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Cleaning Aluminum Wheels: How to Remove Pitting

cleaning aluminum wheelsAluminum rims are the common choice of wheels for most manufacturers. Because this type of metal is soft, aluminum wheels become pitted and scarred easily. Salt, gravel and even the wrong cleaning agent can ruin their appearance as the clear coat wears or chips away. That doesn't mean they have to be replaced; a few simple tools and products can get them back into good condition. Cleaning aluminum wheels can be an easy and satisfying project.  Once you do repair the rims, look into the wheel woolies for cleaning aluminum wheels!


The first step in cleaning aluminum wheels is to wash off the dirt and grease that has built up with a safe auto soap. Using a soft but durable wheel brush, scrub the rims until they're clean of all debris and contaminants. Dry them thoroughly with a microfiber cloth.  


Most pitting can be removed from aluminum wheels by sanding it away. Wet sanding is widely recommended, but make sure to begin with a clean bucket of soap and water rather than used and dirty. While the type of sandpaper grit varies, it's best to start in the 200 grit range of sandpaper to remove the heaviest pitting first. 

Wet the sandpaper and sand away the damage. Rinse occasionally to check your work. Follow up with a finer grit sand paper in the 400 range. Repeat the sanding and rinsing until satisfied with your results. A third sanding with a 600 to 800 grit sandpaper should smooth out the wheel and make it shine. Be mindful that the smoother the surface, the better it will shine when polished. The elbow grease will be worth the effort.

Coat and Polish

After sanding away the pitting, rinse the wheel, and dry it completely. If the clear coat has been completely removed, reapply one to three layers of clear coat, making sure each layers dries before adding another.

After the clear coat has had time to dry thoroughly, apply a paste wax or polish, and buff with a clean lint-free cloth until the rim develops a deep, mirror-like shine. While a good polish will last, pastes and waxes will have to be reapplied from time to time, so plan ahead with your detailing schedule.  You could also polish your aluminum wheels to look like chrome

Cleaning aluminum wheels sometimes requires dealing with dangerous and unsightly pitting that ruins a wheel's inner structure. While it may be necessary to see a professional for a sand or soda blasting procedure, most aluminum wheels can be repaired easily at home.


Photo Credit: via Flickr 


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