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  1. #1
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    Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    I started a project today. Restoring a set of Aluminum wheels that are pretty well pitted from neglect in the elements. Here's the wheel style.



    The 5 spokes are polished aluminum and the wheel center and gap between the spokes are painted aluminum. No pitting on the painted surfaces, but lots of brake dust very well set into the finish ( not sure how I'm going to tackle the painted surfaces ). Today I sanded the unfinished spokes of 1 wheel with soap / water / 220 grit paper where the pitting was the worst and got rid of the pitting on the spokes. I'll be working through a few more grits before I'm done. Next is the outer rim which is also unpainted and has some good pitting on it.

    The sanding is taking a ton of elbow grease and wearing the skin off my fingers that are doing most of the sanding. I'm just using 2x4" sheets I cut with soapy car wash water. I'm not totally satisfied with the look but I'll reserve judgement til I go through the higher grits and smooth out the surface area.

    Has anybody tackled a task like this - and have a few pointers to make the task move a little faster with less effort / time. For tools, I have a good drill and a Random orbital sander that I don't want to get wet but might be useful if I can dry sand or buff some of this job out.

    Worst case scenario, I'll just have a long slow process of getting these wheels resurfaced by hand. But I'd like to speed things up if possible.

    Also: back side of wheel could use a ton of sanding too, but I'm guessing that's not worth the time and effort. Is it ... ?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Senior Member Vegas Transplant's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by ShineMyCar View Post

    The 5 spokes are polished aluminum and the wheel center and gap between the spokes are painted aluminum. No pitting on the painted surfaces, but lots of brake dust very well set into the finish ( not sure how I'm going to tackle the painted surfaces ). Today I sanded the unfinished spokes of 1 wheel with soap / water / 220 grit paper where the pitting was the worst and got rid of the pitting on the spokes. I'll be working through a few more grits before I'm done. Next is the outer rim which is also unpainted and has some good pitting on it.

    Has anybody tackled a task like this - and have a few pointers to make the task move a little faster with less effort / time. For tools, I have a good drill and a Random orbital sander that I don't want to get wet but might be useful if I can dry sand or buff some of this job out.

    Also: back side of wheel could use a ton of sanding too, but I'm guessing that's not worth the time and effort. Is it ... ?

    Thanks
    Unfinished spokes are finished - just not painted.
    1. Stripper
    2. Youtube videos :
    -refinish aluminum wheels
    -sanding aluminum wheels

    http://www.autogeekonline.net/forum/...-question.html
    VT
    Quote Originally Posted by glen e View Post
    ....It's all I use these days....they are buffing when I'm relaxing...and still don't get the powder out of canines!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Kevin Cullen's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    Is the wheel coated? If so you must strip it 1st. if they are bare aluminum you can sand the pits out.

    I do this all the time on Semi Truck wheels and tanks. They get pitted from the rocks on the highways. I move up in stages from 80 grit (very abused aluminum) to final of 1000 grit. I use Airway buffs, liquid polish, rouge compounds, mineral spirits and a two speed (1400-3200rpm) rotary polisher to buff it out. Depending on your buffer you may have to go to 1200 or 1500 grit to get that flawless finish.

    The smoother you get the surface the easier and better the polish will be. If you can fit it in there go to your local auto supply store that sells paint and get the sticky sanding disks and the backing plate. Then attach it into your 3/8 drill or a paint squealer if you have one. Beats the hand job!

    If you are polishing by machine the hotter the aluminum is the more it will "flow" under the compound and produce a more mirror finish. To remove the black residue from the polishing process that may be left over rub in some corn starch with a soft cloth. Will take the black right off.

    For the back of the wheel you could try a sisal buff to remove the pits before going to a finer grit for final sanding. If you do this be VERY VERY careful not to hold this buff in one spot. This stuff is like 8o grit sandpaper in a tight round roll! Sisal takes pitting out very quick.

    I don't wet sand just put on a high grade particle mask and go to town. Wet sanding will definitely reduse the aluminum dust.

    When you are all done seal the wheel or two months later you will be polishing again.

  4. #4
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    Interesting video. Not quite what I wanted though. I'm trying to get back to the original OEM finish, with the bare polished aluminum look.

    I'm focusing on sanding out the Pitting, and smoothing the overall surface, then finishing the wheel with a seal coat of sorts to keep the pitting from returning. I'm hoping the Klasse AIO + SC will take care of protecting the wheels, but I'm open to any suggestions with those who have experience with this type of project.

    I had thought about clear coating wheels once done, but haven't seen many good reviews of a clear coat product for the job.

    Thanks

  5. #5
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    I've re-done 3 sets so far...1)Stripper 2)Sand the damaged areas and feather it out..I use a orbital sander and depending on how deep the damaged spots are I adjust my paper..finishing with a fine grit. 3) Polish the wheel..the sets I've done so far looked great polished out so I cleaned them with denatured and clear coated them..

  6. #6
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Cullen View Post
    Is the wheel coated? If so you must strip it 1st. if they are bare aluminum you can sand the pits out.

    I do this all the time on Semi Truck wheels and tanks. They get pitted from the rocks on the highways. I move up in stages from 80 grit (very abused aluminum) to final of 1000 grit. I use Airway buffs, liquid polish, rouge compounds, mineral spirits and a two speed (1400-3200rpm) rotary polisher to buff it out. Depending on your buffer you may have to go to 1200 or 1500 grit to get that flawless finish.
    Only buffer i have would be a drill attachment I'd need to get. Is this what you are suggesting?



    Detailing a car is new endeavor for me, so I don't have any of the tools of the trades. Not looking to invest much in any either. Trying to do things by hand for now to keep costs down.


    The smoother you get the surface the easier and better the polish will be. If you can fit it in there go to your local auto supply store that sells paint and get the sticky sanding disks and the backing plate. Then attach it into your 3/8 drill or a paint squealer if you have one. Beats the hand job!
    Not quite sure what you are suggesting with Sanding Discs / sander. Anything I could pick up from Harbor Freight on the cheap ? My Orbital sander is more of the carpentry type.

    Could you post a link or photo to the type of tool you're suggesting so I know what to look for. If I am stuck finishing by hand, I definitely do not want to repeat this process on any kindof frequency. It's a slow process.

    If you are polishing by machine the hotter the aluminum is the more it will "flow" under the compound and produce a more mirror finish. To remove the black residue from the polishing process that may be left over rub in some corn starch with a soft cloth. Will take the black right off.
    Tools / technique are on the fly right now, not sure where I'll end up as the project moves forward. Just that today's work was more labor intensive and slow than I had imagined from the start.

    I don't wet sand just put on a high grade particle mask and go to town. Wet sanding will definitely reduse the aluminum dust.

    When you are all done seal the wheel or two months later you will be polishing again.
    I hope not. I was looking for more of a permanent solution that would keep pitting away with a good seal coat and keeping wheels clean. That's still my intention. Was anticipating using The Klasse combo on the wheels to keep em protected from elements. Any thoughts on that, or further suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  7. #7
    Senior Member Kevin Cullen's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    ShineMYCar-

    Yes that buff will work. Should get into the tight areas fine.

    The sanding disks are what the autobody guys use. A squealer is an air powered Dual Action sander/polisher.

    I have used Klasse AIO with good success. Have not tried Permanon yet but would like to.

  8. #8
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Cullen View Post

    The sanding disks are what the autobody guys use. A squealer is an air powered Dual Action sander/polisher.
    Yeah. I've seen those, but I have no way to power air tools so that's a no go for me.

    Anything comparable with a plug? Do the Orbital polishers that detailers on this forum work sanders too? Or is that not what they're designed to do?

    Power tool would definitely sanding up a bit. I don't seem to be finding anything online besides that air tool you mentioned. Any other thoughts on the sander?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Kevin Cullen's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    Do the Orbital polishers that detailers on this forum work sanders too? Or is that not what they're designed to do?

    I don't see why not if you can adapt them to the backing plate. The backing plate for the sanding disks has a 1/4 threaded bolt that screws into the squealer. I just put the threaded part into my chuck of a 3/8 drill and go to town. I have polished after the drill (just like a rotary polisher) and have used the dual action as my last sanding prep. Both leave a good finish after polishing by machine.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Kevin Cullen's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?

    ShineMyCar-

    Here is a picture of the backing plate with the 1/4 inch bolt. Your autobody supply dealer will be able to get one.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?-6-inch-sticky-sand-paper.jpg   Anybody restore Aluminum wheels wetsanding?-sand-pad-image.jpg  

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