How to Resurface Aluminum Wheelsby William Zane
Aluminum wheels usually have a clear coat of paint to protect the bare aluminum or painted areas. Over time, the clear coat can chip and flake as well as turn yellow. Wheels can also get scratched and gouged in day-to-day use. If your aluminum wheels have a damaged clear coat or are scratched, they must be resurfaced if they are to look their best.
Use a floor jack to raise the vehicle and place it onto jack stands. Remove the wheels. If the wheels have tires on them, have the tires removed. This is not necessary, but will result in a better finish.
Rinse the wheels with a hose or pressure washer to thoroughly remove any dirt and debris from the front and the back.
Apply paint stripper to the surface of the wheels. Let the stripper soak into the clear coat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the clear coat begins to bubble.
Wipe the clear coat off with a rag. Use fine steel wool to remove more stubborn areas. Repeat until the clear coat is removed. If the wheels were painted under the clear, repeat the stripping process for the paint as well.
Repair any deep gouges or curb marks with Bondo. Mix the Bondo according to the directions and then fill the area. Allow it to dry. Sand it with 200-grit sandpaper and then 400-grit until it is smooth to the touch.
Sand the wheels with 400 grit wet sandpaper, thoroughly wetting the wheels and the paper as you sand. Wet-sand with 600 grit, 1,000-grit and then 1,500 grit sandpaper.
Buff out any fine scratches with a high speed buffer. Use rubbing compound on a soft buffing pad to smooth out the surface.
Wipe the wheels down with mineral spirits and clean terrycloth. Make sure all oil and residue are removed from the wheels.
Mask off any areas that you do not want painted, if you are going to be painting the centers or other areas of the wheels. Spray on a light dusting of paint, allow it to dry for a minute or so and then apply two to three solid coats, waiting for 30 minutes between coats.
Clear coat the wheels after allowing the paint to dry for at least several hours. Apply several coats of clear, allowing 30 minutes between coats.
Things You'll Need
- Garden hose or pressure washer
- Paint stripper
- Steel wool
- Spray paint (if painting)
- Clear coat
William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.