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Old 11-06-2010, 04:57 PM
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Default Restoring Pitted and Scratched Alloy Wheels

While this is a dirty and somewhat time-consuming job I've used this method on three sets of wheels and had extremely good results with it.

Road grime, salt, brake dust and other crap seems to have a really nasty effect on the wheels of our bikes, especially over time. They get pitted and spotted and scratched to where they no longer look anywhere near as good as they did when the bike was new. If you are like me and spend more time riding than washing I'm sure you know exactly what I'm referring to here. After trying the toothbrush and scotch-brite pad route to limited results I figured I'd go all out and try and find something that worked really well and was cheap at the same time. Here's what I've done:

Materials needed:

400 grit wet/dry sandpaper
800 grit wet dry sandpaper
1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper
2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper

water

Aluminum wheel polish

polishing cloth and generic rags


Depending on how bad the wheels are you may be able to omit some sanding steps. If they are really bad you'll probably have to use 400 grit first but in the majority of cases you can start with 800 grit. In this example the rear wheel is off a 2006 with moderate pitting and spotting.



The first step is to clean the wheel normally and prepare your materials. On this wheel I am using a square of 800 grit wet/dry about the size of two postage stamps. This all needs to be done by hand and the small squares seem to work better. Dunk the square in the water and begin sanding in the direction of the wheel from side to side. It should look like this:



Wipe off the mess and make sure you've removed the pitting,spotting and/or scratches. If not then repeat the first step. You'll end up with a dull finish on the wheel that still shows signs you've been sanding on it.



From there move up to 1500 or 2000 grit paper and repeat the wet sanding process.

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Old 11-06-2010, 04:58 PM
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When finished wipe down the wheel to clean off the mess and then use your aluminum wheel polish on a polishing cloth to finish it. I use Mother's Mag and Aluminum polish but any decent one should be fine for this.

You end up with a result like this:



Again, it does take some time to do each wheel and it is a LOT easier to do it with the wheels off the bike. Your fingers will definitely know you've done this after you finish it as well. Still I have yet to find a better way to restore the wheels to "new" looking condition.

Hope this helps someone!

DBD
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"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

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Old 11-06-2010, 06:02 PM
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nice write up. Polished aluminum is so hard to keep it looking good as it takes a lot of maintenance.
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Old 11-06-2010, 06:33 PM
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Thanks! I did that one spot on a spare wagon wheel I had in the garage this afternoon. I just re-did two other wagons about a month ago. Amazing difference and I wanted to put something on here about it.

If H-D would apply a clear coat to the wheels it'd sure make things a lot easier to be sure. Once you get ahead of it though it's a lot easier. I keep wax on the aluminum to help repel the crap. It's amazing how fast they can go bad if you don't keep them cleaned.
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1998 95th Anniversary Road Glide (#161)

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Old 11-09-2010, 11:10 PM
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I like your style.
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Old 01-05-2011, 02:32 PM
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Aside from doing all this sanding and polishing, is there anyway to get all of that staining and dullness to go away?
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Old 01-05-2011, 03:04 PM
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If it's been let go for an extended period of time it is going to take some serious elbow grease to get it cleaned up. Just polishing alone isn't going to get it done.
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