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How to polish old aluminum rims shiny again?

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How to polish old aluminum rims shiny again?

Old 04-19-21, 03:51 PM
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Doug Fattic 
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How to polish old aluminum rims shiny again?

Actually I know how I've done it successfully in the past and can do it again. However I also know that various people might have a better method than mine and I'd like to hear some options. The rim is a 650C tubular Sun model M19A II. It's not shinny anymore! Suggestions?

I'm rebuilding a wheel that came off the top of my car while I was driving down the highway. It was the back wheel of my go fast bicycle. I was tired at the end of a training ride and forgot to strap down the rear wheel after clamping the front to a fork mount. It was a bad day when I hit a pot hole and the impact knocked the bicycle off the roof of my car and I saw it bouncing down the road in my rear view mirror. Fortunately nobody was driving behind me to hit it. The rear rim was toast and the top tube badly dented. Eventually I replaced the top tube but light 650C rims are not easy to find. For some reason I have an old used one in storage and I can rebuild the wheel again with it, but would like to make it pretty again. I'm painting the frame now.

One thing I've learned teaching framebuilding classes is that everyone seems to know something about something I don't. I've benefited from listening carefully so I don't miss out on any possible valuable ideas. Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-19-21, 03:54 PM
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Simichrome metal polish.
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Old 04-19-21, 04:00 PM
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Mothers metal polish is another option.
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Old 04-19-21, 04:01 PM
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Lots and lots of passes with Mother's Aluminum and Mag Polish then I like to hit it with White Diamond at the end. Occasionally I will hit the rim (or whatever I am polishing) with some 2000 grit Wet sandpaper, but usually it's just more polishing.

I've taken some Scheeren wheels that looked really bad and made them shine like chrome. I did spend a number of hours and a lot of elbow grease on them.
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Old 04-19-21, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by James1964 View Post
Simichrome metal polish.
Simichrome works great but I didn't get far with it before I realized I needed to do a bit more surface preparation (like some kind of fine sanding) before going to the polish. Well at least I think I do. I'm curious what other steps people might have done before using Simichrome.
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Old 04-19-21, 04:12 PM
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Depending on the depth of the scratches, you can start where you think it is appropriate.

2-inch fine Scotch Brite pad on pneumatic grinder
220 grit paper
400
600
800
1000
1200
1500
2000
Polish

I sanded a car for 2 weeks straight, 150 hours total. I had no fingerprints at the end. They do grow back.
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Old 04-19-21, 04:22 PM
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Unlaced rim? Use a buffing wheel and appropriate compounds.
If it's laced, it's a PITA, but doable.

It's not a 10 step process.
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Old 04-19-21, 04:23 PM
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Mothers Billet Metal Polish...
Been using it for years. Multiple passes will yield a high polish...!
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Old 04-19-21, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
Depending on the depth of the scratches, you can start where you think it is appropriate.

2-inch fine Scotch Brite pad on pneumatic grinder
220 grit paper
400
600
800
1000
1200
1500
2000
Polish

I sanded a car for 2 weeks straight, 150 hours total. I had no fingerprints at the end. They do grow back.
I am facing that, paint is sheeting off my car, Toyota will pay to fix similar, Subaru won't. Felt like the car was primed on Friday, painted on Monday.
not looking forward to removing all the door handles and trim. And I know of 5 minor dents and dings... has aluminum hood...might have to pay someone to do those.
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Old 04-19-21, 04:42 PM
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I usually use Mother's and an old toothbrush and/or a small piece of gray Scotchbrite to apply. I find it easiest to stick the wheel in a truing stand. The toothbrush is great for getting around the spoke holes. Let dry, then buff with a soft cloth like flannel. It's plenty good enough for my purposes, but I'm not taking bikes to shows or anything like that. I'm confident that others get much more meticulous, with superior results, but it can cost quite a bit of time.
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Old 04-19-21, 05:54 PM
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Doug,
I use buffing wheels on parts that I can hold under or around the wheel and different polishing compounds. In the classes I attended for golf clubhead grinding we used a handful of different polishing compounds for different metals. If you contact Golfworks (in Newark, OH), they sell a set of four small sticks of polishing compounds and the brown is recommended for aluminum. The set is about ten dollars and shipping is about $4 so not too pricey. And they also sell Simichrome for about $12 per tube. I have to ask if the rim just has oxidation damage or was it clear coated after being polished the first time? If it has a coating on it like some hubs and stems from the '80,s you may need to either hit it with an abrasive wheel like a Scotchbrite green, blue, or white. The grey is way to aggressive for the Al and will leave a pattern of small scratches.
I would use the buffing wheel and the brown compound and then follow up with a soft cloth and Simichrome. I treat hubs a bit differently using some wet/dry paper and Simichrome, and then the cloth with Simichrome. My set up has a way to turn the hubs on the axle and polish in a radial pattern that gets me to the mirror finish. HTH, Smiles, Honk
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Old 04-19-21, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jiangshi View Post
Unlaced rim? Use a buffing wheel and appropriate compounds.
If it's laced, it's a PITA, but doable.

It's not a 10 step process.
^this. I polish stainless steel decaleurs and racks qne MAFAC centerpulls with a Scotchbrite wheel to remove the gross imperfections, then buffing wheel and green compound I get from Harbor Freight.
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Old 04-20-21, 05:51 AM
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Steel rims and Turtle Wax chrome polish.
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Old 04-20-21, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by James1964 View Post
Simichrome metal polish.
Whenever I see reference to Simichrome polish I am always reminded of Al Stillers Sauganash Cyclery on the northwest side of Chicago. My first tube of Simichrome was purchased there. The little display box on the counter by the register and his lovely wife ringing up the sale. Campitello jerseys, Sergal shorts, Detto shoes...
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Old 04-20-21, 08:15 AM
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Many thanks to all those that posted their ways to shine aluminum rims. As I anticipated, there was some new methods and products I hadn't thought of so I'm glad I asked. A few days ago I got out my Simichrome polish and started in a small area to see how it would work. I soon discovered that the rim's oxidation went just deep enough that I thought I should sand the rim first to make its surface a bit smoother. I have all kinds of sandpaper grits because I paint frames. Now I'll probably start with 800 grit and see how much finer I meed to go. I hadn't thought of using a Scotchbrite pad and had forgotten about Mothers polishes.
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Old 04-20-21, 08:41 AM
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On rims as you described I use 0000 Steel Wool, then I'll use polishing compound
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Old 04-20-21, 08:46 AM
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I bought and used Mothers because of this forum. It works well for me. I don't know that I have had any really badly oxidized surfaces to overcome, scratches, yes. I used a file on those then fine grit sand paper like those mentioned.

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Old 04-20-21, 09:38 AM
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Wow, that's a beautiful finish. Polishing built wheels is a real chore; the spokes are always in the way.
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Old 04-20-21, 11:06 AM
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(don's observation that everyone here probably would agree with, and after 3 glasses of wine by noontime because the wife is away for a whole 10 days...)

why in this day and age doesn't someone invent something to simply spray on and wipe off that leaves your ugly alloy parts looking like new and baby's ass shiny with absolutely no effort whatsoever?

just sayin"

over and out, 10-10 down and on the side, back to your regular programming...
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Old 04-20-21, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by cocoabeachcrab View Post
(don's observation that everyone here probably would agree with, and after 3 glasses of wine by noontime because the wife is away for a whole 10 days...)

why in this day and age doesn't someone invent something to simply spray on and wipe off that leaves your ugly alloy parts looking like new and baby's ass shiny with absolutely no effort whatsoever?

just sayin"

over and out, 10-10 down and on the side, back to your regular programming...
my apologies for that post... what i meant to say was the the product should be rinsed off with tap water, not wiped off, and only sold to people with a (forged) doctors note certifying that one more minute spent loosing finger skin on oxidized rims will result in their patient becoming a total alcoholic.
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Old 04-20-21, 11:45 AM
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Blue magic, and a Foredom with a flexible shaft, if it is laced you can get away with a hand drill and small buffing ball.
For those sanding paint on a car yes fingerprints will come back but it is easier and better to use a sanding block on flat surfaces and wet/dry paper wrapped around a tube/hose of the appropriate size on curved surfaces...much better results all the way around for fingers and final car finish.
I have used all suggestions with success...Good luck!
Best, Ben
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Old 04-20-21, 01:16 PM
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I have always used 0000 (usually) or 000 (if I can't get 000) steel wool, sometimes brass wool if I can get it. I find it funny but I never use any polishing compound, but at times will use a little bit of Triflow or Simple Green depending on brake dust or grime that isn't coming off. I'd always spray and wipe down with Simple Green after. I'm not looking for a mirror finish though, just a good cleaning of the brake surface.
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Old 04-20-21, 02:00 PM
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My first reply was Simichrome metal polish because that is what I currently have and have had very good results. Years ago I had a tube of MAAS metal polish and that too worked very well.

Recently I tried Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish on some 1970s NR hubs. Mothers cleaned off the oxidation and Simichrome produced a bright shine.
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Old 04-20-21, 02:24 PM
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fine or ultrafine brass wool for alloy or steel rims if there's any pitting or corrosion to knock down - it's lighter and it won't leave ferric dust that can introduce rust on nearby steel spoke nipples and/or stains on alloy.

Mothers aluminum & Mag polish is my go-to for polishing anything anodized. Period. And it also works well as a heavy-cut compound for stubborn paint stains, but needs to be used with a delicate touch.

I have a friend who uses the Mothers "Power ball kit", it comes with a flexible shaft. He uses this for laced hubs. This solution has never worked with me. He swears by it and his results show it.

It's so much more time-economical and convenient to polish unlaced rims. I wish there was an easy-to-use mini-powerball-like solution out there that would tackle laced rims more easily. There must be an ultra-easy way to do it.
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Old 04-20-21, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
Depending on the depth of the scratches, you can start where you think it is appropriate.

2-inch fine Scotch Brite pad on pneumatic grinder
220 grit paper
400
600
800
1000
1200
1500
2000
Polish

I sanded a car for 2 weeks straight, 150 hours total. I had no fingerprints at the end. They do grow back.
Bet you had forearms like a teenager again after that!
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