A source of much pride to any vehicle owner is their wheels and rims. Often, rims make a statement about an owner's sense of style. Rims can come in many different styles and colours, but the most common and noteworthy rims are those that are chrome-plated. These shiny rims have unique designs and are viewable from far away. Chrome, aluminium alloy, and other metals, however, are susceptible to the elements and the finish can become dingy, dull, and even pocked with rust spots. However, with a few simple items or specially designed restoration products, owners can bring the shine and lustre back to their rims.
Determining the extent of the necessary restoration is the first step to undertake when restoring chrome rims. For example, if what appears on the surface of the rims is not rust, but tarnish, the rims are likely polished aluminium, not chrome. For chrome rims that are overly filthy or lightly rusted, some hand cleaning and light scrubbing does the trick. Heavy scratches need more detailing and involve the use of chrome paint.
Clean the rims with a dry rag at first, then with a damp rag using water, mild dish detergent, or wheel cleaner. A hand brush may be necessary to remove dirt from any corners. To remove the rust, steel wool is an option, but can scratch the surface if not done properly. A better idea is to cut several sheets of aluminium foil, ball them up tightly, and dunk them in water. The aluminium foil does not scratch and removes the rust easily, except for deeply-pocked spots.
Use chrome paint to touch up any light scratches on the surface or hard epoxy for any deep scratches. Users of the epoxy must buff the surface to a smooth finish after it dries, then touch up the area with chrome paint.
Finally, a coat of rim polish or wax should go on all surfaces of the chrome rim to both shine it to a mirror-like finish and also protect the rim against additional wear. This wax or chrome polish applies easily with a clean, damp rag or sponge.
The process for restoring aluminium alloy rims is much the same as it is for restoring chrome rims, except the process removes tarnish, not rust, for aluminium alloy rims. A mild dish soap mixed with water, such as a 10-to-1 ratio, is what a user needs to clean aluminium alloy rims. Again, a hand brush is handy for removing dirt in tight spots.
To remove any pockmarks or scratches, employ fine- to very-fine-grit wet/dry sandpaper, such as 200- or 300-grit. This leaves small swirl marks on the surface, but these are easier to cover up than gashes or major scratches. Then, use even finer-grit sandpaper, such as 500-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Finally, finish up with dry steel wool coated with a small amount of metal polish and gently rub it on the entire surface area.
Wipe the entire rim with a clean, dry rag, then apply another thin layer of metal polish with a clean rag or sponge, and allow it to sit overnight to cure the aluminium. The next morning, buff the polish off with another clean rag, then apply another polish or wax, such as de-oxidising polish or aluminium polish. Allow to dry and buff clear.
Painted metal rims are the most forgiving rims to restore, but actually require the most work. Again, the first step is to clear away any grime or dirt that has built up on the rims, including in the corners and around the lug nuts. Use a damp cloth, mild dish soap, and a hand brush for this purpose. Rinse the rim well with water, and dry it thoroughly. Use a paint stripper to remove the old paint, applying the liquid stripper with a brush. After it has set for a while, remove it and the old paint with an old rag. Fill in any deep scratches with putty and allow to dry. Buff the surface of the rims to smooth them out, such as with 220- to 440-grit sandpaper.
Wipe the surface again with a dry rag. Spray a light coat of primer on the surface of the rim and allow it to dry. Wet-sand the primer between coats, then apply again. After the final coat, wet-sand the surface with extra-fine sandpaper, such as 1,500 grit. Apply several coats of colour coat paint, allow each to dry, and then wet sand the rim. Do the same for up to four coats of clear coat. The entire painting process may take two or three days, depending on the humidity. Finally, apply a wax coat to make the wheels shine.
eBay is an ideal locale to find all of the necessary rim restoration products. Searching the site is simple, as each page has an easily identifiable search bar. Simply enter keyword phrases, such as "rim cleaner" or " chrome cleaner", into the search box. For a look at some offers, be sure to check out the eBay Deals page.
No matter the material, whether aluminium alloy, chrome, stainless steel, or even painted, rims add value and flash to any vehicle. Keeping those rims in good shape or restoring them when they begin to look bad can improve the appearance of your car, truck, or SUV.