How To

Extreme Makeover

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by Mike Phillips  More from Author

Polishing Old School Aluminum Slotted Mag Wheels

I recently picked up a set of 4 old school Aluminum Slotted Mag Wheels for my truck and today they're getting and extreme makeover...

Oley from Flitz calls this "White Rust"

First up... wash with Flitz Aluminum Pre-Clean. In the link above there's a video where we used this product and the results were truly amazing...

Next up will be putting the Wolfgang MetallWerk Aluminum Polishing System to the test...

Lake Country Wool-Ball 3 inch & 5 inch Wool Polishing Balls

Nitrile Gloves to keep your hands clean and shielded from chemicals...

Even though the backs and insides of the wheels are not seen I'm going do my best to clean them up a little bit...

First up is washing and cleaning with the Pre-Clean... I'll be back in a few hours...

Took a short lunch break and a second break to run over to Robert's "Impressions Detailing" to pick up my spare, which is the slotted mag Oley and I polished out with a 35" Bogger on it...

And here are the results after about 5 hours of work; first a reminder as to how the backs of the wheels looked before starting. You can see the Flitz Aluminum Pre-Clean soaking in and going to work.

Here's the back of the wheels now...

Fronts after polishing...

And cleaned up the insides too...

These rims are now ready for tires... 

Process Comments
After investing the majority of my time restoring these wheels by first cleaning off the "White Rust" and oxidation using the Flitz Industrial Strength Aluminum PreClean with the 1500 Grit Flitz Mini ScuffPads.

I've polished out a lot of aluminum in my life as the owner of a full race Sanger Drag Boat for 20 years and all the running gear, engine mounts and many of the engine components were polished aluminum. Unlike a car with the engine usually out of site, the engine and running gear in the Sanger was completely open to view so as a "Car Guy" or a "Boat Guy" and a detailer I kept the aluminum polished to the hilt.

Also I've owned probably close to 5 sets of aluminum slotted mags on my trucks, cars and the trailer for my drag boat over the years, so again, I'm pretty familiar with restoring dull, oxidized aluminum and then maintaining a brilliant shine.

The wheels used in this extreme makeover were severely neglected and I knew that just like creating a show car finish on automotive paints, the end-results were going to be dependent upon the prep-work performed before the actual polishing work and this is where the Flitz Pre-Clean and #1500 Grit ScuffPads enter into the picture.

I didn't do a quickie when I did the washing step using the Flitz product, completely opposite, I meticulously rubbed the aluminum clean, putting a lot of passion behind the Flitz Scuff Pads and repeating the process over each wheel 2-3 times and of course with most of the emphasis on the face of the wheels.

The Fitz Scuff Pads are NOT just simple steel wool, instead they are non-metallic resin coated fibers with a cut equivalent to approximately #1500 grit sand paper but without using abrasive particles like sandpapers.

Sanding with sanding papers will also remove years of neglect but low grit papers will also leave behind sanding scratches which will then have to be worked out.

Even though the Flitz ScuffPads are not made from a metallic fiber and don't use abrasive particles for their cutting action they WILL scratch smooth, high shine aluminum surfaces so do not use or scrub with ScuffPads on high shine, smooth aluminum surfaces or you will then have to remove the scratches. In this extreme wheel makeover, the face of these wheels have machining marks and pitting from extensive corrosion, so in this example they were safe to use as they improved the surface because the surface was so far gone to start with. If you're unsure of the aluminum surface you're working on is a good candidate for this kind of process first test in an inconspicuous area or take some in focus pictures and start a thread and ask for guidance on our detailing discussion forum.

The Flitz Pre-Clean by the way is an amazing cleaner for aluminum in that it will rapidly dissolve built-up oxidation and what is referred to as "White Rust" all by itself and then rinse off and this is key... it will do it without dulling the aluminum. There are other chemical cleaners on the market that will dissolve and remove white rust and oxidation but many of these and especially anything with acid in it will dull and even gray the aluminum.

After the wheels were thoroughly cleaned using the ScuffPads and Pre-Clean the plan was to polish the aluminum with the wool polishing balls inserted into an electric drill. After a few minutes of using this system it was plain to see that the finish on the aluminum although clean would require more power to restore a shine, mostly because the overall quality of this particular brand of wheel was lower than hoped for and much lower as compared to higher quality aluminum slotted mags.

Enter the Rotary Buffer
After a few minutes of using the drill with the wool buffing balls, I switched over to using a Flex 3403 Lightweight Rotary Buffer with a combination of a Optimum Double-Sided Rotary Adapter and a 3M Quick Release Adapter attached together to extend the reach of the buffing pad when using the rotary buffer.

From left to right...
Optimum Double-Sided Rotary Adapter - 3M Quick Release Adapter

I started with the Edge 6" Medium Cut Wool Buffing pad, the unique center system reduces/removes vibration while buffing.

Note I have removed the handle options from the Flex 3403 Lightweight Rotary Buffer, this gets them out of the way for intricate work in tight spaces and is my own personal preference.

Below are the Wolfgang Metallwerks Compound and Polish, I did some testing with the compound and found it to be too aggressive for this aluminum so switched over to the polish for the first step.

From left to right...
Wolfgang Metallwerks Aluminum Compound, (green), and Wolfgang Metallwerks Aluminum Polish, (pinkish).

After using the aluminum polish I switched over to the Concours Polish... note that before using you want to stir the product up as it's normal to see some separation after the product has sit still on a shelf....

Stir your jar of Concours Polish with a clean utensil before using for a uniform consistency...

To apply the Concourse polish I switched over to an Edge 6" blue finishing pad.

After removing most of any leftover polishing residue I hand applied a coating of the Wolfgang Metallwerks Concours Metal Sealant.

In case you have never polished bare aluminum, it's completely normal to see a lot of blackish residue coming off onto your pads...

Products Used
Flex 3403 Lightweight Rotary Buffer
3M Quick Release Adapter
Optimum Double-Sided Rotary Adapter
The Edge 2000 6 Inch Wool Buffing Pads

  • Yellow Medium Cut 50% Wool, 50% Wool Acrylic Pad
  • Blue Finishing 70% Acrylic, 30% Wool Pad

Wolfgang MetallWerk™ Aluminum Compound
Wolfgang MetallWerk™ Fine Aluminum Polish
Wolfgang MetallWerk™ Concours Aluminum Polish
Wolfgang MetallWerk™ Concours Metal Sealant
Lake Country Wool-Ball 3 inch & 5 inch Wool Polishing Balls
Flitz Mini ScuffPads - 1500 Grit
Flitz Industrial Strength Aluminum PreClean
Lake Country Wool-Ball 3 inch & 5 inch Wool Polishing Balls
Black Nitrile Gloves


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