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Old 03-26-08, 07:38 AM   #1
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Can I use a Dremel tool to clean my alum wheels?

I have a set of Mavic CXP 23s from a 1999 Giant that I would like to clean up. The rims consist of aluminum alloy and look like the picture below. With the proper pads, do you think it is safe to polish the wheels with a dremel tool with some type of car wax? The dremel is a variable speed. The purpose is to be able to remove grime more easily, while protecting the finish.
What suggestions do you all have for using a dremel tool to clean and polish these wheels? Thank you!

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Old 03-26-08, 07:42 AM   #2
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I see no reason why you couldnt. Mothers makes a whole line of polishers designed to be used with electric drills.

http://www.mothers.com/products/prod...ower_prod.html
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 03-26-08, 07:43 AM   #3
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The Mothers Powerball would be a better solution than a Dremel. Use some of their mag wheel polish and you should be able to blind traffic with your shiny rims.
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Old 03-26-08, 08:32 AM   #4
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I'm not so sure about using wax on the sidewalls. Sounds like a recipe for some very squeaky brakes.
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Old 03-26-08, 09:22 AM   #5
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I like the Powerball option (though I've never used one,) because you wouldn't be running it at high RPMs like the Dremel. I think the Dremel has a good potential to screw up the finish if you're not careful.

Personally, I'd crack open a beer and do it by hand.
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Old 03-26-08, 09:38 AM   #6
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Thanks guys.
I have no intention to polish the brake disk, as I know this would not be wise. I like the idea of Mothers wheel polish. I'll see how low the RPMs are on the dremel and test on a junk rim before I try on the newer ones. I've cleaned and polished by hand previously, but as you all probably know, it can be time consuming if you're wanting perfection. The thought crossed my mind last night about using a dremel tool to speed up the process.
If anyone has first-hand experience doing the same, please advise, otherwise I'll test my luck! Thanks for all the great feedback! It's much appreciated.
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Old 03-26-08, 09:41 AM   #7
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I see no reason why you couldnt. Mothers makes a whole line of polishers designed to be used with electric drills.

http://www.mothers.com/products/prod...ower_prod.html
The mini looks like the ticket! I'll see if I can find it in town. Thanks for the link!

Edit: At $24 I'll pass.

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Old 03-26-08, 10:01 AM   #8
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Wax on the braking surface is not something I would want to try either. At best your brakes will just be squeaky from it. At worst any silicones or other modern slippery stuff in the waxes will result in less friction and reduced stopping power.

And even if you did sand and shine up these sidewalls to a mirror like shine the shine would last until the first stop and they'll be all marked again.

The arched part of the rims is anodized. Using waxes on anodized surfaces will result in the whitish buildup staying in the nooks and valleys that make up the matt finish of the anodizing. It won't clean out and shine up like a painted surface would. Instead it'll remain white'ish.

Going beyond that would be removal of the anodizing and then polishing. That's a LOT of work and the bare aluminium will actually be more prone to corrosion and pitting from exposure unless you keep them waxed with a good automotive wax. But then you're back to the wax on the braking surfaces again.

Unless you managed to stain the anodizing with something I'd suggest just wash them well. If you've picked up some road tar stains then a mild degreasing solvent can be used to remove then and follow that with a wash to remove the solvent.

And finally power tools used around the rim are going to also hit the spokes and spoke nipples. An abrasive that is harsh enough to remove the anodizing will certainly result in the wrench flats on the nipples being worn down and then you risk the nipples rounding over when you try to true your wheel at some point.

Nope, I'd say this is a time to just wash when needed and step back from the compounds, waxes and power tools.

EDIT: I see you're trying this on a used rim first. Good idea. I still think it'll be more work than it's worth. You're going to get road and brake crud on it anyway. Especially if you rid in the rain at all. Actually when you ride in the rain MOST of the black stuff on the rims is brake pad and rim sidewall residue. Very little of it is actual mud picked up from the roadway.
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Old 03-26-08, 10:31 AM   #9
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Wax on the braking surface is not something I would want to try either. At best your brakes will just be squeaky from it. At worst any silicones or other modern slippery stuff in the waxes will result in less friction and reduced stopping power.

And even if you did sand and shine up these sidewalls to a mirror like shine the shine would last until the first stop and they'll be all marked again.

The arched part of the rims is anodized. Using waxes on anodized surfaces will result in the whitish buildup staying in the nooks and valleys that make up the matt finish of the anodizing. It won't clean out and shine up like a painted surface would. Instead it'll remain white'ish.

Going beyond that would be removal of the anodizing and then polishing. That's a LOT of work and the bare aluminium will actually be more prone to corrosion and pitting from exposure unless you keep them waxed with a good automotive wax. But then you're back to the wax on the braking surfaces again.

Unless you managed to stain the anodizing with something I'd suggest just wash them well. If you've picked up some road tar stains then a mild degreasing solvent can be used to remove then and follow that with a wash to remove the solvent.

And finally power tools used around the rim are going to also hit the spokes and spoke nipples. An abrasive that is harsh enough to remove the anodizing will certainly result in the wrench flats on the nipples being worn down and then you risk the nipples rounding over when you try to true your wheel at some point.

Nope, I'd say this is a time to just wash when needed and step back from the compounds, waxes and power tools.

EDIT: I see you're trying this on a used rim first. Good idea. I still think it'll be more work than it's worth. You're going to get road and brake crud on it anyway. Especially if you rid in the rain at all. Actually when you ride in the rain MOST of the black stuff on the rims is brake pad and rim sidewall residue. Very little of it is actual mud picked up from the roadway.
Excellent input. I'll take all of this into consideration. Thanks!
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Old 03-26-08, 10:35 AM   #10
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The mini looks like the ticket! I'll see if I can find it in town. Thanks for the link!

Edit: At $24 I'll pass.
I would try the big box stores for a generic knock off. It might be worth a trip to the autoparts store as well to see what they have. I just linked to Mothers, becuase I knew they had one.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 03-26-08, 11:55 AM   #11
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To jsharr's excellent suggestion of an auto parts store, I can also suggest a boat-supply store. West Marine makes a great AL polish that I use (it's their store brand). At the auto parts store, look for Meguiar's Hot Rims (don't laugh) Mag and Aluminum Polish. They also make a wash that strips off the grime and water spots - saves a lot of time.

One tip - treat an aluminum surface the same as you would a paint surface: soft and easy to scratch and gouge.
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Old 03-26-08, 12:32 PM   #12
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One tip - treat an aluminum surface the same as you would a paint surface: soft and easy to scratch and gouge.
Will do. Glad you mentioned this!
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Old 03-26-08, 05:29 PM   #13
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BCRider is correct with regards to the anodized surface. Wax won't have any beneficial results where as polish runs the risk of taking off the anodized surface.

I've used polish/rubbing compound on the brake surface in an effort to clean them off. Found it easier to use Simple Green and a scratch pad.
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Old 03-26-08, 05:58 PM   #14
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Toothpaste works too, really
With a felt Dremel wheel......you'll feel minty fresh on your rides, too
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Old 03-26-08, 07:31 PM   #15
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I used a dremel to clean/scuff/sand the sidewalls of a set of rims...worked quite well. I'm not sure what the "bit" I used is caled...it looks like a plasticy scouring pad....apparently it has some sort of abrasive embedded in the plastic "fibers"...?

Brake cleaner (of the auto type) works well to clean the anodized part of the rim...
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Old 03-26-08, 10:22 PM   #16
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I decided to pass on the idea of using the Dremel tool and used some good old fashioned elbow grease. I applied MOTHERS Mag & Aluminum Polish, which cleaned the wheels up real nice. I will add a coat of Meguiar's polish for an additional layer of protection.
BEFORE (stains are AFTER using a spray cleaner!)





AFTER






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Old 03-27-08, 08:55 AM   #17
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Nice job, they look great!
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Old 03-27-08, 09:13 AM   #18
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Dang! It looks new.
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Old 03-27-08, 12:10 PM   #19
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Nice job - some times you just need to break down, put a good CD on the player, and do the grunt work. Sure paid off in this case, they look great!
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Old 03-27-08, 01:05 PM   #20
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Toothpaste works too, really
With a felt Dremel wheel......you'll feel minty fresh on your rides, too
Good idea. Toothpaste with flouride also works really well on fire ant bites.

Not a suggestion but maybe someone else can comment. Would something like Bar Keepers Freind work on cleaning aluminum wheels?
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Old 03-27-08, 01:26 PM   #21
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It may well do the job but it's not cheap. I've got some as it is recomended for cleaning a couple of Calphalon pans I've got. No way I'm using stuff that expensive on bike parts when simple detergent or Simple Green continues to clean the rims just fine.

I just scrub them with the soapy water and a good hard bristle brush and they come up squeaky clean in a few strokes.
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Old 03-27-08, 02:55 PM   #22
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It may well do the job but it's not cheap. I've got some as it is recomended for cleaning a couple of Calphalon pans I've got. No way I'm using stuff that expensive on bike parts
Don't know where you buy your Barkeepers Friend, but around here it's about $1.99 in supermarkets and hardware stores. I use it for my anodized pans, general housecleaning and my boat.
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Old 03-27-08, 02:58 PM   #23
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Thanks for the comments guys. It's so much easier to clean off dirt from the rims and frame will a coat of wax on it. I spent every bit of 2hrs on the wheels, but very much worth it!
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