The Best Way to Clean Old Rusty Harley Wheel Spokesby Chris Stevenson
Nothing can detract from the visual appeal of an older Harley Davidson motorcycle more than rusted wheel spokes. The old chrome-plated steel spokes were standard equipment on most Harley motorcycles, which used as many as 80 spokes to lace the rear rim to the axle hub. Motorcycle wheels endure punishment from the environment, being in contact with the road's surface, which contains salts, acids, water and other contaminants. A motorcycle owner can remove even the most stubborn spoke rust by using some basic steps and cleaning products.
Find an outdoor paved area that has good drainage, like a driveway or carport. Place the motorcycle on its kickstand, and in gear with the ignition key off. Wet the wheels with a high-pressure water nozzle. Mix a solution of mild dishwashing soap and water in a bucket. Thoroughly clean the wheels and spokes with a wheel brush or a non-abrasive fiber detail brush. Remove as much of the scale, oxidation, mud and stains that you can. Move the motorcycle ass needed so you can wash each section of the wheel that might be hidden under a fender, chain guard or exhaust pipe.
Use compressed air and a high-pressure nozzle to remove all moisture from the small joints, seams and cracks in the spoke areas on the axle hub and rim. Make several passes with the nozzle, and move the motorcycle to gain access to all parts of the wheel. Wipe the spokes, hub and rim with a microfiber towel until completely dry.
Wear safety glasses and gloves. Apply rust remover gel to each individual spoke with a paint brush, for very heavy rust accumulation. Let the gel set according to directions, which might might be 10 to 20 minutes. Test a small area with an abrasive sponge, to see if the rust breaks down and lifts. Tightly curl the abrasive sponge around each spoke and scrub up and down. Use the wheel brush to clean the spoke joints at the axle hub and rim locations. For light rust, use an abrasive sponge and regular wheel cleaner. Scrub each spoke individually.
Use a small pad of 000 steel wool on spoke areas that are deeply encrusted or pitted. Scrub small sections, but do not apply enough force to remove the chrome plate from the spoke. Spray the spokes, hubs and wheels with a high-pressure water nozzle, making several passes to remove all gel or wheel cleaner residue from all cracks and seams. Dry the spokes, hub and rim with a microfiber towel. Let the motorcycle sit in direct sunlight for an hour or more, to completely dry the parts.
Apply a paste or gel polish sealant to each of the spokes with a microfiber towel. Rub the polish-sealant into the metal spokes and spoke joints, filling all seams and cracks. Let the paste dry, then remove it with a microfiber towel. If the polish-sealant is a gel type, wipe off all excess with a microfiber towel. Remove any cleaner or polish residue from the sidewalls or bottoms of the tire with the microfiber towel.
- In place of a sealant-polish, you can use a moisture-excluding aerosol metal cleaner and protectant. Just be sure to mask off the tire, exhaust system or any other part that would not benefit from its use.
Things You'll Need
- Mild dish washing soap
- Wheel brush
- Compressed air and nozzle
- Microfiber towels
- Safety glasses
- Rust removal gel
- Wheel cleaner (optional)
- Paint brush
- Abrasive sponge
- Steel wool
- Be very careful when using gel rust remover; it is caustic and can cause damage to some rubber, polished aluminum and plastic surfaces. Wear gloves and safety goggles at all times. Wash away any gel rust cleaner that comes in contact with your skin, with fresh water.
Chris Stevenson has been writing since 1988. His automotive vocation has spanned more than 35 years and he authored the auto repair manual "Auto Repair Shams and Scams" in 1990. Stevenson holds a P.D.S Toyota certificate, ASE brake certification, Clean Air Act certification and a California smog license.