A WINTER PROJECT FOR YOUR FIERO…CLEAN AND POLISH YOUR WHEELS
by Dick Wiberg and the Michigan Fiero Club
(With a few of my own comments by Jason Wenglikowski)
Here is something I copied from the Michigan Fiero Club’s newsletter. I have added some of my own comments, where needed. I have stripped and painted a set of 14" rims and I have also used this process below on a set of 15" rims. The same info can be found at:
http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/8487/wheel.htm. Hope this helps.
Why should the aluminum wheels be cleaned? Whether they are the 13” Turbine Cast Alloy, the 14" High-Tech Alloy, or the 15" Diamond Spoke Alloy Wheels, they should be cleaned for TWO REASONS: First, clean wheels look better and everyone likes a good looking Fiero! Second, corroded wheels, if left untouched, will, in time, weaken and fail
The first step in cleaning your wheels is to remove the wheel weights. Either mark the tires from where the weights were removed or plan on having the tire and wheels re-balanced when you are done. We will go into this later in the article. The next step is to remove the CLEARCOAT (a clear paint which, when chipped, allows moisture to attack the alloy and corrosion to begin) from each wheel. The clearcoat can be removed several ways; the easiest being with paint remover. The best type of paint remover is in a SEMI-PASTE format, which will stay where it is put on and not flow on to the painted areas of the wheels; work with a ¼” to ½” wide throw away paint brush. Or buy a can of "Aircraft Paint Stripper" which comes in a nice spray can and is the SEMI-PASTE type stripper. The clearcoat can also be sanded off the wheel, however, this is very time consuming. Or the clearcoat can be sand blasted. However, sand blasting should be left to someone who knows how to handle the correct air pressure or the wheel may become permanently damaged. A cleaner called MEN can also be used, but is watery thin, and may flow on to the painted areas of the wheel. The SEMI-PASTE paint remover is the easiest and I think the best way to go. If you only want to strip off the paint on the rim part of the wheel, then buy some 3M masking tape and mask off the area you don't want the stripper to come in contact with. Don't use standard masking tape. Buy the Automotive painting type, which is manufacturer by 3M for better results. Follow the instructions on the stripper and use a plastic, disposable putty knife to scrape the stripper/old paint off. (Buy a pair of rubber gloves designed to protect you from chemicals. Paint stripper is irritating to the skin, and can burn.)
With the clearcoat stripped off, you can now see the alloy of the wheel, so check the wheel very carefully for imperfections. If you see any cracks, STOP.. junk the wheel and buy a replacement! (Or, if it is salvageable, have it refurbished by a professional shop). Next, inspect the lip on the edge of the wheel and look for scratches or gouges from curbs, as this is the time to smooth them out, using a fine file. To make the result look good, taper your work (file/remove an inch or so of material on each side of the rough area to feather the edges). Do not remove too much material, only enough to smooth, shape and taper.
Now, get out your Wet/Dry sandpaper which is a sandpaper that you can use with water. Use #220 grit to start with, paying special attention to areas that have some corrosion and where you have used the file and sand the entire wheel, except for the painted areas. If you only want a satin finish, you may stop now. Make sure that you use plenty of water or the sandpaper will fill with bits of metal and produce more scratches. You will notice that the wheel has cutter marks on the surface. These cutter marks look like fine threads, as those seen on a bolt, and these should be sanded out for a better looking wheel.
(These marks are part of the manufacturing process.)
(This is where I stopped and followed up with painting the interior portion of the 15" honeycomb rim black, and then clear coating the entire rim, to seal it.)
If you want to polish the wheel, you have more work to do. A polished wheel will appear to be chrome plated and is very attractive. If this is your desire, keep sanding! Remember that those cutter marks must go, so sand them all out. Now, change to #400 Wet/Dry sandpaper to sand out sanding marks made by the #220 sandpaper and to further smooth out the wheel. SMOOTH is the key element to make them SHINE! Sand the wheel with the #400 sandpaper, looking for scratches to avoid making your polishing job harder. Once again, change sandpaper to #600 and sand the wheel. The #600 will further enhance the smoothness of the wheel.
Now inspect the wheel for any further scratches, etc. If none are found, you are ready for the buffing procedure, if you want the "Chrome Look". However, if you want a very smooth satin finish, you may stop now, but if you want the very high gloss finish, you MUST BUFF the wheel. To buff the wheel, you will need an electric drill motor and a mandrel to hold a buffing wheel. A high R.P.M. drill works best, as the faster the buffing wheel turns, the faster your job will go! I have used THREE different buffing wheels and THREE different buffing compounds and found that each wheel and each compound make the wheel progressively smoother.
First, use a compound called STAINLESS and go over the wheel, removing the last of any marks that you may have missed during the sanding process. With the compound, use a buffing wheel called a SPIRAL SEWN buffing wheel. Next, change buffing wheels to a fresh clean SPIRAL SEWN buffing wheel and a compound called TRIPOLI and once again, buff the wheel. You should go around the wheel two or three times. At this time you should be seeing a lot of gloss on your alloy wheels, as well as some buffing compound remaining. Use a paint thinner to clean up the excess buffing compound
Do not use the same buffing wheel for different compounds, as each compound has a different cutting or smoothing action. After cleaning your alloy wheel with paint thinner, your wheel should shine, but if you should notice any dull areas, go back and buff again with TRIPOLI to bring up the shine and clean again with paint thinner.
Now, for the brilliant mirror-like gloss finish, change buffing wheels again. This time, use a wheel called LOOSE SECTION and a compound called WHITE ROUGE. Go around the wheel two or three more times and you will see a lot of gloss!
Now is the time to paint your wheels if you desire. Be sure you mask off the buffed area of the wheels, using a good grade of automotive masking tape. Paint the wheels any way you wish. Be sure that the paint dries to a very hard, chip-resistant finish. You now have great looking wheels on your Fiero! To keep them looking good, coat them with a good wax or auto paint polish applied several times a year. As a touch-up or maintenance routine, polish your wheels a couple times a year with SEMICHROME polish or another product such as MOTHER’S MAG POLISH and re-coat with wax. (If you choose not to paint the clearcoat on the polished aluminum)
Now is the time to re-install your wheel weights, or better yet, have your tires/wheels re-balanced making sure that TEFLON COATED wheel weights are used. You may consider having stick-on Mag Wheel weights used, which are placed on the inside of the wheel, making them unseen on the mounted wheel.
Remember that this buffing job will be dirty work, so wear a pair of sturdy gloves to keep your hands from turning black. Always protect yourself with safety glasses and the proper equipment to insure your safety and well being!
Finally, where do you find all of the products needed to have sharp looking wheels? All of the items in this article can be found in your well stocked hardware store. But if you cannot locate the buffing wheels and compounds used in this article, contact: THE EASTWOOD COMPANY at 1-800-345-1178 and ask for their catalog, or order the parts as listed below by phone:
(2) - BUFFING WHEELS - Part #2026 $ 5.99 each
(1) - BUFFING WHEEL - Part #2046 $ 5.99 each
(1) - TUBE OF STAINLESS COMPOUND - Part # 3017 $ 6.99 each
(1) - TUBE OF TRIPOLI COMPOUND - Part # 3018 $ 4.99 each
(1) - TUBE OF WHITE ROUGE - Part # 3005 $ 5.99 each
To polish a High Tech 14" wheel, it will take approximately four hours per wheel totaling around sixteen hours of your time. Obviously, it takes much less for polishing a set of 15" Diamond Spoke wheels.
Remember... the time spent on polishing a set of Fiero wheels will make your Fiero look better and last longer... and make your Fiero worth more! Happy polishing!
Dick Wiberg - Michigan Fiero Club
Jason Wenglikowski - Frankenmuth, Michigan firstname.lastname@example.org (additions to article)