How to Clean Rusty Motorcycle Spokesby Chris Gilliland
Rust is a motorcycle's perpetual enemy, creating unsightly brown spots that will eventually weaken the motorcycle's steel spokes. While the spokes could be removed and re-plated in chrome, or replaced entirely, budget-minded motorcyclists may opt to remove the rust on their own. Light rust spots can be removed easily enough, while larger rust formations are removed with a special cleaning product that converts and neutralizes rust. All of the necessary items can be obtained from a hardware store at minimal cost. Be warned: removing rust your wheel's spokes is a time-consuming task that may take more than one application.
Place your motorcycle on a stand to elevate one wheel off of the ground at a time. This will allow you to spin the wheel freely as you work.
Remove the surface rust and dirt from the wheel's spokes, using a brass wire-bristled brush. Use a light, back-and forth motion along the entire length of the spoke. Blow the loosened rust and dirt particles off of the wheel's rim with compressed air.
Spray a generous coating of penetrating oil onto a fine-grit steel wool pad. Scour the rusted spokes with the steel wool pad, moving along the length of the spoke. Reapply the penetrating oil onto the steel wool pad, as needed, until the rusted spots have cleared. This step is intended to remove light rusting or pitting and may not affect heavily rusted spokes.
Apply a light coating of a rust-converting cleaning product onto the rusted spokes, using a paint brush. Use only enough of product to coat the spoke without dripping. Allow the product to set for a minimum of 10 minutes or as directed by the product's application instructions. Rinse the spokes with water once the rust-converting cleaning product has set.
Inspect the wheel's spokes for remaining rust spots. Reapply a second coat of rust-converting cleaning product, if heavy rust spots are still visible on the spokes' surface. Remove smaller rust spots, using a fine-grit steel wool pad and penetrating oil.
Wash the entire wheel with mild soap and water to remove loosened rust particles along the wheel's rim and any penetrating oil that may have come into contact with the tire. Blow dry the wheel with compressed air or a blow dryer to prevent flash rusting along the newly cleaned spokes.
Lift the remaining wheel off of the ground with your stand. Clean the wheel's spokes, using the method described above.
- "How to Restore Your Motorcycle"; Mark Zimmerman and Jeff Hackett; 2010
- Building Budget Brits: A Practical Guide for Refurbishing BSA and Triumph Unit Twins"; Mike Brown; 2009
- Seal the spokes in a protective coat of clear paint to prevent future rust build up.
- Use a brass wire brush to clean your spokes. The brass wire is strong enough to loosen rust and dirt, but won't scratch your chrome or aluminum wheel rim.
Things You'll Need
- Motorcycle stand
- Brass wire-bristled brush
- Air compressor
- Penetrating oil
- Fine-grit steel wool pad
- Rust-converting cleaning product
- Paint brush
- Mild soap
- Automotive blow dryer
- Wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when applying the rust-converting product onto the wheel's spokes to avoid chemical burns or inhaling noxious fumes.
- Read the application instructions and warnings provided with your rust-converting product before using it on your motorcycle's wheels and spokes. Most of these products are intended solely for use on steel and are not compatible with aluminum or chrome, leading to discoloration or structural damage.
An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.