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Aluminum wheel polishing

Discussion in 'Detailing' started by Tiki, Apr 3, 2016.

  1. Tiki

    Tiki Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,367
    I picked up my first set of Weld Cheyennes a few weeks back that were in decent shape but needed some work. I proceeded to wet sand 400,800,1000,2000 before finishing off with my Makita 9207spc with a wool pad and mothers aluminum polish. These wheels are never going to be perfect and I was happy with the result for three of the four wheels. The fourth wheel was not part of the original set and was in significantly worse shape (lots of pitting and black oxidation). Below is a picture comparing one of the 'good' ones and one the 'bad' one. Any ideas. Obviously my approach worked on the other three, just wondering if there is something with the wheel itself (Could it be chromed?) that is causing the wheel to not obtain the mirrored finish.

    Side by side:
    [​IMG]


    Good wheel:
    [​IMG]

    Bad wheel:
    [​IMG]

    Backside of the bad wheel with just the lip sanded:
    [​IMG]

    Thoughts? Do I need to get a more aggressive grit sanding?
     
  2. Jared

    Jared Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    20,565
    adjusted had a decent thread I thought, may try a search
     
  3. Adjusted

    Adjusted Super Moderator

    Messages:
    3,619
    Not a thread in itself, but I talked about it in my Sierra thread. Heres the process I follow:

    1 - Clean the hell out of them; I use some dawn to strip off any product
    2 - Use sandpaper to scuff out any scratches or dings. Start at 400 and go up to 1000+ until the area affected can be polished
    3 - I like to coat the wheels with a high grit polish by hand (just squirt some on the wheel and spread it around with your fingers/hand), then sprinkle some powder cleaner like 'barkeepers helper' on over the existing polish
    4 - At a very very slow speed use a powerball or something similar and rub in the polish and powder, it will get messy, but its worth it. Keep at the slow speed until you've hit the entire wheel a few times. This procedure cleans the hell out of the bare metal and starts the polishing process
    5 - Re-do step 4 as much as needed without the powder cleaner, stepping up the speed until you begin to get a bit of shine and all blemishes and water/dirt spots are gone
    6 - Remove all product from steps 3-5, and hard polish the whole wheel by hand with the high grit polish
    7 - Wipe all of the product off
    8 - Get a no-grit polish and hit it with a high speed polisher or powerball/cone set to a higher speed and pressure. Repeat as needed.
    9 - Polish out any remaining cloudy spots by hand with the no grit polish
    10 - Clean off any remaining polish
    11 - Use a new polishing pad (or towel) and lightly apply a good sealer
    12 - Enjoy!

    For the back of those wheels I would probably just use a scotch-brite pad to get all that junk off and start from scratch of the backs. All of those wheels need more polishing, you can get them perfect since theyre not scratched up. That bad wheel might just need some higher grit polish and more speed on the polisher. It takes hours per wheel if they are in terrible shape, but you can save them for sure. If needed, you can use a medium grit polish in between the high and no grit. If you maintain them by hitting them with a light no-grit polish and a good seal every time you wash the truck (or once a month) then a heavy polish will last well over a year. Don't worry about getting nice, expensive product - if the process is done correctly the results will be the same. I use your everyday Mothers polish and pads from Oreileys, and Costco microfiber towels. Let me know if you have any questions.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
  4. 04SSHD

    04SSHD Master Debater Staff Member

    Messages:
    1,485
    Looks like you had some decent results. I just did a not as intense version of this on my classic 10 holes on the Jimmy. Here's a little before and after-

    before, dull
    [​IMG]

    after, a little more shined up
    [​IMG]


    all I did was once over them with 1000 wet, and go to town with hand polish. I need to get my feet wet and dip into it like you did.
     
  5. a-fuso

    a-fuso GMC Owner

    Messages:
    1,859
    Like I said in the your vehicle's now thread. Use an acid cleaner on the backs and front of the wheel to remove all of the brake dust, it's the only way to get the aluminum truly clean before polishing.

    If you can take some close up pictures of that bad wheel so we can see the scratching, my guess is you still have corrosion present that will need more sanding to remove.
     
  6. Ginger

    Ginger Bubbles

    Messages:
    24,035
    you you go to napa they have this alum-bright stuff, nasty smelling acid, but its aluminim back to raw.

    it will make polished shit look white and raw but it does clean well before you do a full polish like you did.
     
  7. Tiki

    Tiki Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,367
    Acid :catacid:
     
  8. Ginger

    Ginger Bubbles

    Messages:
    24,035
    most wheel cleaners are a mild acid. JSYK
     
  9. a-fuso

    a-fuso GMC Owner

    Messages:
    1,859
    [​IMG]
    Just for an example. The wheel on the left has just been washed, but still contained brake dust. The wheel on the right is after acid washing. It will make the aluminum all white.
    Then sanded with 400 grit to remove any putting.
    [​IMG]

    And finally polished out with black and green rouge bars
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Ginger

    Ginger Bubbles

    Messages:
    24,035
    exactly!
     

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