Serious Education ... plus the most fun you can have in metal finishing.
Polishing Cast Aluminum Wheels
Q. To whom it may concern- I found this site to be very helpful in many ways, except one. I have a set of silver powder coated rims off of a 1996 Trans Am. These wheels are cast aluminum. Chroming, I was told, would cost upwards of $200 a wheel. Is there any way for ME to polish the cast aluminum so the finish will look like that of a set of All American Racing Wheels? Or will I have to send them to someone?
- Olathe, Kansas
Q. I am also trying to find a way to polish aluminum wheels -and do it myself.
Chrome is TOO flashy - the powder cast aluminum that came on the car (Mercedes) is too dull and collects dirt - especially brake dust. I have seen it done for $250 by car garage and it looks great and the brake dust doesn't stick as much - but no one here in town does that. Can't I buy a buffer and the right compound or something and do it myself?Dale Roberts
- Columbia, Missouri
A. I'm attempting the same things. It looks like the Eastwood Company =>
has kits then you spray a clear coat and they're protected from oxidation. Haven't tried it. Looks good.
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
I'm trying to polish some cast aluminum wheels too. Its really hard to get the tarnish and stains off, but once you get them really nice looking there's stuff called ZoopSeal.
And it seals the Aluminum up to like 2 years. It's better than clear coat too because it doesn't start to peel and chip off after a while.Nicholas Giacalone
- Cottage Hills, Illinois
Ed. note: According to a plausible posting on www.svtperformance.com, ZoopSeal no longer exists, and its inventor replaced it with ShineSeal [link is to product info on Amazon].
Maybe this will help.....
Buff & Polish Metal--
The list of tools/equipment needed and a step by step how to polish your Throttle Body... A good reference video on the "how to polish" can be purchased from Eastwood. I use Craftsman and Eastwood Tools, and all Eastwood buffing wheels & compounds
A 1.5 HP Craftsman 8 inch buffer (3450 RPM), a .5 HP variable speed craftsman grinder 6 inch (2000-3450 RPM) with an expander sanding wheel from Eastwood, a craftsman Dremel [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], a Craftsman detail sander, Craftsman palm sander, and a good pair of gloves are needed.
The Compounds and Wheels Needed--
There are 3 main compounds needed for buffing. (There are other compounds for plastic, non stainless & aluminum metals)
1. tripoli [link to product info at Amazon by ed.] compound, which will have a slight cutting ability used for aluminum.
2. stainless compound [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], which will also have a slight cutting ability used on stainless steel.
3. white rouge [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] compound, which has no cutting ability and polishes either aluminum or stainless to a brilliant shine. Again, White Rouge only polishes no smoothing / cutting ability.
There are 2 main types of buffing wheels needed. Each wheel must only have 1 type of compound on it, never mix compounds on the same wheel.
1. A spiral sewn buffing wheel, used for Tripoli or Stainless compound.
2. A loose wheel, used for White Rouge compound. The size of the wheel depends on the application. The 8 inch wheel (spiral or loose) is for the buffer and fairly large metal pieces. They make 1 inch wheels for the Dremel as well as other small buffing attachments for tough to reach areas.
There are several types of sandpaper needed. I mainly use the 6 inch Eastwood expander wheel to sand with. Then I will use the detail sander, palm sander, and sanding accessories for the Dremel for tight areas.
1. Eastwood Expander Wheel -- 220, 400, 700, 1200 grit belt wheels.
2. Detail Sander -- 400 grit.
3. Palm Sander -- 400 grit.
4. Dremel -- 220 grit drum sander. Getting started on the Throttle Body... Make sure the part being polished is at room temperature along with the buffing area. This will allow the compound to flow evenly on the part being polished.
Step 1. Sand the entire TB. I used 400 grit belt then finishing with a 700 grit belt. Do not exceed 2000 RPM using the variable speed Craftsman 6 in grinder and the Eastwood Expander wheel. Use the 400 grit belt to sand off any casting marks and rough areas. Then use the 700 grit belt to sand the TB perfectly smooth. Note: Sanding is an art; make sure there are no low and high spots especially on larger flat surfaced parts. If there are it will show and have poor reflective properties. After using the expander wheel, use the detail sander and Dremel for the tight areas. This is a very important step, if it is not smooth like glass it will not shine like a mirror. A shiny rough surface looks bad and has a poor reflection.
Step 2. Then use the 8 inch spiral wheel on the 1.5 HP 3450 Craftsman buffer with Tripoli compound. The Tripoli compound will smooth any sanding marks to make the surface smoother. Remember, Tripoli has some cutting/smoothing ability to remove small scratches. For the tight spots use the Dremel and a 1 inch spiral wheel and a cone attachment with the Tripoli compound. This is where 75% of the buffing takes place.
Step 3. After you are done with step 2, you may need to re-sand if there are marks left after buffing with the Tripoli Compound. Remember smooth = great shine.
Step 4. Then use the 8 inch loose wheel on the 1.5 HP 3450 RPM craftsman buffer with White Rouge compound. The White Rouge compound does not have any cutting ability. Remember, White Rouge will only shine the metal. For the tight spots use the Dremel and a 1 inch loose wheel and a cone attachment with the White Rouge compound. After completing step 4, the part should shine like chrome. Reminders & Tips:
1. The metal you are buffing must be warm to the touch or the compound will collect on it.
2. Also, use lacquer thinner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] to clean the part to remove the excess compound in the cracks after you are complete.
3. Do not mix compounds on the same wheel.
4. Use a metal polish such as "Blue Magic" [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] to maintain the shine.
5. Remember, you can shine a rough surface but the reflection will not be as good as a smooth surface. Basically for Stainless parts substitute Stainless Compound for the Tripoli Compound and use the same steps above.
- Mission, Texas
! Hey JC from Mission Texas, very cool article on metal polishing.Mase Molina
- Mission, Texas
i Polishing cast is a lot of work but very nice when done. Let me know what questions you have or anything I can do for you.Stew Kincade
- New Brunswick , Canada
A. I was about to throw my wheels away and get new ones because I could not get the acid stains (streaks) out of them. I tried everything -- even the $20.00 a bottle stuff from the Detail Shop that was supposed to clean them.
Mothers did nothing, wheels cleaner spray from the auto parts store didn't work. So, I'm at my wits end when I decide to try something off the wall.
My kids have a remote control gas car and the fuel for it is 20% Blue Thunder Nitro Fuel =>
I put some on a rag and rubbed the wheel -- AND IT WORKED! It leaves a haze on the wheel but when I went over it with Mothers Polish -- the darned thing looked like new.
Blue Thunder Nitro R/C Car fuel. Holy Cow.
- Pomona, California
July 6, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread
Q. I want to clean, buff and sealcoat my alloy wheels before I get new tires put on my truck. I believe I allowed the stains to attack the wheels after using an abrasive to clean the wheels early in their life. I would like to know how and what to use both to strip and recoat the wheels. I would also like to do this with the old tire still on the rim but off the truck, however.Al Davis
hobbyist - Jacksonville, Florida
A. Using Aircraft stripper [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] to remove all of the Clear Coat applied to the wheel and then follow the instructions listed above, you should be able to start with the tripoli [link to product info at Amazon by ed.] if your wheels are already smooth.Ray Keske
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
May 14, 2012
A. Hello. Folks- Ever read the warnings on a bottle of Brake Fluid? "DO NOT GET THIS ON PAINT". I simply use a stick/sponge applicator(stain), and brush on a thick coat- ANYWHERE you want to REMOVE nearly ANY coating (Acrylic, Enamel, Lacquer, etc). Let sit about 1 hour- then scrub with a grease cutting soap-filled SOS pad- rinse with hot water, blow or towel dry. Repeat as necessary- to completely remove any paint or coating. Brake fluid WILL NOT HARM your tires, plastic trim, or glass. Accidentally got overspray? With a microfiber cloth- finger dip (Nitrile glove) Brake fluid, rub off overspray, wash off fluid with soap & water. Brake fluid works with TIME- not effort. WAY SAFER than harsh "chemical" removers- that can BURN (corrode) metal. Thank You.Bob Spencer
- Utica, New York, USA