How to Restore Aluminum Wheels

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If you get tired of driving place to place, just imagine how exhausted your tires must be. From dirt roads and muddy highway shoulder, to heavy rains and soot-blackened snow, your tires and rims take some serious day to day abuse, and it shows. At the end of a year, your tires look like they've been through war. But giving those dull rims a new lease on life certainly doesn't take a miracle. With a few metal cleaning products and some sandpaper, you can give your aluminum wheels the restoration they deserve.

Things You'll Need

  • A Car Jack and Tire Iron
  • 200-grit wet/dry sandpaper
  • 500-grit wet/dry sandpaper
  • Fine steel wool
  • 3-5 Scotch-Brite pads
  • Brasso metal cleaner
  • Aluminum wheel polish
  • Remove the tires from the car using a car jack and a tire iron. Slip the car jack under the car (right behind the wheels) and raise car 3 inches from the ground. Use the tire iron to remove the lug nuts by turning them counterclockwise, and remove the tire once the nuts are loosened.

  • Use soap and hot water to clean the aluminum rims as much as possible. For deep rust and dirt, use a small dab of Brasso on a scotch-brite pad to clean the rims. Keep the rims wet.

  • Sand the rims with 200-grit wet/dry sandpaper to remove the damaged finish and possible rust. The wheel will look scratched, but this will be solved.

  • Sand the rims again using a 500-grit wet/dry sandpaper to file down remaining bumps and scuffs.

  • Smooth out the aluminum and remove scratching from the sandpaper with very fine steel wool and a small dab of Brasso for severe scratching.

  • Refine the shine on the rims with Brasso applied to a scotch-brite pad.

  • While the car is still raised from the ground with the jack, place the tires back on the car, place the lug nuts back on the car with the tire iron, and place your car back to ground level. Hose down the tire with cold water once it's back on the ground.

  • Apply a coat of Brasso to the rims and allow it to sit overnight to cure the aluminum.

  • Polish the rims thoroughly with a de-oxidizing polish, and buff it out with a rag.

  • Polish the rims with an aluminum polish of your choice, applying and removing the polish in a circular buffing motion with a clean rag.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can have your wheels professionally re-shot with a clear coat to cut down the number of times you'll need to refinish the wheels.
  • Keep the wheels wet at all times throughout the process.

References

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