Refinishing Aluminum Wheels

Contributed By:Lance Johnson, IZCC #5812

ABOUT This Article:
This article is about the process of refinishing aluminum wheels.

(Written 2 Mar.99)

When I purchased my '83 280ZX rims, they were plagued with stains and pits, and the outer coating was peeling everywhere. Here's some tips on cleaning up those nasty rims.

1. Go to the nearest hardware store and purchase the following: 200 grit sandpaper. (For the really ugly rims)
500 grit sandpaper
steel wool
scotch-brite pads
1 can of Brasso all-purpose metal polish/cleaner
1 bottle of your favorite wheel polish

*Note: Before starting, determine if you really want to do this. This is tedious and patient work that requires a little elbow grease. My wheels were ugly and pitted, and although this may not give you a chrome-like new wheel shine, it will definately look much better when done, and perhaps salvage them and the pride you lost putting off buying new rims!

1. The first thing that needs done is to get the wheels as clean as possible and wiped down. Make sure there is no dirt. Rub down the rims with the Brasso cleaner.

2. using 200 grit sand paper, begin sanding the wheels, removing the damaged wheel coating and samding down any pitted corrosion. The rims will really begin to look scratched and nasty, but this will soon be taken care of. Take care to get to all corners and edges, and make sure all the coating is off. When sanding, the coating will get white from the scratches, but once through the coating you will begin to notice the aluminum again.

3. Go over the wheel again with the finer 500 grit sand paper to file down any burrs and remaining small pits.

4. Now using steel wool, go over the entire rim to smooth out the aluminum and remove the scratches left by the sandpaper. Adding a little brasso with this helps.

5. Fine tune the shine with a scotch-brite pad and Brasso.

6. Put the rims and tires back on, hose the rims down, and leave a coat of Brasso on and let it sit for a day or two. The rims will oxidize from the lack of coating, but it will help cure the aluminum.

7. Go over the rims with Brasso or better yet some de-oxidizing polish, then buff out with a rag. Apply your wheel polish of choice and buff out.

* Note to remember: Since the rims no longer have it's protective coating, you may have to polish them more often. But perhaps there's a product out there that may work to re-coat the rims. And at least they won't have that ugly pitted look.

Lance Johnson