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Polishing (EEK) car wheels

I removed the center cap, and the fake "rivet/bolts" at the end of each spoke (use an allen wrench to twist them back and forth, they are just held by friction). I also pushed the valve stem down, until it was held back by the spokes. This marks up the valve cap, and could cause a leak, so it's up to you.

Use brush-on paint remover to get rid of the leftover clearcoat. (I left the gray paint accents alone) A palm sander with 200 grit paper will take care of the corrosion. Then smooth out the surface with 400 grit. If you still see scratches from the 200 grit, keep going. Now comes the wet sandpaper. The water takes the dust and debris away, and makes it easier to work. I used wet paper in 600, 800, 1500 and finally 2000 grits. (I only found 2000 in an auto supply store). Once again, the key is to sand until the lines and scratches from the last paper are gone.

Now this is where you have to decide if you want a satin or mirror finish.


After using 2000 grit wet paper, I then hand rubbed the surface with rubbing compound. The final step was to use a buffing pad on my grinder, with polishing compound. To keep them looking good, I hand polish them with polish compound (from EagleOne or Mothers) about once a month. I also put a couple coats of wax on them, to try and work as a 'clearcoat'


If you just want a bright luster, instead of the 'chrome' effect, you can stop at 800 grit paper. But there is a trick to make it look good. You need the lines to go in a uniform fashion, around the wheel. To do this, you need to get the front of your car in the air, so the wheels are free. With the car safely propped up, start the car, and put it in low gear. With the wheels spinning, you can press the 800 grit paper against a spot on the wheel, and hold it there. *WATCH YOUR FINGERS* especially on that valve stem ! Move your hand slowly along, from the center of the wheel, out to the rim (or inwards). I recommend working on the wheel up to 1500 grit, then doing this final pass with the 800, so you don't have to worry about removing cross lines, while the wheel is moving. The surface should still be rough enough, for clearcoat to stick.


The same process works on the center cap, because they are made of aluminum. This is kind of lucky, as newer ones are just plastic made to look like metal. For the satin finish, do the wheel first, them put the (pre-prepped) cap back on. With the wheel spinning, just hold the 800 grit paper flat against it. If you don't move, the "circles" should be perfectly centered.


What can I say, I work in a car factory, so I point out hazards, even when obvious. With the wheel spinning clockwise (right side wheel of car) hold the sandpaper with your fingers pointing up, and only work on the left of center. This way, if your finger starts to slip into a lug nut hole, it will just hit the surface. If you find the hole on the right side, the wheel will be going the opposite direction than your fingers pointing. Your finger could slip all the way in the hole, and *CRACK* Your finger now bends a couple more different directions ; ) Also be sure the car is jacked up well, and the rear wheels are chocked with the E brake on.

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