How to Refinish Aluminum Rims
You've had that beautiful car for a while now. Everyone agrees it's nice looking, and the best feature is the rims--stylish aluminum rims that enhance its elegance. Unfortunately the years haven't been kind to them. Those old aluminum rims are starting to look a little raggedy; small scratches and scrapes everywhere. It may be time to think about replacing them. Or better yet, getting a quality refinishing job on those rims. Refinishing can usually be done at a fraction of the price of replacing--especially if you do the job yourself.
If you're thinking of making your aluminum rim refinishing a do-it-yourself project, the first thing you need to determine is whether or not there is any significant damage to the rim. Structural damage would probably make it a poor candidate for a garage or driveway repair. Cosmetic flaws are another matter. Check with an auto repair shop to make sure you're making the right decision. You don't want to take all the finish off then find out you've tackled a job you can't handle. Consulting with a professional is always sound advice. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you have friends that have done this before, see if they'd be willing to help. You've stuck a lot of time and money into your car, and the rims are an integral part of the overall look of the vehicle. You don't want them to end up looking worse than when you started.
If all that's wrong with the rim is that it's scuffed or scratched, then it's possible you can make it look nearly new again. Before you actually start the process of refinishing your aluminum rims, make sure you're prepared to sweat a little. This is a labor intensive job. You'll be using muscles you probably don't normally use.
Since you've determined that refinishing the rim is doable, you need to prepare the rim and gather the material and equipment you'll need to get job done right.
The first step is to clean the rim as thoroughly as you can. Use hot water and elbow grease to get all the grime off.
The next step is to smooth the surface of the rim. A couple of different grades of sandpaper will be useful; a rough paper for the worst scratches and much smoother sand paper and steel wool to complete the process. This is the most labor intensive and time consuming part of the job. If you really want a good looking rim, spend as much time as it takes to get the job done--even though your arm will undoubtedly feel like it's falling off. Don't call good enough, good enough. If you get tired, take a break and relax a little before finishing the project.
After the rim is as smooth as you can make it, it's time to refinish it. In the smoothing process you've removed the coating – make sure all the coating is gone or the new finish may not stick. Now it's time to refinish the rim.
Some sources recommend using RustOleum paint, others go with an industrial clear coat or spray aluminum paint followed by polymer to protect the finish. This is where your research and personal taste come in. Decide how you want the rim to look, and finish it accordingly.
After the finish is dry, it's time to mount the rims. Your car will look like new…well, it'll look better, anyway, and you've saved yourself a lot of cash.
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