Aluminum Wheel Polishing


Aluminum Wheel Polishing

They look better but still have a long way to go.

25 March 2010
09:41 PM
My Volvo is six years old.  It has traveled more than 700,000 miles in rain, sleet, snow, salt, sand and who knows what else.

The aluminum wheels looked bad, especially after I added the shiny chrome center caps.  They were dull and heavily oxidized.  I tried cleaning one of the rear wheels by hand but quickly realized it could take me forever and possibly create yet another rotator cuff tear.

On Monday I decided to visit a truck stop up I-95 that was about 30 miles from my house.  I had been told there were some guys that polished wheels that hung out on the back lot.  No one was there, but inside I happened to meet Tony, who said he could polish my wheels for $10 each.  But, it was raining and he wanted me to come to his house in Richmond on a dry day.

Tuesday was clear and dry.  I gave Tony a call and he was available.

When he looked at my wheels his price and the time to do the job changed drastically.  Since they had never been polished and were heavily pitted they would need sanding.  This would be an all day job and cost $50 a wheel on the truck or $65 per wheel if he took them off.  Taking them off gives a better job - especially in the lug nut area.

I told Tony that was more than I could afford right now.

We compromised and he agreed to hand sand the wheels with 600 grit paper to pre-clean them and then buff and polish for $15 per wheel.  The pitting would remain in the wheel.

He did a good job for what he was paid.  H spent at least 4 hours overall on six wheels.  The wheels look 100% better.  But, if I want nice looking wheels they will need sanding to remove the pits.  This will be a lot of work.

I learned a lot from Tony.  The buffing wheels that will fit my 9" sander/grinder/polisher are available at any TA.  I should use the brown stick for rough wheels and switch to the green as they improve.  White is for smooth, un-pitted wheels.  Regular paint thinner (mineral spirits) is used to keep the buff compound from getting gummy on the wheel or buff.

Once buffed you must polish the wheel by hand.  He uses a green cream aluminum polish also available at any TA.  Regular flour is used for cleaning after polishing.  You just sprinkle it on a clean rag.  It gets the black stuff out of the pits.

Like I said, I have a lot of work ahead of me if I want chrome-like aluminum wheels.  For now, I will need to be happy with my 5-55 truck.  You know, looks great at 5 feet or 55 MPH.

Russ Barnes
25 March 2010
09:54 PM
I had my fronts off and took them to the local polish guy.  Mine have 1,409,000 miles and fortunately not much in the North where they use horrid stuff on the roads, but I know what you mean by dings and pits.  I recall mine were about $40 each outside, $60 both sides and they look great.  Last year at MATS I saw a machine that you take the dismounted rims and mount them inside and whiz bang they look like they just came out of the mold.  I don't know what they cost.  My local big truck tire dealer that I've used is TCI and I've been watching to see if they get one.
J.W. Morgan
26 March 2010
01:13 AM
I think TCI in Nashville has one...they have some of the shiniest "take offs" I have ever seen for $300 a wheel
Dennis M
26 March 2010
07:38 AM
Wasn't Doonan's showing off a machine to recondition wheels at the HDT rally a couple of years ago?
26 March 2010
08:25 AM
It is another machine made by VIS.  VIS Polish.  My tire guy will come down, leave your truck on blocks, take all the wheels and tires to the polisher, then put them back on again for $100 each wheel (last summer).  Look real close and I can tell the wheels that have been thru the machine compared to those that haven't but overall they look pretty darn good.
John (C-IL)
26 March 2010
08:25 AM
There was an outfit at the Peoria truck show that does that.  I think they charged $80 a wheel and they came out of the machine looking like new.  I suppose if you had a show truck it would be worth it, but after you spent a $100K doing a show truck I would think that buying new wheels would be worth while.

I use a phosphoric acid solution to etch my rims and then use an aluminum polish with a Mother's Powerball to polish mine.  I see where they have a cone shaped powerball now that is made to do wheels.

Mother's Power Cone

26 March 2010
08:56 AM
We have a guy at the local truck stop in a camper out on the corner of the lot.  He charged me 50 dollars to do all 4 on the Rumrunner, they had never been polished since new in 2001.  When he told me 12.50 per wheel I told him to pitter-patter.  I went into the truckstop for lunch, and when I came out an hour later I had a new look'n truck!

I love the tip on the flour, getting that black crud out of the pits is the pits.

Still Working
26 March 2010
11:26 AM
Yes Dennis,
It is made by VIS and I think the cost was $100.00 per wheel for the rally.

Dri-wash metal polish also works well.  Smokey polished wheels the year before.  Don't remember the cost but lots of manual labor with drill and polishing wheels.

26 March 2010
07:33 PM
I have bought and tried 8 or 9 different aluminum polishes.  I know we are venturing into the old, Ford, Dodge, Chevy, thing with which is best.  I use "Bushes Aluminum Polish" in a black plastic bottle, they also suggest using their sealer.  I have been using this product for 9 yrs. now and I haven't found any better!!  I used it on the diamond plate deck of my other truck with "WOW" results.  The problem is its hard to find.  The 16 oz. bottle sells for $14.95 and I think I paid $8 or $10 for the sealer, both products are well worth the money.

They always have a big booth in the entrance hallway at the MATS in Louisville, KY.  If I don't buy my supply at the MATS I usually find it at some truck dealers toy stores.  You can call them for a distributer near you.
In The Faith

26 March 2010
09:03 PM
Wheel polishing kit
26 March 2010
10:10 PM
Link for Busch's Aluminum Polish - *Note spelling of "BUSCH" - (with a "C")
Busch Enterprises

See also - "Buffing Information" on the left side of the page

28 March 2010
10:09 AM
Many thanks for the link to BUSCH. I spent quite a bit of time reading there and once again learned a lot.

I do shudder when I think of polishing six wheels like mine with an electric drill.  I believe I would do better with a more powerful and durable 7" or 9" grinder/buffer.
Thanks again - it is a great link!

28 March 2010
01:00 PM
How about doing one wheel each week in rotation?