Home /
Search 🔍
the Site

World's #1 finishing resource since 1989
No login needed: Chime right in

topic 0003

Coating/restoring real mag wheels

Current question and answers:


You'll read on this page that the early cast wheels were made of magnesium. They had some problems including the fact that they went dull grey quickly. So aluminum alloy wheels overtook magnesium.

But the name stuck even if the technology didn't! When people today speak of "mag wheels" or "mag rims" they usually mean aluminum alloy wheels or rims, similar to 'tin foil' actually being aluminum.

Today's application for real magnesium wheels is generally for their lightness, not their appearance.

To see our many discussions of aluminum alloy wheels please search the site using the search term "aluminum alloy wheels" plus "stripping", "chrome plating", "powder coating", "peeling", etc.

December 20, 2018

Q. Can real mag wheels be chrome plated? I have a set of 15 inch x 4 inch American Racing magnesium 12 spoke rims.

Real magnesium wheels before plating 0003-1a   Real magnesium wheels after plating 0003-1b  

Pacers Auto

As anyone knows with these rims, the polishing required to keep them shined is a full time job. Has anyone had success or experience chroming or nickel plating them? Thank you.

Scott Snizek
Pacers Auto, Inc - West Hempstead New York USA
^- Reply to this post -^

this text gets replaced with bannerText
spacer gets replaced with bannerImages

January 1, 2019

A. Yes, magnesium can be chrome plated. It may take some effort to find a shop which does that as the demand must be very small.

I can't say for certain, but the highly reflective wheels in your second photo, I'd wager are highly polished and buffed magnesium and are not chrome plated. They may have a clear lacquer coat to keep them shiny longer.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

January 2, 2019

thumbs up sign  Yes the wheels in the second photo were highly polished and would stay like that as long as they were attended to with Mother's Mag & Aluminum Polish [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] or White Diamond Polish [linked by editor to info on Amazon].

I also had success with a product called Sharkhide [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] which is used as sealant coat for aluminum pontoon boats. But to be fully sealed the wheels would have to be polished, then fully sprayed with Sharkhide so no areas were left exposed. That means the wheels need to be unmounted. The coating acts as a clear sealant and a buffer to the environment. I did a test on a polished magnesium timing plate starting from a gray color and after polishing and sealing, it was left untouched in the environment for a month. It was rained on it plenty of times. The uncoated portion grayed up and the rest remained polished.

Scott Snizek [returning]
Pacers Auto, Inc - West Hempstead, New York USA

Previous closely related Q&A's starting in 1996:


Q. I have a set of real magnesium wheels produced by a company called Halibrand. When they are polished they look better than chrome/aluminum.

The problem I am experiencing is that "you just have to look at them" and they start to fade and oxidize. At first it was fun using metal polish to return them to their lustrous state but that soon wore off. I subsequently got into a business selling buffs and compounds as I found these worked faster albeit the wheels had to be removed from the car.

My question: Is there some kind of clear-coating process that will withstand the elements but not "dull the shine" of the wheels? Lacquer does not stand up. I have a friend who has a powder coating company so if heat was involved I have access to that technology. The clears he normally uses he is afraid of applying as they tend to dull aluminum and would be hard to remove if a successful shine were not achieved.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks. - Bert

Bert B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]

affil. link
"Engineer To Win"
from Abe Books



A. Real magnesium wheels are no longer produced in great numbers for the reason stated. Most mag wheels still in existence are on early street rods or nostalgia race cars seeing limited use. They have always been a high maintenance item with most early race teams letting the wheels return to their natural dark grey state after giving up on the tedious polishing.

A two-component urethane coating would likely hold up fairly well with a reasonably good appearance; however, I have leaned toward the use of a good quality lacquer for several reasons. While this coating will not hold up as long, it will look much better at thin films, can be easily waxed with auto wax, and ultimately can be easily stripped off with lacquer thinner when the time comes for the inevitable re restoration several years later. A final thought is to be very careful when power buffing magnesium. Very few shops are set up properly to avoid the potential fire hazards when magnesium dust is present. Good luck!

Bob Anderson
Corporate Marketing Manager - Indiana
^- Reply to this post -^

Anti-corrosion Treatments for Magnesium Wheels


Q. I would like to know which is the best system for corrosive protection of magnesium die - cast wheels and for the final coating of them. I know the impregnation system with thermosetting methacrylate.

I was browsing to search for information related to: Surface treatment for magnesium (I remember an old publication of W.P. Innes, and I got this address.

Thanking in advance

Leonardo Z [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]

2001 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I have some old Halibrand automobile wheels I would like to restore the original Dow 7 finish on. They are cast from AZ 91 alloy. They are in excellent condition with minor corrosion. Please HELP !

P.S. They are for a Cobra car project.

Eddie Wilbanks
- Eads, Tennessee
^- Reply to this post -^

affil. link
Magnesium Finishing


A. Hello Leonardo, Eddie --

Please see our quite comprehensive on-line article: "Finishing of Magnesium" by Tom Pullizzi which includes the needed info on the Dow #7 process / dichromating sealer, as well as letter 14207, "Dow #7 / Dichromate treatment".

If possible, also try to find a copy of Dow's "Magnesium Finishing" booklet =>

You may also want to see our "Introduction to Chrome Plating" if chrome plating is one of the options you want to consider. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

The History of Mag Wheels


Q. Do you know where I can get student info on the history of magnesium wheels?

Kellie Argy
- LA, California
^- Reply to this post -^



A. A very interesting question! Perhaps pick up a copy of a magazine for performance cars, i.e. , Hot Rod Magazine [affil. link to Amazon]. Many ads for magnesium wheels. Many manufacturers of this type. Contact them all.

Another thing would be to search the web with "magnesium wheels", see what turns up. Good luck!

Bill Hemp
tech svc. w/ chemical supplier - Grand Rapids, Michigan
^- Reply to this post -^


A. I found this question in my ongoing search for a good way to protect my 16 x 13 Halibrand magnesium wheels. I've written some small articles that deal with the history of Halibrand Engineering and American Racing Equipment magnesium racing wheels. While far from being the definitive text on the subject, it's a start, http://roadsters.com/wheels/#Halibrand

Dave Mann
- Portland, Oregon
^- Reply to this post -^

thumbs up signThanks for the link, Dave -- excellent article!


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

To minimize search efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we combined previously separate threads onto this page. Please forgive any resultant repetition, failures of chronological order, or what may look like readers disrespecting previous responses -- those other responses may not have been on the page at the time :-)


Q. Does anyone have an idea on how to remove the corrosion from a magnesium motorcycle case and leave it bright? I am restoring an old BMW and the case halves are sandcast which is rather rough so it is hard to polish and very time consuming. I've used naval jelly on the aluminum which works fine but it won't touch the magnesium -- actually makes it worse. Any suggestions?

Dan Logan
- Portland, Oregon, USA
^- Reply to this post -^


A. Magnesium is very difficult to keep bright as you'll read above, which is why real mag wheels are rarely sold anymore (today's wheels are usually cast aluminum even if still called 'mag wheels'). Despite being difficult to polish, I think Mother's Mag & Aluminum Polish [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] is probably the best approach. Best of luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

2002 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread


Thank you,

Steve E [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Osceola, Nebraska
[last name deleted for privacy by Editor] " rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow" target="_blank"> ^- Reply to this post -^


A. Steve,

Quite a few people ask similar questions about aluminum and mag wheels.

Anyhow, I phoned up the local experts in Surrey.

They remove paint with paint remover BUT often use the Aircraft Stripper because often the paints (on good rims) are painted using a 2-component polyurethane paint.

They also shot peen if necessary. Then they apply a 2-component Polyurethane paint over the finished rims. They did it for us on a 7 year old car which showed signs of salt attack. Superb job.

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton [dec.]
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

(It is our sad duty to advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).


Q. Advice on restoring and polishing Mag Wheels?

Hi actually I do not have a bike, but a 73 Plymouth Roadrunner. Mopars are as timeless as a bike! I have some deep dish mag wheels Ansens 15x10 they are very dull and have blemishes scratches, etc. I have read the VERY useful advice from the folks here (some smart ones I might add). I guess the procedure would be about the same but advise on sanding how to wet or dry ? And polishing till the black is gone?

Thanks for the post,

Robert M Foster
- Marshall, Texas
^- Reply to this post -^

I have real mags that are a nightmare


Q. I own a 1929 Ford roadster that has American Racing turbo thrust 5-spoke wheels that are real mag. These have been on the car since the late 50's and a real polish problem that takes hours to clean/polish. My son-in-law said I need to have them pickled. Is this some thing I can do, if so what is required? ANY HELP WOULD MAKE MY DAY. Thank you.

Gary Willey
- Tigard, Oregon, USA
^- Reply to this post -^


A. The problem is that magnesium is highly reactive and acid dipping (pickling) will not make it less so. You would need to either clearcoat or lacquer the wheels, and neither is a permanent solution unfortunately.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Need a shop to service my mag wheels


RFQ: Need to know of a local shop in northwest Indiana or southwest Michigan that can polish and chrome a set of Harley stock mag wheels.

Sam Reihl
hobbyist - South Bend, Indiana, USA


RFQ: I also have a pair of Halibrand magnesium 12-spoke spindle-mount wheels in need of corrosion protection. Is there a company that will, at some reasonable cost, apply a protective coating for the individual consumer such as myself for such a low-volume application?
Coating should maintain the color close to the natural color.
Thanks - Lonnie

Lonnie C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Great Falls, South Carolina

Ed. note: These days the RFQs for finishing services are maintained on our "Looking for a Finishing Service" page rather than being scattered across outdated threads.

2006 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I am looking for the specifics of restoring various race car parts. I need to know the cleaning process for the magnesium, as well as the dichromating sealer to go on the cleaned magnesium. Any help greatly appreciated.


Vaughn Bright
plating shop - Virden, Illinois, USA

Ed. note: We added your question to this thread, Vaughn, because it's already answered above. Please see Ted Mooney's posting from 2001

To minimize search efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we combined previously separate threads onto this page. Please forgive any resultant repetition, failures of chronological order, or what may look like readers disrespecting previous responses -- those other responses may not have been on the page at the time :-)

Dietz number for magnesium make up of wheels


Q. I am taking a welding class and this is all a precursor to finishing and painting wheels. Most aluminum alloy wheels are made up of magnesium - what is the Dietz number or specific type of magnesium?

Brett Kevin Brand
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA


A. The vast majority of mag wheels are actually aluminum alloy. Most commonly, for North American cars & light trucks, alloy A356 (strontium-modified) cast by the low-pressure die-casting (LPDC) process.
A356: Al 91.1-93.3(wt%), Cu max 0.2, Fe max 0.2, Mg 0.25-0.45, Mn max 0.1, Si 6.5-7.5, Ti max 0.2, Zn max 0.1, Other, each max 0.05, Other, total max 0.15.

Alcoa produces forged wheels of Al 6061-T6 (to my recollection), mostly for heavy trucks.
Al 6061: Al 95.8-98.6(wt.%), Cr 0.04-0.35, Cu 0.15-0.4, Fe max 0.7, Mg 0.8-1.2, Mn max 0.15, Si 0.4-0.8, Ti max 0.15, Zn max 0.25, Other, each max 0.05, Other, total max 0.15.

Magnesium wheels are usually die-cast, probably mostly by the high-pressure die-casting (HPDC) process. Quantities are small in comparison to aluminum. The alloys are given in ASTM B94 and are mostly variants of AM60 & AZ91. E.g.,
AM60A: 5.5-6.5% Al, 0.13% Mn min,0.50% Si max, 0.35% Cu max, 0.22% Zn max, 0.03% Ni max, balance Mg.

AZ91D: 8.3-9.7% Al, 0.15% Mn min, 0.35-1.0% Zn, 0.10% Si max, 0.005% Fe max, 0.030% Cu max, 0.002% Ni max, 0.02% max. other (each), balance Mg.

Also, a UK site mentioned an RZ5 alloy used for wheels in both Formula One and Superbike competitions.
RZ5: Mg 94.05, Zn 5.62, Zr 0.19, Ce 0.10, Nd 0.03 (wt%).

Now, please explain 'Dietz number' and its relevance to magnesium, finishing and welding; I suspect it's not the kerosene lanterns & Wyoming coal mines found by googling.

Ken Vlach
- Goleta, California

contributor of the year

Finishing.com honored Ken for his countless carefully
researched responses. He passed away May 14, 2015.
Rest in peace, Ken. Thank you for your hard work
which the finishing world continues to benefit from.

Q, A, or Comment on THIS thread SEARCH for Threads about ... My Topic Not Found: Start NEW Thread

Disclaimer: It's not possible to fully diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations might be harmful.

If you are seeking a product or service related to metal finishing, please check these Directories:

Chemicals &
Consult'g, Train'g
& Software

About/Contact    -    Privacy Policy    -    ©1995-2021 finishing.com, Pine Beach, New Jersey, USA