Wheel Polishing Results by Bob Jones
After reading the July issue of Fiero Focus, I thought I would reply to your appeal from those who have restored their aluminum wheels. I do not know if this will help, but NIFE has been so generous and informative to me in the past, I thought a response from me was in order.
My Fiero is an ’88 GT with gold wheels. The centers of my wheels (the gold part) were nearly perfect so I did not touch it, but the rim had been damaged by the Florida salt air. I depended on the article published in the January ’98 issue of Fiero Focus to start my restoration process.
Removing the clear coat was easy and fast. Use MAR HYDE Aluminum stripper - just lay it on with a cheap brush, cover everything you want stripped. Do not get it on the tires or the center section or anything you do not want stripped. Be sure to wear latex gloves. When applying, do not brush this product on, just lay it on a thick coat at a time and completely cover everything you want removed because you do not want to have to do this twice. DO NOT breath the fumes; this material is a carcinogen; use it out of doors in a breeze. Buy the smallest amount you can - a few ounces will do all four wheel rims. Buy a plastic putty knife to lift off the gunk and have a bag handy to dispose of it - do not let it dry on the wheel. MAR HYDE will do its job in about fifteen minutes. Use paint thinner on paper towels to clean away the residue and flush the wheel with plenty of water. Refer to the instructions on the can - they do know what they are talking about; I did two wheels at a time - both on one side of the car.
The slow part of the process was masking the areas you want to protect. Buy 3M masking tape, not too wide because you are not dealing with straight lines obviously, you are dealing with the curvature of the wheel. One inch wide tape or less would do fine. I did the whole thing with the tires on the wheels and wheels on the car! After doing it this way, I would not recommend this procedure, but I had no way to get the car up in the air.
To assist with the masking procedure, I made up a nearly flat cone from plasticized cardboard which I had on hand to use as a cover for the center section. I made this about 1/8 of an inch smaller in radius than the gold paint so I could tape it to the gold without covering the aluminum groove next to it. I used short pieces of tape to cover all the gold exposed edge and then did the same for the tire all the way around (if you leave the wheel on the tire). I rolled the car forward or backwards ˝ turn of the wheel so that I was working on the top half of the wheel for the most part. Good eyesight and good light are a necessity for this project.
It was difficult getting the oxidation and corrosion off the rim. Leave all of the masking tape in place for this step. I used expanded plastic because it does not scratch like sandpaper even though it cuts slower than sandpaper. I used a double layer of kitchen floor covering as a form to wrap the plastic around because it conformed to the curves - and I had it on hand. I used a form that is big enough for two hands (eight fingers) and started sanding. Unless you have a power tool of some kind, this manual method is slower, hard on your hands, back, legs and all other muscles but it was the best I could come up with. As you are sanding, be sure not to not breathe in the aluminum dust. I spent about two hours sanding each wheel and while they are not perfect, I can always go back and do more sanding to remove the minute deposits of black specs left on the wheels (probably brake dust deposits).
From the beginning, I never intended to put clear coat on the wheels again. I polished the bare metal with EAGLE Aluminum Polish. The rims really sparkled, almost like chromium. All of my effort was worth while in my opinion. Finally, I applied some MEGUIRE’S wax for protection which took away some of that sparkle, but I figured the wheels need some protection against the elements.
This whole project took 4 -1/2 days to complete. First day I masked the wheels. Second day I stripped, cleaned, sanded, polished and waxed the first set of wheels. Then repeated the routine on the other side of the car. Personally, I would find another, easier, better way to do the corrosion removal. I will have to do some more thinking about this step. I hope this information is useful and helpful to someone else in our club.