How to Recondition Aluminum Wheels

by William Zane
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The alloy wheels on your car or truck are an important part of its appearance, performance and value. Over time, though, alloy wheels take a beating thanks to their vulnerable location, where they are exposed to dirt, water and the elements. Reconditioning alloy wheels can be done in a weekend and can make a dramatic difference in the appearance of your vehicle.

Step 1

Remove the wheels from the vehicle. Loosen the lug nuts for the wheels, raise the vehicle and place it securely on jack stands. Remove the wheels.

Step 2

Have the tires removed by a tire shop. The results will be better if the tires are removed before refinishing the wheels.

Step 3

Rinse the front and back of the wheels with a high pressure washer or a hose to remove any dirt and debris. Wash the wheels with a mild soap and water. Dry them with a clean rag.

Step 4

Remove the old clear coat and paint by applying paint stripper to the wheels. Paint stripper comes in either an aerosol or jelly form which is applied with a brush. Apply the stripper and let it soak into the paint for 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 5

Remove the clear coat and the paint when it starts to bubble. Use a rag and fine steel wool to remove the paint. Wear rubber gloves and a respirator for this step to avoid getting the paint stripper on your skin or breathing it in.

Step 6

Rinse off the wheels with the high pressure washer. Clean the wheels again with mild soap and water and dry thoroughly.

Step 7

Clean the surface of the wheels with mineral spirits and a clean terrycloth towel, ensuring that the surface to be painted is entirely free of oil and residue. This is an important step in restoring the wheels since it will promote strong paint adhesion.

Step 8

Tape off any areas of the wheels that you do not want to be painted. Often, wheel rims are left with the bare aluminum finish but are clear-coated to protect the finish. You can also simply paint the entire wheel the color of your choice or clear-coat the entire finish.

Step 9

Apply several coats of either clear coat or paint to the rim. Allow each coat to dry for 30 minutes before applying the next coat. Allow the clear coat to dry overnight before taping it off to paint the wheel centers.

Step 10

Remove the tape if the center was masked off. Mask off the rim. Apply a light dusting of spray paint and allow it to dry for about a minute. Spray on three or four coats of paint, allowing the paint to dry for about an hour between coats.

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