How to polish scratched aluminium wheels

Written by sebastian malysa
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How to polish scratched aluminium wheels
Polish scratches out of your aluminium wheel for a shiny, even finish. (car wheel image by Tammy Mobley from

Polishing a scratched aluminium wheel to get a smooth, refinished look sounds like a complex procedure, but it isn't. With a simple multi-step procedure, you'll be able to get your wheel looking like new. For best results, all you need is a few common tools, some patience and little elbow grease. Because the process can be tedious, expect it to take a few hours. Be sure to have enough time to accomplish this task without having to rush through any stages.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Car jack
  • Jack stands
  • Tyre iron
  • Masking tape
  • Sanding mouse
  • 220-grit sand paper
  • 400-grit sand paper (wet/dry)
  • 800-grit sand paper (wet/dry)
  • 1000-grit sand paper (wet/dry)
  • Steel wool
  • Electric drill with a polishing wheel
  • Work rags
  • Small bucket of water
  • Aluminium wheel polish
  • Mother's Billet polish

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  1. 1

    Jack up the car and support it on jack stands. Loosen and remove the lug nuts, securing your car wheel in position with a tyre iron. Place both hands on the wheel and firmly pull the wheel straight off the wheel mount. Take the wheel to a work bench or to a place where you can comfortably work.

  2. 2

    Using masking tape, mask off any parts of the wheel you do not want or need to polish. You will be using a variety of sand paper grits that could scratch an already-smooth area of your aluminium wheel. Equip your sanding mouse with 220-grit sand paper. Sand your aluminium wheel until you have removed the clear coat. Examine the dust on the sand paper. If it's white, you're still sanding off clear coat, but if it's dark grey you have reached the actual aluminium.

  3. 3

    Smooth out all the scratches in the aluminium by sanding in stages. Begin with 400-grit sand paper to sand out deep scratches. Dip the 400-grit sand paper into water and use a long sweeping motion while sanding out the scratches to create a smooth, even finish. Dip the sand paper in water to clean it when it collects too much dust.

  4. 4

    Dry the wheel with a work rag and switch to 600-grit sand paper and repeat step 3. Dry the wheel with a work rag and switch to 1000-grit sand paper and repeat step 3. Sand the wheel until the surface looks and feels smooth. Dry the aluminium wheel with a work rag before continuing to the polishing stage.

  5. 5

    Apply some aluminium polish to your polish wheel. Polish your wheel with the polish wheel, attached to an electric drill, in long sweeping motions. Clean the polishing wheel as it gets dirty from the aluminium by wiping it clean with a work rag. Reapply aluminium polish to the polishing wheel after cleaning it. Continue to polish the wheel until the entire surface you smoothed with sand paper has been polished and appears almost mirror like.

  6. 6

    Apply a little Mother Billet polish to a rag and rub it onto the aluminium wheel. Flip the rag to a clean side and rub the polish off to finish. Put the wheel back onto your car and repeat this entire process with any other wheel you may need to polish.

Tips and warnings

  • Apply a protective coating of your favourite car wax to your aluminium wheel. This way, the wax will scratch instead of the wheel and you can simply apply more wax to it, instead of repeating the above process.

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