How to refinish aluminum wheels

Written by alibaster smith
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Refinishing aluminium wheels is a long, tedious task. Aluminium wheels can be damaged in a number of ways--curb checking is the most common way. Curb checking happens when vehicles park too close to street curbs and end up rubbing against them. Another common cause of damage to aluminium is salt or road debris. In northern states, salt is used to de-ice roads, but can cause damage to aluminium rims in the form of pitting or corrosion to the exterior finish. In lieu of buying new wheels, you can refinish your aluminium wheels using the following suggestions.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • 500-grit sandpaper
  • 200-grit sandpaper
  • Steel wool pads
  • Scotch-brite pads
  • Brasso metal polish
  • Wheel polish (your choice of colour)
  • Clean buffing rags
  • Water hose
  • Clear coat spray for wheels
  • Newspaper
  • Masking tape

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  1. 1

    Clean the wheel with Brasso wheel polish. Brasso is an all-purpose wheel cleaner and polish. Squeeze a small amount of Brasso onto the surface of the wheels and scrub the surface of the wheels with a clean buffing rag. This will remove any dirt and debris so that you do not create scratches during the cleaning process.

  2. 2

    Sand the entire wheel with 200-grit sandpaper. This coarse-grit sandpaper will remove any deep scratches or pits in the aluminium. In the process, the sandpaper will also rough up the wheels and create small scratches. This is fine, since you need to remove all of the old finish and major damage to the wheels.

  3. 3

    Sand the wheels with 500-grit sandpaper. This will remove any remaining burrs and pits.

  4. 4

    Scrub and file the wheels with steel wool. The steel wool will smooth out all of the scratches created by the sandpaper and bring the wheels back to a smooth finish. You may want to add a small amount of Brasso to the wheels at this time and work it into the aluminium with the steel wool.

  5. 5

    Apply a liberal amount of Brasso and polish the wheels with a scotch-brite pad. Using the scotch-brite pads will help to further refine the finish and smooth out any areas not covered by the steep wool.

  6. 6

    Clean off the wheels with a water hose.

  7. 7

    Apply a liberal amount of Brasso to the wheels. Make sure you cover the surface of the wheels completely. Let the wheels sit for two to three days while the surface of the wheels oxidises. This will help to cure the aluminium.

  8. 8

    Apply another coat of Brasso to the wheels and buff the wheels with a clean buffing rag.

  9. 9

    Apply a liberal amount of wheel polish to the surface of the wheels with the supplied applicator pad. Allow the wheels to dry completely and then buff them with another clean buffing rag.

  10. 10

    Cover the tire and valve stem with newspaper and secure it to the tire with masking tape.

  11. 11

    Spray three coats of clear coat on the wheels, allowing the clear coat to dry between sprays. The dry time for the clear coat will depend on the clear coat you are using and the climate you are working in (humid vs. dry).

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