This particular wheel is the spare tire on my 21 Schiada trailer. Because it sits flat on the trailer the water will pool in the rim after the boat is launched and retrieved. Normally that's not the end of the world but the calcium and alkali in the water out here in Parker and Havasu could suck the chrome off a trailer ball, polished aluminum stands no chance if exposed for any amount of time.
I have always been a believer that if you are going to do something, you might as well do it right, so I setup a little "polishing" station in my garage. I clear off a spot on a work bench, and get a towel, degreaser, steel wool, 600-1000-1200 sand paper (higher grits if you have it handy), a mothers powerball, mothers aluminum polish, about 10 terry cloth towels and one or two micro fibers.
The big towel I lay on the work bench, and I will be throwing this in the trash when you are done polishing all your wheels. If I was to run this or any of the terry cloth towels through the washing machine in the house it would likely end in divorce.
Step 1, put the wheel face side down and give it a quick wipe down with your degreaser. We will be using a degreaser that I bought at Ron's Custom Detail.
Step 2, get some Lucas Tool Box Buddy or WD 40 and give the inside of the wheel a small coating and then go over it with steel wool to get rid of the caked on road grime / grease / tar that has been imbedded on the wheel since it was mounted on your trailer.
Step 3, quickly wipe off with degreaser again and then flip it over to the actual "finished" side of the wheel.
Now we can focus on the "finish" side of the wheel which is where we will be putting a lot of time and effort to ensure that our wheels look better then the other guys. The amount of effort required for each wheel will vary greatly depending upon the condition of the wheel. I chose the spare tire for this article because it has a large patch of corrosion on it where the water pools.
I start on the corrosion patch by wetsanding the rim with 600 grit sand paper by hand. You will see in this pic where I break through the surface corrosion. Once you break through a portion of it (preferably in the center) the rest will come off fairly quickly.
In this pic I have finished sanding the corrosion off. In this particular instance I didn't bother with going to the higher grit sand papers, and skipped straight to Medium # 1 Steel Wool. To do it perfectly I would go over it again quickly with finer Steel wools ending in 000 Steel wool. I was fairly careful with the 600 grit though and didn't have a lot of surface scratches so I'm counting on the Power Ball to remove them and leave a nice mirror finish.
One more round with my Steel Wool to remove any surface imperfections.
Now we move onto the polishing aspect of the rim. There's no fun way of wording it, it's gonna suck. It's going to be time consuming and very labor intensive to do it right. The power ball will not reach into the small crevice of the rim, so I take a rag and some mothers, and polish the entire crevice by hand, before switching over to the power ball to finish the job.
Once the crevice is polished, I will put a light coating of mothers aluminum finish on the entire rim. Personally I break the rim down into sections divided by each spoke. I will go over each section seven times at a very slow pace with very little pressure being used. On each "finishing pass" you will want to finish going the direction the power ball is turning. You won't want to finish on a pass going against the rotation of the powerball because it will not leave as "bright" of a finish.
Go over each spoke seven times, and then move on to the outer portion of the rim going over each section seven times as well, with one large, very slow and smooth "finishing" pass. This will ensure that the polish blends and you won't have any "start / stop" points. The end result if you took your time is a perfect mirror finish with a very slight "blue" tint to it in the sun. While the job is tedious, if you do it right, and keep a little wax on the rims, you shouldn't have to do it more then once every other year to keep them looking good.
Written by RiverDave