Aluminum Wheels FAQ

aluminum wheels

Aluminum wheel maintenance is vital for optimum wheel performance, longevity, and aesthetics. Here are some basic procedures and how to’s for maintaining your aluminum wheels.

How to Clean Aluminum Wheels

  1. Clean aluminum wheels before washing your vehicle. This prevents dirt and dust from the wheel from dirtying your car.
  2. Rinse aluminum wheels with water to loosen any dust and dirt that is stuck. You may want to use a hose with a nozzle for a strong water stream. Make sure to rinse well, including the brake calipers and spokes.
  3. Spray a non-acidic aluminum wheel cleaner onto the wheels. Use a non-acidic cleaner to do the job without leaving spots. You can also add some elbow grease to help loosen grime.
  4. Use a soft-bristled wheel brush and proceed to scrub gently, taking care to not scratch the wheel finish. Should the finish be scratched, you will need to polish the wheel.
  5. Rinse wheels thoroughly with water.
  6. Dry wheels with a microfiber towel.

How to Polish Aluminum Wheels

  1. Rub aluminum polish on a small section of the wheel using a piece of clean cloth, following the wheel grain. Always work in small sections to avoid the polish drying before it gets worked in. Avoid circular rubbing.
  2. Section by section, rub polish all around the wheel. Note which areas you have applied polish on to avoid overlapping and an uneven finish, rubbing along the grain of the wheel as you go along.
  3. Place a soft piece of cloth around a toothbrush to reach into the hard-to-reach areas such as the spokes and on the ridges of the lug nuts.
  4. With another soft cleaning towel, rub along the grain to dry and remove polish. Follow the direction you used earlier when you applied the polish.

Note: Use clean towels at each step! This way, dirt or polish will not be rubbed back into the wheel.

How to Paint Aluminum Wheels

  1. While parked in a secure place, clean your rims thoroughly. Wash them initially with a steady, strong stream of water from a hose.
  2. Mix rim-cleaning fluid in a bucket of water and apply to the rims. Let it soak for 5 minutes.
  3. Rinse with a jet of pressurized water.
  4. Dry wheels well with a microfiber cloth.
  5. Sand grind the entire side surface with 220-grit sandpaper. Use 80-grit sandpaper for deeper scratches.
  6. Cover important parts with masking tape or cardboard to protect them from paint. Pay close attention to the tire; you can insert thin cardboard pieces between the rim and the tire, as well as the brake discs and lug nuts.
  7. Spray wheel with several layers of primer. When the primer is completely dry, smooth with 600-grit sandpaper.
  8. Spray thin layers of silver wheel paint. You can drive the car forward and back a few feet and turn wheels to check for missed spots. Let the paint dry completely.
  9. Apply several thin layers of clear coat. Let it dry completely.
  10. Remove the masking tape and cardboard protection.

How to Refinish Aluminum Wheels

  1. Clean the wheel with an all-purpose wheel cleaner and a clean buffing cloth. Make sure you do not leave scratches and that any dirt and debris are removed.
  2. Sand the wheel with coarse 200-grit sandpaper to remove any pits and scratches. Ensure the old finish is removed.
  3. Remove any burrs and pits using 500-grit sandpaper.
  4. With steel wool and some metal polish, scrub and file the wheels to even out sandpaper scratches, working the metal polish into the aluminum.
  5. With a soft scouring pad, apply more metal polish, making sure all areas are coated well.
  6. Rinse the wheels off with a steady water stream.
  7. Reapply more metal polish, coating the wheel thoroughly. Cure the aluminum for 2 to 3 days for oxidation.
  8. Apply another coat of metal polish and buff with a clean cloth.
  9. Apply protective masking tape or cardboard to protect parts other than the wheel.
  10. Spray or apply three layers of clear coat on the wheels, allowing the clear coat to dry in between the spraying times.

How to Remove Corrosion from Aluminum Wheels

  1. Thoroughly clean car wheels with soap and water, removing all dirt, grime, and other debris.
  2. Apply a wheel cleaner, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  3. Work the wheel cleaner into your rims with a soft bristle brush.
  4. Use wheel clay to remove bigger parts of corrosion.
  5. Apply wheel polish. You may also apply wheel wax (optional).

How to Sand and Polish Aluminum Wheels

  1. Prepare the wheel. Protect the valve stem by sticking them in carefully. Mask or remove tires.
  2. Clean the wheel thoroughly and use a degreaser to remove any dirt, road film, or wax that adhered. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.
  3. Strip any clear-coat and paint off the entire rim. Spray a polyurethane stripper and leave on for 15 minutes.
  4. Wet tire rubber then rinse stripper off the wheel with a strong water spray.
  5. Repeat as needed until polyurethane coating or paint is removed.
  6. Sand, including holes and lug nuts, using a cone-shaped polishing attachment and 100-grit sandpaper. Sand holes first, then move to the outer wheel.
  7. Sand between the spokes with 80- to 120-grit sandpaper in a horizontal direction.
  8. Using a low-speed sander-polisher, sand the center of the wheel.
  9. Aluminum polish until shiny.
  10. Wash the wheel and dry it well.
  11. Apply a wax finish and coat with crystal clear paint.

How to Restore Clear-Coated Aluminum Wheels

  1. Remove wheels from the vehicle.
  2. Remove the tires from the wheel.
  3. Use a paint stripper to remove any existing paint or clear coat.
  4. Mask off any wheel area that is not going to be painted with tape.
  5. Apply a light layer of primer to the wheel and let dry. Apply another heavier coat of primer. Repeat for one or more coats.
  6. Wet-sand the primer with 220- and 320-grit sandpaper. Use copious amounts of water then wipe dry with a clean cloth. Re-wipe the wheel with mineral spirits.
  7. Spray a light coat of the paint of your choice and let it dry. Apply two or more coats until full-color coverage is achieved. Remember to allow drying time between the coats.
  8. Let paint dry completely. Wet-sand the wheels with 220-grit, 320-grit, 400-grit, then 600-grit sandpaper. Make sure the overall wheel is smooth, then wipe down with mineral spirits and dry well.
  9. Apply two to three layers of clear coat. Remember to let the coat dry between applications.
  10. Let dry overnight before reinstallation.

How to Clean Oxidized Aluminum Wheels

  1. Gently clean the wheels with a mild soapy detergent and warm water, removing all dirt and grime.
  2. Sand the rims using dry sandpaper until all pitting is gone.
  3. Use fine-grit and paper to smooth out the grooves on the wheel surface.
  4. Wipe surface clean with a microfiber cloth.
  5. Apply a protective layer of clear coat.

How to Restore Aluminum Wheels

  1. Gently clean the wheels thoroughly with a mild soapy detergent and warm water, removing all dirt and grime. Dry well.
  2. Remove the wheel oxidation.
  3. Polish and remove scratches from the rims. If deep scratches are present, sanding is needed.
  4. Wash wheel after sanding to remove aluminum dust and grime.
  5. Apply rubbing or polishing compound. If desired, finish with aluminum polish.

How to Prep Aluminum Wheels for Paint

  1. Gently clean the wheels thoroughly with a mild soapy detergent and warm water, removing all dirt and grime. Dry well.
  2. Remove wheel covers from the tire and rub with alcohol to prepare for stripping.
  3. Clean wheels with alcohol residue with a thorough newspaper wipe.
  4. Apply your paint stripper. Make sure your floor is adequately protected with a layer of newspapers.
  5. Once stripper is set and the paint starts flaking, remove paint with a bristled brush and a piece of cloth. Finish off with a cloth soaked in thinner to take off all remnants.
  6. Sand the wheel for priming.
  7. Apply at least three coats of primer and allow it to dry completely.
  8. Let it set for 24 hours before applying paint.