DIY Polishing 89-96 ''Diamond Spoke'' Wheels

Written by Danielle Briones, Member 9024
Applies to the following vehicles: Any car. Specifically for wheels w/ a lip.
Created 3/29/2003, Updated 5/7/2003

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Rated by 14 members

This is how you can Polish your wheels. This is from my own experience, and the results are only as good as the time you spend on making them good. I polished my Crosslace wheels, and I highly enjoy how they look. Sorry if it sucks, but this is how I did it.

*First off, I took off a wheel, and cleaned the crap out of it. I use Greased Lightning wheel cleaner. It's the best stuff I've ever found. I often see it @ K-Mart. This stuff pretty much gets off ANY brake dust & dirt on the wheels. Then I dryed it off with a towel..

*I then used "Aircraft Paint Remover" and went to town on the wheel. They have a spray can version and a brush application version. I found this @ Autozone. I used both. Try to not get any remover on the tire itself, that COULD be bad, I'm not sure. I didn't want to take chances and do any damage to my $133 a tire Goodyear Eagle GS-C's. But it doesn't seem to. The clearcoat seemed to bubble right off, but the paint on the wheel itself stuck pretty well, and it came off with a few more applications. I wasn't too concerned how well the spokes got done. With my wheels the spokes were gonna be repainted anyway. But this time I made sure to get all the paint off, the black, the dark grey under it, the factory clearcoated silver, and the silver under the clearcoat.

The next step is to scrape off the remover/paint. I used "detailing" wire brushes. These were also @ autozone.

When you go to clean the paint off, use something with some good water pressure, or it'll be a PITA to get every bit off.

Now dry off the wheel. I bet they actually look better, but my GP wheels, like many others had some oxidation, and cracks, and pitting in the clearcoat, that made it to the aluminum -- thus, the "BAD" spots were still there, just the rest looked good. The joys of living in the Midwest.

Next step is polishing the lip.

The lip of most factory wheels has a "machined" cast to it. That is, if you look closely, you can see little tiny grooves. If you are going to polish them, this has to be removed. But it's ok, it'll look much better without them. They will really shine.

I went and got wet/dry automotive sand paper, and sanded the wheel with varing grits. I wetsanded it all. I later found out that I didn't have to wetsand any of the steps, except after 600 grit, but that's because I hand sanded. The water really helps alot to keep the heat down.

Wetsanding is the key to a good job.

I started with 240 grit. This the the basis for everything else. I payed alot of attention to the "bad" spots, and really had to make sure that all of the machining grooves are gone. If they aren't, the wheels won't shine like they could. After everything looked good, (an hour later) I moved up to 320 grit. I didn't spend a ton of time on it, but you still want to get rid of any "240" grit smooth areas, and get them up to 320 smooth. Then I did 400, 600, and if you can find it 800 and 1000 grit. Spend a ton of time on the 1000 grit. Get that baby smooth. Then 1500, then after that get rubbing compound and go to town with that, follow directions. then after that polish with mothers aluminum polish, or my new favorite blue magic.

Before I go further, now may be the time to remove your wheel weights so you can sand and polish under them. sorry -- a good idea would be to get them static balanced, afterward so the weight goes on the inside of the back of the wheel, thus giving you a clean lip. No ugly wheel weights!

Now you can either do the polishing via the directions on the can, or do it with power. If we ever learned anything from Tim Allen, it's that power is good, and more is better. So on that note......... Get a dremel/electric drill. Find a dremel polishing wheel and shank (i think shank is the word). Stick it on the drill. go grab your aluminum wheel polish. Go to town on that whole wheel, and really take your time polishing it. Ordinary hand polishing results won't even be close to what a power tool can do. After it's all good, take a terry cloth, or a really nice soft towel, and clean it off, and "buff" the wheel with your towel. I swear once you are done with this, you won't believe they are your wheels. I thought my wheels had seen better days, but I was wrong, they are now.

Now clean up the wheels the best you can, it's painting time.

When I painted them originally (just painted) I bought Duplicolor Hi-Temp Cast Coat Iron, it's a dark grey metallic color. During the spring of '02 I just Duplicolor Hi-Temp Gloss Black, and and then I used Duplicolor New Ford Gray (a light/medium gray) and I grew sick of that too. In other words, find a color you'll be happy with for a long time. I've finally settled on "Gunmetal Metallic" which is specifically a "wheel" color. My guess is that it's very very close to the grey used on the American Racing Torque Thrust wheels, the ORIGINAL mag wheels. Duplicolor is the best brand to use when painting. I've found Plastikote just plain sucks. Stay away from Plastikote! I've only had problems with them, and their color matching is the worst.

This should be self explanatory. Mask everything off but the spokes and paint. Follow the directions on the can.

For the clearcot I got Duplicolor Wheel Clearcoat.

Get Hi-Temp paint for everything, if possible, BTW.

Now mask off your freshly polished part, and paint the spokes My center cap section was cast with no paint. I decided to paint it as well. I like how it looks painted better. Originally, I left the centers alone, and I didn't like how they looked with a big silver centercap. So I went to the local dealer and bought some center caps for the 97+ pontiacs w/ Polished wheels. This might not look so bad with the black "Pontiac" centercap, but I haven't tried. I just got the centercaps and painted.)

After you follow the directions of the can, and spray properly, it should look quite good. Spray @ least 3 coats per wheel.

After the you are done with your last coat or regular paint, remove your masking tape, and apply the clearcoat to the whole wheel. BE VERY CAREFUL not to be sloppy on the polished lip, or you could see waves in the clearcoat. Like the paint, the more coats of clear, the better.

That's It!

To do it, following my directions, should yield good results, as I'm repeating from my own experience. These are my finished results.

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