How to Polish Aluminum Wheels to a Chrome like Mirror Finish, this procedure can also be used to for polishing stainless steel, alloy fuel tanks and Alcoa truck rims.
Well-polished aluminum can look like chrome but it takes time and patience to get the glossy mirror finish. You will need to work methodically to achieve this shiny chrome finish. One of the main things to keep in mind when you are polishing aluminum is that the smoother you get the aluminum, the more mirror-like it will be when you are finished.
First wash the aluminum using a detergent. We use a heavy-duty truck-wash, such as Chemtech’s Super Blue RL18 or CT18, mixed at a ratio of 1-part detergent to 16-parts water. On some wheels we also use degreaser to remove grease and brake-dust. This will remove any debris, which makes polishing the aluminum easier. Allow it to dry completely. We also use household kerosene to remove the bitumen that sticks to the rim.
Check the aluminum for anodizing or oxidation. This is a substance that makes aluminum look brushed.
Some people suggest using regular oven cleaner to remove the anodizing. Here is one method, spray the oven cleaner on the aluminum and leave it alone for 10 minutes (less time if the aluminum is thin). Wipe the anodized areas with the towel using a circular swirling motion to remove the oven cleaner. When the anodizing is removed, the area will look very bad. This is normal. Rinse the aluminum with clean water, then dry the area. We don’t use oven-cleaner because its pretty toxic.
We prefer to use Chemtech’s Blitz or California Custom’s Aluminum Deoxidizer, which gets rid of oxidation and stains quickly, easily and safely.
Today on these old Pontiac rims, we are using regular steel wool with soapy water to prepare the surface for polishing.
However in some cases you may find you’ll need to sand the aluminum. Depending on the condition start with a 320 grit sand paper. Wet the sand paper and the aluminum and begin sanding. This is called wet sanding. Take your time and make sure that you sand the entire surface. Continue sanding using the same method with sand paper of finer grits. For example, use 400 grit, then 600 grit followed by 800 grit, then 1200 grit and finally 2000 grit. With each new grit, you should remove all the marks from the previous grit. By the time you get to the 2000 grit, the aluminum will be very smooth, remember the smoother the finish the better the mirror effect will be.
There are a number of products on the market that can be used in the final buffing process. Today we are going for a simple polish and using SCA Cleaning and Polishing Kit from Supercheap Auto – the kit contains everything you need to remove abrasions, shine-up and return your precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum to their former glory. Great for applications such as jewellery restoration amongst other related uses.
You can also use Autosol Metal Polish with a Mothers PowerBall Mini fitted in an electric drill. We suggest to just dab the Autosol sparingly around the rim then using a slow to medium speed on the drill gently buff the surface. It will turn black, but don’t be alarmed keep buffing and before long you will see the mirror like shine.
We also use California Custom’s Purple Polish to maintain the shine every month or so.