How to Clean Oxidized Aluminum Wheels


Jim asked: How do I remove oxidation and pitting from aluminum wheels?

Once your aluminum rims are pitted, there’s no easy fix to restore them. You’re going to have to rely on some good old fashioned elbow grease to improve the look. This method, while effective, only works as well as you do.

You Will Need:

  • Water
  • Mild detergent
  • Several rags
  • 400-600 grit wet/dry sandpaper
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Bucket
  • Protective Clear Coat for Aluminum (find it near the paint in auto parts stores)

Steps to Remove the Pitting:

  1. Start by filling a bucket with warm water. Add soap and agitate to mix.
  2. Remove any dirt and grime from the rims with a rag and the soapy water.
  3. Next, use the 400-600 grit wet/dry sandpaper to sand the rims until the pitting is gone. Do NOT use power tools. While easier, they can actually provide too much power. You’re going to have to do this job by hand to prevent overdoing it. Plan on going through several sheets of sandpaper for all but the mildest cases of pitting.
  4. Once the pitting is removed and the surface is smooth, use a fine grit paper of your choice to smooth out the surface and get rid of any grooves you may have left behind.
  5. Wipe the surface free of dust with a microfiber cloth.
  6. Add a protective clear coat, following all label precautions and directions for the product of your choice.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Wiping your aluminum rims clean every week will help prevent damage. The protective coating can also be applied early on to prevent damage and pitting from occurring.
  • Properly maintain your brakes to help keep rims clean. Brake dust is ugly, and if left sitting on your rims for long, can be a bear to remove.

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