Polishing rims: between eye-catcher and safety

For many, the rims on a car are the real attraction. To make sure they stay that way for a long time and don’t become a case for the rim doctor, they need the right care and maintenance. Polishing, cleaning, and repairing rims – this is how it works.

Nowadays, in addition to its technical function, a rim is above all an eye-catcher that enhances the appearance of a car. There are a total of three different types of rims, which differ in the basic materials from which they are made. This includes the steel rim, the aluminum rim and those made of chrome. All of them have certain properties that speak for or against them.

Roughly speaking, aluminum and chrome rims can be more popular and also more expensive as steel rims are. The higher degree of popularity is a result of the more appealing optics. The higher price is due to the fact that light alloy rims require more material and are generally more complex to manufacture. this also ensures that alloy wheels, so that they have a greater longevity have heavier in weight. Chrome rims have the disadvantage that even a rim doctor is often not able to repair them.

1. Steel rims: what makes them? How are they nurtured?

The two greatest advantages of steel rims are their robustness and their favorable price compared to aluminum and chrome rims. The lower price is also the main reason why they are often used for the winter season, which is shorter in Germany. This is only a few months compared to the summer season and the transitional periods. That’s why it’s worth buying expensive rims made of light alloy or chrome for the winter wheels for enthusiasts only, as they are then only used for a short period of time.

Cars whose rims are rusted have no disadvantage at the main inspection. They get the appropriate operating permit if they are properly registered in the vehicle documents after installation and have an ABE (general operating permit).

Cleaning and maintenance

In the first step, you spray the rims thoroughly with a high-pressure cleaner from. If you don’t have one at home, you can find such devices at self-service car washes. afterwards you spray rim cleaner and leave it on for between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the instructions on the bottle. Then clean the rim with a cloth or a narrow brush.

If you find particularly stubborn dirt on your steel rims, such as burnt-in brake dust, you should take the car to the workshop toothpaste for help. Make sure that the paste does not contain abrasive particles, such as those found in toothpastes for particularly white teeth. Work the toothpaste thoroughly into the residues with an old toothbrush and wait a few minutes. Dirt can be easily removed with a cloth afterwards.

When cleaning and polishing your steel rims, pay attention to this, no chemical or abrasive cleaning agents to use, because they damage the paint layer. If in doubt, test the agent in an inconspicuous place.

Prepare steel rims by yourself

Rusty steel rim is polished

Rusty steel rim is polished

One disadvantage of steel rims is that they start to wear out, especially when used frequently in winter rust and devalue the overall appearance of the vehicle. Once this has happened, polishing the rims will not help either. Only a new coat of paint can remedy the situation. You can also do this yourself in a few steps.

  1. first remove the old paint from the rim. This can be done in several ways. Among other things, a sandblasting cabin is suitable here, but it is very expensive. Use the much cheaper abrasive paper, but it is more labor intensive to use. Alternatively, an attachment for the drill can be used. For particularly stubborn rust, use a wire brush attachment.
  2. To keep the surface as even as possible, sand the rim completely with a medium-grit (about 400 grit) wet abrasive paper.
  3. clean the rim thoroughly afterwards from grinding dust and other dirt. Use either nitro thinner or a silicone remover for this purpose.
  4. Now prime the rim with a two-component filler, such as an epoxy resin.
  5. Then you sand again with a sandpaper with finer grit (600 to 800) wet off.
  6. Choose a color and paint the rim. Do this in several coats, making sure that the spray can or gun is always in motion during the painting process. How to avoid ugly paint noses.
  7. Then seal the surface with clear varnish. Make sure that the individual components (primer, paint and clearcoat) are compatible with each other and do not lead to undesirable reactions.

Instead of painting the steel rim, it is also possible to paint it with a powder coating to be provided. This is extremely resistant, but also costs much more than a paint job.

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2. Chrome rims: how to treat them right?

Probably the biggest difference between chrome rims and steel rims is that they are not painted and the classic rim polishing process is not used on them either. They get their characteristic glossy look from the galvanization process. in principle, they are chromed aluminum rims. Like magnesium rims, they also belong to the light metal rim segment, even though chrome is classified as a transition metal in the chemical sense.

Chrome rim

chrome rim

The advantage over painted rims is that they are extremely durable with regard to hot brake dust are, which often burns in. Due to their high degree of stiffness, brushes and rags do not normally cause any damage. However, precisely because of their hardness, there is also a certain sensitivity to shock, so that they are damaged when they come into contact with curbs and guide rails in the washing system.

How to clean and polish your chrome rims

  1. do not use conventional rim cleaners! even with chrome rims, stay away from abrasive cleaning agents. Normal rim cleaners also contain abrasives that take the shine off the surface.
  2. Use instead better warm water or a special cleaner for chrome rims. In fact, a clean cloth and a little warm water is usually enough to clean a chrome rim. Instead, rinsing agent or a chrome polish are also good to use. the latter has the additional advantage that it usually also removes annoying rust easily.
  3. Home remedies are also useful for polishing your chrome wheels: a little vinegar or baking soda will give them a new shine. Apply a thin layer of polish, let it work for a moment, and then rub it in gently with a soft cloth.
  4. If the rims are still too dull, polish them with a clean cloth.

When using chrome rims, make sure that the chrome plating is really through galvanization has been reached. Various dealers offer chrome rims with SLC coating. this is a powder coating that does not meet the same quality standard.

3. Polishing, cleaning and repairing aluminum rims – but how??

Rims made of aluminum are mainly for optical reasons bought. Especially in the tuning scene but also overall they enjoy great popularity. Originally, they were used because they were lighter and therefore improved ride comfort and reduced wear on shock absorbers and suspension. In the meantime, however, aluminum rims are built with much more material, so this advantage is gone.

To get dirty rims clean again, first clean them with water before cleaning. This also works with a ride through the car wash quite well. For more stubborn dirt like burnt brake dust, home remedies like oven spray, the mentioned toothpaste or even a cleaning stone are good to use. To polish the rims, use polishing discs and pastes.

  • Cleaning with oven spray: after pre-cleaning, let the rims dry well or rub them dry with a cloth. Spray them then from the outside and inside with oven spray and let the agent act for 15 minutes. Then you spray the rims with a water hose or rinse them with a water bucket. Alternatively, you simply remove the residue with a cloth.
  • Cleaning with toothpaste: put a little toothpaste on a slightly damp cloth. Rub the dirty places with it vigorously and remove the dirt so. Then rinse the rims with clean water again.
  • Cleaning with a cleaning stone: rub a damp sponge over the polishing stone and then wring it out to get a foam. Then use it to clean your aluminum rims and rinse them with fresh water.

Repairing minor damage yourself

Sanding the alloy rim

Grind the rim

The biggest enemies of aluminum rims are the usual aids against black ice on roads, i.e. grit and road salt. Also make sure not to touch the surface with them curbs and guide rails to the rim, as this will result in unsightly scratches or even hairline cracks. If this happens to you, you have the option of taking the alloy rims to a rim doctor. You can also easily repair minor damage yourself. Proceed as follows:

  1. Clean the damaged area of the rim with nitro thinner so that the damage is clearly visible.
  2. Then sand the surface with a coarser sandpaper with a grit of about 240. Then sand again with a finer grit of about 360 over the alloy rim and blow off all dust.
  3. Tape the surrounding areas cleanly and protect especially the tire, which can be damaged by the paint and the sanding process.
  4. Now fill the damaged area with a little repair filler and then smooth it out. It is important that you read the instructions for use of the filler carefully, as it is mixed in a specific ratio.
  5. Allow the result to cure. The rule of thumb here is: it is better to wait a little too long! If the result does not meet your expectations, repeat the procedure.

Be careful. scratches must not be deeper than 2 millimeters in any case. Is namely a hairline crack present, the rim must be replaced.

paint aluminum rims by yourself

It is also possible that you paint your alufelge independently. For this you need different equipment like sandpaper with grits from coarse to very fine. You will also need a primer for aluminum, rim and clear coat, and a dust mask. Ideally, you have an assembly machine at your disposal. Now follow the steps below:

  1. You start with polishing the rims to remove small scratches. This is easily done with some sandpaper of grit 240.
  2. Then remove the old paint. Use wet sandpaper with different grits for the individual sanding phases. First a grit of 400, then 600 and finally 800 or 1000. The varnish can also be chemically removed or sandblasted. However, make sure to completely remove the sanding dust immediately afterwards and use the dust protection mask during this process.
  3. Now clean the surface of the alloy rim. A commercially available silicone remover or nitro thinner is suitable for this purpose.
  4. Now you prime the rim with a so-called filler. you will often find this also under the name "alu-primierung".
  5. Now paint the alloy rim in the desired color. Keep the spray can or gun in constant motion so that no ugly paint noses are left behind. Then apply the clear coat. Make sure that the individual components you have used are compatible with each other.

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4. If nothing else helps, the rim doctor is the only option

The rim doctor welds a rim

The rim doctor welds a rim

If the existing damage to your rim can no longer be repaired by yourself, or if you do not trust yourself with this procedure, a rim doctor can help rim doctor. It repairs damage caused, for example, by curbs. This will risk of hairline cracks reduce the damage and you will save the money for a new purchase. The rim doctor offers various repair options, which differ in their scope of work and thus in the costs incurred. Painting, for instance, is cheaper than powder coating, but also more vulnerable.

Get one in any case cost estimate create from the rim doctor. Here’s how to assess if it’s worth the effort or if buying new rims is more beneficial for you.

Typical cases for the rim doctor

  • Minor dents and dings
  • Paint chips
  • scratches and nicks
  • Scrapes and corrosion damage
  • Stubborn dirt

services at the rim doctor

  • Rim polishing
  • Sanding and filling
  • priming and painting
  • powder coatings
  • Round notches
typical cases for the rim doctor services at the rim doctor
minor dents and dings rims polishing
paint chips sanding and filling
scratches and nicks priming and painting
abrasions and corrosion damage powder coatings
stubborn dirt notches round

Chrome rims or those with finishes of chrome and titanium are no case for the rim doctor. even the selective reconditioning of chrome rims is not an option, as this is not permitted according to the stvo (german road traffic regulations).

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