shank so they won't fit in a Dremel but you can use them in a die grinder or on a drill. A good step after that would be a Powerball with something like Adams metal polish.  Think of those compound bars as Adams Heavy Correcting Compund and Adams Metal Polish is more like the Finishing Polish.

 

Then maintain with Eco Wheel Cleaner or just shampoo and touch up every once in a while.  Aluminum is pretty sensitive to harsh chemicals.  Hope that helps a little.

Thank you! I was hoping I'd get something like this. When sanding, do I sand dry or is it wet sanding? And by "uniform motion" do you mean keep going clockwise around the wheel or just sand in a straight line and not is a circular motion? I'll check out link, I assume it'll help answer those and other questions. 

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Dry sanding on aluminum and yes, follow the circumference of the wheel and work your way inwards, you'll see it in that link.  He actually lifted the car up to let the wheel spin which would be more consistent than working on the ground. 

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