DIY: How to polish aluminum wheels.

Discussion in 'DIY - Do It Yourself Forum' started by 20-CG5-01, Aug 25, 2012.

  1. 20-CG5-01

    20-CG5-01 KanomNom

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    Why spend $100-$200 per wheel for a shop to polish it, while you can do it for under $90 for all four wheels!?

    Hello my fellow 6GA community, this is my DIY of how to polish your aluminum wheels. You can also use this DIY to polish your outer rims and lip. It would just be less time consuming and easier.

    Time required for 4 wheels: 20-40 hours depending on style/size of wheels.
    Difficulty: 4/10. Easy, just very time consuming. Must have some sanding skills of some sort.

    Equipment/Tools that you need.
    Paint Stripper (I used Rust-Oleum Aircraft paint stripper $10 from autozone)
    Small brush (to apply paint stripper to wheels)
    Small bowl/cup/liquid holder to pour the paint stripper in
    130-180 grit sanding paper (optional)
    220 grit sanding paper (optional)
    400 grit sanding WetOrDry Sanding paper
    800 grit sanding WetOrDry Sanding paper
    1500 grit sanding WetOrDry Sanding paper
    2000 grit sanding WetOrDry Sanding paper(optional)
    3000 grit sanding WetOrDry Sanding paper(optional if you're very serious)
    A sanding block and a rubbery flexible one
    Bucket of water
    Rubber gloves
    Approx 2 cans of Mothers Aluminum polisher
    Clean microfiber/terry cloths
    Towels
    Refreshments


    Optional, will make things easier/safer
    Long sleeve shirt for 5 minutes
    Goggles
    Buffer w/ buffing pads (if you have an electric buffer, cross out the microfiber/terry cloths from the list)
    Air compressor w/ a blower + DA w/ 180 grit sand papers


    I bought all my 3M WetOrDry sanding paper from Amazon, very good prices. About $4-9 per packet. Each packet comes with 4-5 sheets of sanding paper, which will be more than enough.

    Before you start polishing your wheels, here are some tip/safety.

    Start with the wheel that needs the most loving, it will take the longest and will give you an example to look forward to for the next three wheels.

    Clear coat doesn't stick to well with polished wheels, I wouldn't recommend spraying the polished wheels with clear coat, just take care of them and clean them every week or so. Yes they will get dirty, but cleaning them should be a piece of cake.

    If you have a stand to set your wheels on, that would be great! If not, try to find a flat even surface to work with.

    Will be alot easier if you have the tires already dismounted from the wheel. If not, try to cover as much of the exposing tire as much as you can. I took my wheels to my local Wal-Mart, they charged $5 per wheel.

    DO NOT LET THE PAINT STRIPPER GET ON SKIN/EYES/MOUTH, it will make your skin burn and itch for a while. IF YOU DO GET IT ON YOUR SKIN/EYE wash it thoroughly. I accidentally had some on my stand and grabbed it by accident, boy did it irritate my skin.

    Wear gloves while wet sanding, it will keep your hands clean and won't have all those black residue in between your nails.

    Be prepare to spend about 4-8 hours "PER" wheel depending on size/spokes/design; it will be a long process and make sure to take your time doing it correctly!

    When wet sanding, it is illegal to wet sand and have all that water exposed to the sewage drain, also I wouldn't recommend using any sort of hand/kitchen sink aswell.

    STEP 1:
    Tape/secure your rubber piece where you inflate/put air into the tires. Leave it on for the whole process or spend the time taking it out. I just tapped it with masking tape to cover majority of the piece.

    STEP 2:

    [​IMG]

    Pour your paint stripper in your container (throw away the container after you are done, do not plan on reusing it after these chemicals gets exposed to the container) and dip your brush into it and apply it around the entire face of the wheel, if your tires are still intact, AVOID ALL COST OF HAVING THE PAINT REMOVER TOUCH THE TIRES. It will cause serious damages to the tires if they are exposed to it for a long period of time. DO NOT DO THIS ON A HOT/COLD DAY OR PREPARE TO DO IT OVER. After you have applied the paint remover let it sit for 10-15 minutes. The chemical in the paint stripper will start reacting in about 30 seconds. After 10-15 minutes, put on some rubber gloves and start wiping off the clear coat/paint residue off the wheels with a clean towel or wash the whole wheel off with water thoroughly. Wear long sleeve shirts so you won't get any on your arms on accident. The wheel will look very shiny, yet very very dull. After cleaning the wheels, use your own judgement to see if there is any other clear coating/paint that needs to be removed; if so then re apply the paint remover to that area. If not, Proceed to step 3.

    STEP 3:

    [​IMG]

    This set will usually take the longest. Judge the wheel if it needs to be dry sanded with 130-180 grit sanding paper, if your wheel is very smooth with no rashes at all, proceed to STEP 4. If you have major rashes, hand sand the rashes with 180 grit, make sure to sand evenly! Use the sanding block on deep rashes/marks. Do not half Ass this job or be prepare to have some lop sided areas. Be extremely careful aswell. Only sand areas where it needs to be sanded. I used 130 grit in the inner spokes because my stock alloys were very rough/bumpy, not going to be able to remove them with 320+ grit. If you have an air compressor with a DA, you can also use that to DA the face of the wheel where the rashes are for much faster results. If you do have a DA, you should be experienced with it; if you aren't then just sand evenly and don't put too much pressure on one spot for a long time.

    STEP 4: OPTIONAL FOR PEOPLE WHO USED 130-180 grit sandpaper

    [​IMG]

    So after you have removed all the paint/clear coat off your wheels, you can go ahead and start hand sanding the face of the wheel with 220 grit. You can either wet sand or dry sand on this step. Make sure you get the whole wheel or what you are going to be polishing! Use a 1 motion sanding. I recommend sanding the spoke up and down with one grit then left to right when you switch grit. TAKE YOUR TIME and be very careful with this step. Sand evenly and do not use the folded edge of the sand paper to sand. Flat/even surface sanding only! After the whole wheel is sanded, either blow all the excess sanding away or wipe them off with a clean dry towel. The whole wheel should be scratched up and very dull; don't worry about it, this is only the first few touch up steps.

    STEP 5:

    [​IMG]

    After you have completed STEP 3-4, now be prepared to put on some gloves, dirty clothes or some you work with, shoes you don't wear anymore, and prepare to start wet sanding with 400 grit using a flexible sanding block, the ones that are made out of rubber. Hand sand areas where you aren't able to sand without using the palm sander.. Some people use a sink, but I wouldn't want all that contamination falling down the sewer, also it is illegal to wet sand outside where it can fall down to drains, just wet sand in the garage and have it dry over night. Have the wheels in a flat even spot so they don't accidentally fall down and crack/bend/chip. Use lots and lots of water to wet sand. Make sure to sand using the 400 grit over all of the 130-180 and 220 grits that you have left. It will still look very scratched up, but not as bad as how it was before. After the sanding is done, clean the wheel with a wet clean towel and use your judgement if you have sanded down the rest of the 130-180 or 220 spots.

    STEP 6:

    [​IMG]

    Same as STEP 5, but hand sand from now only! Use 800 grit and plenty of water.

    STEP 7:

    [​IMG]

    Same as STEP 6. Use 1500 Grit and plenty water as always. Make sure you sand everything where you are going to polish. 1500 is a step where you can't be lazy on as well. Take your time and do it correctly. Hand sand everything nicely and make sure there aren't any random scratches where there shouldn't be; if you spot one, just go over it with the 1500 grit. You don't want a nice polished wheel and have a scratch on your brand new wheels would you!?

    STEP 8: Optional

    [​IMG]

    1500 grit will be good enough if you want to polish it already, but 2000 grit will make it look even better. Just repeat STEP 7, but with 2000 grit sanding paper.

    STEP 9: If you're very serious, I wouldn't recommend it
    Same as step 8, but use 3000 grit sanding paper.

    STEP 10:
    After the wheels are completely dried, lay them down on a dried flat surface and be prepared for a workout if you don't have an electrical buffer. Also if you are using an electric buffer, be prepared to switch out your buffing pads after each wheel. They get dark reallllllllllly fast. Smear all the areas you have sanded down with 1500, 2000, or 3000 grit with Mothers Aluminum polish. If you have an electrical buffer, start buffing. If you don't have one available, then get a terry cloth or a microfiber cloth and start hand buffing in a circular motion. Your towel/cloth will get dark really fast, so be sure to use clean spot of the towel/cloth as often as you can. I would say use 1-2 microfiber cloth per wheel. After you are done buffing, you'll still notice that the wheel is very oily from the polisher compound. Now use the clean side of a new towel/cloth or buffing pad and wipe the whole wheel off, you'll notice it will be a mirror shine in no time after a few wipes, this you don't have to do it in a circular motion, just wipe it off clean. Make sure to get everything!

    This is the first wheel I did, had alot of rashes. Didn't come out as perfect as I wish because of it, but it still looked very nice. I finished this one off with 1500 grit. Compare them to how they use to look.

    [​IMG]

    This one I finished off with 2000 grit, came out alot better than the first one because there was less damages.

    [​IMG]

    These are the last two I finished. I sanded the center w/ 80 grit to get the 15 x 5 JJ off and to smooth it out. The came out great :)
    Wheel #3
    [​IMG]
    Wheel#4
    [​IMG]

    Now take some pictures, pat yourself on the back, and show them off!

    Three more wheels to go! :flipoff: haha.

    Take your time on this project, if you are a busy person, you'll finish it eventually. It's a fun project and you can say that you personally put the finishing touch to your wheels.

    Hope this helps some of you guys who have been wanting to attempt to polish their wheels.

    Feel free to post your finished pictures, leave feedbacks, and ask questions. I will try to help as much as I can.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2013
    RedRyder, Valet, Darianjr1 and 2 others like this.
  2. LeAccord

    LeAccord Well-Known Member

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    Great, detailed write up, Steven. +1 rep :thumbsup:
     
  3. 20-CG5-01

    20-CG5-01 KanomNom

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    Thanks! Planning on polishing any of your wheels anytime soon?
     
  4. LeAccord

    LeAccord Well-Known Member

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    If i had the time, yes. I sanded down some rashes on 3 spokes on one of my wheels and now its polished in that area lol. Its not that noticeable but it is shinier than the rest of the wheel :lawl:
    Stock v6 wheels btw.
     
  5. cjsaccord

    cjsaccord Well-Known Member

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    +1 rep
     
  6. Darianjr1

    Darianjr1 Well-Known Member

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    damnnn good job bro and very well detailed you got my vote
     
  7. 2002CG3coupe

    2002CG3coupe Well-Known Member

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    Plan to do this with my TL wheels, THANKS!
     
  8. 20-CG5-01

    20-CG5-01 KanomNom

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    Thank you guys.

    Should be easier than most other wheels. If its the bigger 5 spokes one, then it shouldnt take no more than 5-6 hours. Have fun and post finishing wheels below.
     
  9. Valet

    Valet IS300 SX > Accord

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    Good **** man. Repped :D
     
  10. LeAccord

    LeAccord Well-Known Member

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    Steven rackin' up the rep points :jae:
     

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