Aluminum wheels are a popular choice among car enthusiasts due to their lightweight, durability, and stylish look. However, over time, these wheels can become dull and lose their shine due to exposure to road grime, brake dust, and weather conditions. If you want to restore your aluminum wheels’ shine, sanding them is an effective way to do so. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to sand aluminum wheels like a pro.
What tools are needed during sanding aluminum wheels?
To sand your aluminum wheels, you will need some essential tools and supplies, including:
Dust mask or respirator
Sandpaper with various grits ( ranging from 80 to 320 grit)
Before you start sanding, it’s important to ensure that you have all the necessary tools and supplies to complete the job safely and effectively.
Steps to sand aluminum wheels
Step 1: Clean the Wheels
Before sanding, you must clean the wheels thoroughly to remove any dirt, grime, or debris that could interfere with the sanding process. Begin by rinsing the wheels with water to remove any loose debris. Then, fill a bucket with water and add some soap. Dip a sponge into the soapy water and use it to clean the wheels, paying special attention to any areas with stubborn dirt or brake dust buildup. Rinse the wheels with clean water and dry them with a microfiber cloth.
Step 2: Remove Any Surface Damage
Once the wheels are clean and dry, inspect them for any surface damage, such as scratches or dents. For minor scratches, you can use a rubbing compound or metal polish to buff them out. For deeper scratches or dents, you may need to use a specialized aluminum wheel repair kit or take the wheels to a professional for repair.
Step 3: Start sanding with coarse grit sandpaper
Now it’s time to start sanding the wheels. Choosing the right grit of sandpaper for aluminum wheel is crucial to achieve the desired finish.
Begin with a coarse grit sandpaper (such as 400 grit) and wrap it around a sanding block. Wet the sandpaper and the wheel surface with a water spray bottle to prevent dust buildup. Use the sanding block to sand the surface of the wheel in a back-and-forth motion, applying firm but gentle pressure. Make sure to sand all areas of the wheel, including the crevices and corners.
Step 4: Switch to finer grit sandpaper
After sanding with the coarse grit sandpaper, switch to a finer grit sandpaper (such as 800 grit) and repeat the same process. The finer grit sandpaper will remove any scratches left by the coarse grit sandpaper and prepare the surface for the final sanding.
Step 5: Continue with even finer grit sandpaper
Repeat the sanding process with even finer grit sandpaper (such as 1000 grit, 1500 grit, and 2000 grit). Each time, make sure to wet the sandpaper and the wheel surface with a water spray bottle to prevent dust buildup. Sand in a back-and-forth motion, applying gentle pressure, and be sure to sand all areas of the wheel. The finer grit sandpaper will remove any remaining scratches and leave the surface smooth and shiny.
Step 6: Polish the Wheels
After sanding, the wheels will have a dull appearance. To restore their shine, use a polishing compound designed for aluminum wheels. Apply a small amount of the compound to a microfiber cloth and rub it onto the surface of the wheel in a circular motion. Continue to rub the compound into the surface until the wheel is shiny and smooth.
Step 7: Clean the Wheels Again
Once you have polished the wheels, clean them again with soap and water to remove any leftover polishing compound. Rinse the wheels with clean water and dry them thoroughly with a microfiber cloth.
Step 8: Apply a Protective Coating
To protect the wheels from future damage and preserve their shine, apply a protective coating. There are various types of coatings available, including clear coats, wax, and sealants. Clear coats are a popular choice as they provide a durable and long-lasting protective layer. However, if you prefer a more natural look, wax or sealants can be used.
Apply the protective coating according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring that you cover the entire surface of the wheel evenly. Allow the coating to dry completely before driving the vehicle.
Step 9: Reinstall the Wheels
Once the wheels are completely dry and the protective coating is cured, reinstall them onto the vehicle. Tighten the lug nuts to the manufacturer’s recommended torque specification, ensuring that they are evenly tightened.
Tips for Sanding Aluminum Wheels
- Wear protective gear: Sanding can create a lot of dust, so it’s important to wear protective gear, including a dust mask, safety glasses, and gloves.
- Work in a well-ventilated area: Sanding can create a lot of dust, so it’s important to work in a well-ventilated area or outside to avoid inhaling harmful particles.
- Use the right sandpaper: Using the correct sandpaper grit is important for achieving a smooth, shiny finish. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper and work your way up to finer grits.
- Use a sanding block: A sanding block helps ensure even sanding and prevents uneven surfaces or grooves on the wheels.
- Don’t rush: Sanding takes time, and rushing the process can lead to uneven results. Take your time, be patient, and work methodically to achieve the best results.
Sanding aluminum wheels can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but the results can be well worth the effort. By following the steps outlined in this article and using the right tools and supplies, you can restore your aluminum wheels to their former glory and improve the performance of your vehicle. Remember to always wear safety gear and take your time to achieve the best results possible. With a little patience and elbow grease, you can have beautiful and shiny aluminum wheels that will turn heads wherever you go.