[urq] Wheel restoration
laraa at sympatico.ca
Thu Jun 2 21:39:29 EDT 2005
From: Thatcher Hubbard thatcher.hubbard at gmail.com
You'll all have to forgive my ignorance, but can someone give me some
basics on what it takes to make wheels look nice again? A guy on
Audifans is selling some Fuchs that have some curb rash, a few
scratches on the faces but look good otherwise. Is curb rash
repairable? How do you repair an aluminum rim?
I ask because I'm tired of rolling around with these terrible 16" 5
spokes I've got on my car and I much prefer the look of the Urq with
the Fuchs on it.
I am in the middle of a complete Fuchs restoration process, so I can give
you a few tricks. My wheels were old, dirty, but straight and with minimal
curb damages. The backside was real dusty, thanks to 20 years of brake dust
and raod grime.
Here is what I did until today:
1- Clean the wheels with the approriate stuff, water and soap, but don't
spend too much on the wheel cleaner stuff, it doesn't cut through the old
2- A couple of wire brush (soft brass is OK, stainless steel is too hard) on
a hand drill will clean the backside of the wheel. Dusty (wear a mask, no
kidding) and time consuming, but you don't want to contaminate the front
side with dirt, when you'll refinish them. Then, use brake cleaner and
ScotchBrite (the green pad, not the blue one). This will be the last
operation to perform; the backside will be like new.
3- For the outside face, I removed the silver paint with generic paint
stripper (jelly like stuff). You'll see, the silver paint will bubble in no
time, but the white primer beneath the paint is a lot harder to remove.
Again, ScotchBrite is your friend, as well as time, ventilation, elbow
grease and thick rubber gloves. Don't forget the goggles, and a long sleeve
shirt. This stuff is real itchy.
4- Now, the last shield before you can get access to the bare aluminum is
the anodizing. You want to remove it too, since it is probably foggy, with
many scratches and marks. For this, I used Easy-Off Heavy-Duty (it contains
lye which will disolve the anodizing finish). Spray liberally, let it sits
for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse with water and use again that ScotchBrite
pad (you bought enough, don't you?) to remove all traces of the anodizing or
the white primer or any leftover.
Voila. This is where my story ends. The wheels are splendid, with a natural
cast aluminum look. Now, I will give them another Easy-Off treatment
tonight, just to uniformize the finish. Then I will bead-blast them with
glass beads in my home-made sandblasting cabinet (35$ for 50lbs of glass
beads, 30$ for a gun, 2$ for the cabinet made of recycled stuff). This last
operation is there to give the wheels a perfectly uniform "as-cast" finish.
The next step will be "How to refinish the wheels". (Answer in a few weeks)
a- Mask the "flower lip" and the rim lip and paint the wheels as they were
originally, that would be Zermatt Silver. Add a clear coat to the whole
wheel to protect the lips.
b- Clear coat the bare aluminum wheel with a satin finish (Eastwood Diamond
Clear Satin Aerosol, p/n 10300Z). No contrasting paint or surface treatment,
just a good coat of clear coat. Finally, I will decide if I polish the rim
lip or not. Still undecided.
My first try will be "b", because I prefer the look of natural aluminum, and
it will be a lot easier...
Now, from what I found regarding the curb marks: after all these operations,
you can use a wet-sanding sand paper to polish the marks. This will not make
them disapear, but they will be less evident. Or if you paint the lip, same
So, here is my 100% DIY solution to wheel refinishing. Overall, it is pretty
involving, and may not cost a lot less than having them professionally
refinished, but you'll end up with a satisfying result, with the added bonus
of bragging "I did these myself, in my basement". This will add a priceless
value to my already priceless Fuchs.
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