Polishing Aluminum Is Beginner for Most DIYers. Here’s Everything You Need To Know To Polish Aluminum at Home.
- DIY Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Time Required: Two hours
- Tools & Materials:
What Is Polishing Aluminum?
Aluminum is a porous metal that absorbs everything, so aluminum wheels on your car will absorb brake dust, grime, and other contaminants. The good news is aluminum is easy to clean, and in just a few hours, you can make your dull aluminum wheels shine like new. When you first learn how to polish aluminum, be sure to follow the correct sequence of steps to achieve the results you want.
Is It Safe To Drive With Unpolished Aluminum?
The look of your aluminum wheels does not affect your car’s safety. While they may look a lot nicer, your wheels are still safe to use, even if you haven’t polished them. It’s important to note, however, that polishing the metal will help make it last longer. It’s just as important to take care of the wheels as it is to take care of the tires.
If you don’t polish your aluminum wheels, they may continue to get dirty and fade. You want to take care of your wheels just like you take care of your car’s paint job. To keep them looking as good as possible, you should clean and polish wheels regularly.
It’s important to learn how to polish aluminum so that you can keep your wheels clean. Brake dust and other contaminants will continue to corrode the metal and make it look worn and dirty. Keeping your aluminum wheels clean will not only make them look better, it can also extend the life of the metal.
Depending on how dirty and corroded your wheels are, cleaning and polishing the aluminum doesn’t take much time. You can polish all four wheels in just a couple of hours. It’s an easy job to do at home, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money on materials and equipment to get it done.
When To Polish Aluminum
You should clean your wheels on a regular basis, but the frequency depends on how often you drive. The more miles you put on your car, the faster the brake dust and grime will build up on the wheels. Polishing your wheels is more of an aesthetic preference to transform the aluminum’s flat color into a mirror-like shine.
What Are Common Symptoms Indicating You Need To Polish Aluminum Wheels?
You’ll know it’s time to polish your aluminum wheels when they lose their shine. Aluminum will look like a mirror when it’s clean and polished. Regularly cleaning your wheels of brake dust and other surface debris will help keep the shine lasting longer, which means you won’t have to polish them as often.
Keep in Mind
Keep in mind that there are several types of aluminum wheels. Some wheels have a protective top coating on them to keep the metal looking better for longer. If your wheels have this top coating, you’ll need to use a wheel cleaner and polish that’s safe for the coating. If your wheels don’t have this coating, you can use a strong polish.
Remember to always follow your car manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and polish your aluminum wheels as advised for your make and model.
While you polish the alloy wheels, you can also:
- Wash exterior/clean interior
- Check for wheel damage
- Inspect brake rotors and pads
- Rotate tires
- Check for tire wear and tear
How To Polish Aluminum
Step 1: Clean the Surface
Cleaning the aluminum wheels is an important first step. You want to rinse the wheels to remove any loose dirt and built-up brake dust. If you can, use a powerful stream of water to help dislodge the grime, and make sure to get between the spokes, behind the wheels, and along the brake calipers.
Step 2: Spray Each Wheel With Aluminum Wheel Cleaner
Always clean one wheel at a time. Spray one wheel and use a soft-bristled brush to agitate the surface. Don’t use an aggressive brush. Aluminum is a soft metal, and you don’t want to scratch or damage it. Use a brush small enough that it will fit in the small areas of the wheel. You want to get into all those tight spots between the wheel spokes so that the entire wheel shines when you’re done. Make sure to get the lug nuts while you’re cleaning the wheel.
You can also use this time to clean the wheel wells. You’ll find that a lot of dirt gets stuck up in there.
Step 3: Rinse and Dry the Aluminum Wheel
Once you’ve agitated the aluminum surface, you want to rinse all the dirt and grime away. Thoroughly dry the aluminum once it’s clean. This will prevent water spots.
Step 4: Buff the Aluminum
The next step is to buff the aluminum. You can do this with a buffing wheel or cleaning clay. Buffing removes the irregular surfaces of the metal and makes it look shiny. If you have a buffer wheel, you’ll want to use a series of wheels, starting with a coarser compound and working your way up to a softer wheel. Get into all the areas of the wheel, including between the spokes and all around the lug nuts.
Step 5: It’s Time To Polish
The final step is to apply the polish. Make sure to use a polish designed for the surface of the alloy wheel. You’ll start by applying the metal polish and spreading it over the wheel. Once the wheel is covered, use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe the wheel clean.
Always work on one wheel at a time as you go through these steps.
Still Need Help?
Want an expert mechanic on speed dial who can walk you through DIY repairs and answer any questions? Join FIXD Mechanic Hotline for unlimited access to our Master Mechanics Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Disclaimer: The guidelines in this article are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual, repair guide, or a professional before attempting repairs.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.