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Polishing in itself is mainly done to preserve and enhance the properties of a certain surface. In the case with cars, polishing helps bring back the paint’s initial shine and gets rid of scratches and swirls.
The same is done with aluminum wheels except that the polish isn’t the same as the one meant for a car’s paint. While fundamentally the process is the same, you still need to make sure you get the correct product and use the correct technique.
But no matter how new you are to this it is still not that hard when you have the right guide in hand for this type of car maintenance process.
One of the reasons why more and more people opt-in for aluminum wheels and why more manufacturers are using them on newer models is their corrosion resistance.
Although they need to be treated with an aluminum wheels polish product from time to time, they are still a more cost-effective option than steel. Their level or corrosion resistance also makes it easier to clean and polish them.
Since aluminum wheels are not that heavy they also help with acceleration and fuel economy. Aluminum wheels make for a smoother ride because of their lightweight whilst being as strong as steel wheels.
For a product with a lower cost of ownership, you get naturally shinier wheels which will improve the curb appeal of your vehicle. But as we already know, in order for these wonderful properties to last you a long time polishing is what you should do but do it the following way too.
How to Buff & Polish
Before you apply an aluminum wheels polish product you need to prep the surface as it is probably filled with scratches and grooves. Of course, the best way to do this is to buff it out which is basically a smoothing process which involves a set of buffing wheels and buffing compounds.
Before you start this process it’s important to have the RPMs (revolutions per minute) and pressure right. To get a good balance between the two you can practice on the back of the wheel first.
1. First, start by cutting away anything that can get in the way of you buffing such as valve stems, stickers and such. Then, clean the wheels with a powerful degreaser, some heavy-duty scouring pads and elbow grease too. Once you’ve given them a good scrub, rinse them thoroughly with a high-pressure wash hose to avoid buffing grime into the aluminum. Before you begin buffing, remove curb rash (if any) with a flat file but be careful not to remove a lot of material as this will affect the balance of the wheel.
2. Get your stiffest buffing wheel and put on the harshest compound and together with the right amount of pressure and RPM buff out the wheel one section at a time. Clean the wheel before you proceed to the next section and make sure you use a different wheel for every single one to prevent contamination. Remember to start from coarse and then gradually step it down to softer wheels and compounds.
3. For the polishing part, take a clean rag and apply some of the polishing product onto the rag in order to keep it from drying before you start rubbing it in. Do not apply the polish to the wheel in small circles as this is going to lead to a streaky finish. Make sure you are polishing one section at a time, by starting with the wheel surface then going on to the lug nuts and lastly rubbing along the grain of the wheel.
4. You can also get a toothbrush and wrap it in a cloth and use it to clean any small crevices like the spoke areas. Once you’re done, wipe the wheel with a soft towel – remember to rub with the grain not against it in order to remove the leftover polish. Make sure you are always using new towels on each section as this way you won’t be rubbing polish or dirt back in when cleaning the wheels.
Driving Tips To Help You Preserve Aluminum Wheels
Potholes & Curbs
This is a basic one, potholes can be a hindrance for a lot of car parts and wheels are one of them. So make sure to not speed over them, take it slow like you were to go over a speed bump.
The curb can be dangerous too if you are driving very close to it – this way you can easily damage the wheels. Whilst they won’t be rendered useless they’ll still need some sort of vehicle maintenance in order to stay operational in the foreseeable future.
Salt & Corrosion
These two go hand in hand and are the sneakiest forms of damage to the wheels especially when driving through salted winter roads or in areas near the sea.
Corrosion may not cause damage right there on the spot, but over time it can make your wheels uneven and cause the seal with the tires to break off.