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how to refurbish your alloy wheels

This is a walk through of what Iíve done to refurb my FTO OE wheels (twice!) and my hubbyís MR2ís (note that none of them had seriously bad marks that needed filling).

My standard wheels were in this state; fairly okay but with a couple of stained patches that had gone through lacquer and paint. There were one of two light curbing marks (not done by me!!) that were easily sanded down.

And this is what I did with brake cleaner (Iím not proud, you know!)

Here are some pics of the state of the MR2 wheels:

Ok so, what we need is:

Some paint stripper mousse (to make the stripping job a bit easier), might need 2 cans.

Some steel wool srcubbing pads.

Loads of sand paper: depending on how bad the state of your wheels is you might need to start carefully with very rough grit. Have at hand 80, 100, 120, 180, 240 (dry) and 280, 400, 600, 800 and 1200 (wet&dry).

Brillo pads (one per wheel should do). They are good cos they come with a soapy polishing compound.

Autosol or some metal polishing paste and some cloths.

1 can of Primer, 2 cans of paint, 2 cans of acrylic lacquer, Chemical Guys Wheel Sealant.

Choose the colour you want either wheel paint or you have more choice in the normal car paint colours, as long as you protect it with lacquer it should be okay. And if you choose to do them white, better get white primer instead of grey. A few rolls of masking tape and electrical insulting tape (it makes it easier to mask the lip if needed as itís stretchy) and loads of newspapers, to cover the tyres and the area where youíll be painting, as the spray paint seems to fly everywhere! So first cleaning and stripping...

Give them a good clean with the srcubbing pads until you get off most of the old paint and dirt. Then start sanding so you get rid of rests of paint, stain/corroded patches and light curbing marks. I used 100 to 240 (dry), but always start with a higher grit and if itís no good go lower so you donít make unnecessary marks that are difficult to get rid of later.

Now you should have a clean surface to start the smoothing process with Wet&Dry. For the spokes and also if youíre not going for the polished lip, you can shorten this stage to: 280, 400, 600 W&D.

If youíre doing the polished lip then youíll have to keep going down in grit with wet&dry.

Note: This stage is VERY boring and tiring. It tests yourdetermination, patience and stubborness to the limit. Your fingers tips and nails will wear off (you might want to tape them); if youíre using gloves, theyíll break, your hands will start to cramp and your wrists will go all floppy :( Donít give up! The results are excellent!

Do several thorough passes with each grit: 280, 400, 600, 800 and 1200; then brillo pads wet, once the soap runs out, use the brillo pad dry with autosol, and last, cloth with autosol. You should get something like this:

Now, washing, masking, cleaning and priming...Wash the wheel so there are no dusty remains from the sanding. Mask the tyre to avoid nasty oversprays. If you want the polished lip youíll also need to mask the lip with the electrical tape as itís easy to stretch into shape. Make sure youíll be able to remove it easily so you can apply lacquer to everything if needed when you finish painting the spokes.

Clean the surface thoroughly with white spirit and you can start priming: 2 or 3 even coats of primer should do.

All primed:

Masked lip:

Then the paint, 4 or 5 coats should be enough.
Rotate the wheels for every coat so you make sure you cover every angle.

All painted:

Finally, 4-5 coats of lacquer to protect the paint. You can also wait till the lacquer is Very Well dry and seal it with a several coats of wheel sealant paste (I used Chemical Guys).

So this is the end for the ďall paintedĒ look:

If you have masked the lip, you need to decide if youíre leaving it just polished or lacquered. In principle, the lacquer would give it more protection and would mean less mantainance. Or, you can also keep them looking good by polishing the lip with autoglym metal polish which has a protecting wax in it, but you have to keep on top of them.

Note: After a year of having done them I found that the lacquer I used on the lip (Simoniz Acrilyc Lacquer) gets easily chipped, water starts slipping under it showing spidery like marks. So if you find a tougher lacquer, go for it and let me know please! Otherwise, I'll leave the lip unlacquered next time.

Okay, then, if you've decided to leave it just polished, once you've finished lacquering as above let it dry well and you can unmask the lip and seal everything:

If you've decided to lacquer everything for more protection, remove the masking from the lip ONLY, give it a quick pass of white spirit to remove any marks of the masking tape, wipe it off well and dry, then apply 4-5 coats of lacquer to the whole wheel.

Again, once dry, you can seal everything and unmask the tyre.

First time on the FTO, before my brake cleaner encounter:

and second time :)

Might not be the last though!!

And second time on the MR2, in Ford Graphite Grey Metallic:

Good luck!

Follow these guidelines at your own risk.

Note: you are not allowed to copy, distribute or sell this how-to or its pictures, in whole or in part without our express consent.