Polishing the wheels from A to Z

People say that the good wheels are half the car look and I totally agree with this point of view. Somebody likes the modern design, somebody else prefers the genuine look and for someone the most important thing is originality. It’s up to you what to choose – the problem is that you can’t always find the design that suits you completely. And even if you do – what if it becomes worse with years? Either let it be or restore it. There is a number of ways to restore the way your disks look like but I’d like to tell you about my experience in polishing the Japanese replicas AMG Aero 3PC.

After I received the wheel disks I wasn’t sure of what their condition is, although I knew it is not perfect. Here is the photo:

Looks not too bad. However, upon a closer view I found several screw-ups that I had no wish to live with (I wasn’t in a hurry as there were a lot of other troubles with my car besides the disks), namely:

As you can see the condition is far from ideal. I decided to repaint it first but after I started stripping the coating I paid my attention that the metal surface itself shines well. More than that, I had no wish to disassemble the disks to paint them (and without doing this the whole process makes no sense as to my opinion) because the bolts won’t unscrew even though I had good spanners. I didn’t want to risk, had no wish to tear them off. So I started thinking about polishing. You can check How to remove oxidation to learn more about it.

Using the paint remover I have removed all the paint films step by step.

By the way, the paint is getting off very hard, so without such a scraper the whole process moves forward extremely slowly:

It seems that this is it, just polish it and you are done. But it all appeared to be somewhat more complex. The front surface of the wheel disk was processed by a graving tool and had small grooves that were affected by corrosion on the areas where the paint was damaged:

As a result, there were not really visible, yet significant spots:

Because of them I had to paper the whole surface. I have to warn you that doing this manually is not a good idea – takes a lot of time and the results are poor. Although I have bought the abrasive wheel of almost all possible grain sizes, only two of them came useful – the 320 and the 1200 one. After the 320 one the surface looked like this:

And after the 1200 one – like this:

The borders of the holes had to be papered manually as it was quite uncomfortable doing it with a grinding machine:

It takes about 1-2 abrasive wheels of both grain sizes to complete each wheel disk. When I was done with the first one it was already too late to go and purchase polishing headers for the grinding machine, and as a matter of fact I didn’t have the latter at hand. That is why I have polished the surface manually although again, this is not the best way to do the job because it takes much time and the result is uneven. Ideally you should do it with a polishing machine, but if you don’t have any you can buy a common foam header for the grinding machine, such as this one:

I would like to say a couple of words about what should be used to polish. I tried out three different polishes but finally realized that nothing can be better than the GOI polishing paste. I have heard that there is some “Alu Magic” one and they say is polishes very well, but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so used this one:

I have mixed the GOI and the other paste in a tube and got some sort of green slush that could be easily applied and handled its duties well. What I have got later looked something like this:

But this was the easiest part of the whole process as all the easy to reach spots were on the surface. Now I had to proceed with the holes (you can see their condition on the photos above), the gaps in the disk itself and the tapered-bead seat.

First I relied on the paint remover but quickly had to leave it aside. The problem is that it didn’t cope with all the paint in some areas, and scraping that entire husk is not that easy, and the scraper may leave some large scratches on the surface so that you won’t be able to get rid of them afterwards. Tried to do it manually… Not a way to go, takes way too long. I went to a shop and found several spade-shaped headers for a drill, like a metal stick with a number of leaves fixed on it up-and-down. Seems like it was what I need but the grain size was too large. I decided to make something similar by myself. First I didn’t actually believe it will work but everything turned out to be ok.

So basically with the help of this device and 80- and 600-grain sized sandpaper I worked the holes and the disk gaps from inside. I could also have taken some sort of 240 or 320 sandpaper but I didn’t really care about it because this was not the front surface. To polish these hard to reach spots I simply took a piece of denim cloth, cut it into pieces (approximately 6 by 2.5 inches or 15 by 6 cm), fold them together and inserted in that wonder-stick where the sandpaper was inserted before. When it spins next to the surface it turns into a roller and polishes very well, using the polish paste of course.

Step by step I have reached the tapered-bead seat. Frankly speaking, I didn’t even think there might be any difficulties with it. I tried to polish it and realized that it is covered with powder coating that could not be removed by a paint remover and the bolts didn’t let me work the whole surface physically. While polishing the coating it was denuding the metal in some areas leaving light spots, and in other areas it grew turbid. Looked awful. I had to use a 240 sandpaper, and then the 600 one to manually paper all the coating. Here is what it looked like after the 240 one:

And after the 600 one:

After that I was polishing the tapered-bead seat with that green slush together with the polishing paste…

And I started polishing the tapered-bead seat with a felted cylinder. I’d like to point out that the soft white cylinder I have bought in a shop appeared to be total junk while the old hard one, made probably out of some old boots, performed well.

After polishing the major area I used another felted cylinder, a very thin one, to polish those areas that I could not reach from the beginning. And basically that’s it – the tapered-bead seat started reflecting something little by little.

After that I used a shower to wash off all the dirt using various household chemicals and washed the backside of the wheel. Before:


And finally, the result of all my efforts:

Well, this was the whole story. The process is long, it is boring, but this isn’t difficult. I hope this article helps someone. Good luck.

Provided by snail

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