Loweguy5 New Reader
3/17/20 5:16 p.m.

Hi all

My new Neon project came with two sets of wheels but the ones on the car have a ton of corrosion on the trims.  The centers are in great shape.

Is there any saving these other than painting them or coating with Plasti-dip?

I hit them with aggressive wheel cleaner and then aluminum polish but didnt make much of an impact.  Thank you.

ChrisLS8 Reader
3/17/20 5:24 p.m.

Those are pretty bad. Time to saddle up and paint em

TurnerX19 Dork
3/17/20 5:40 p.m.

Lots of abrasives, starting about 100 grit and lots of time. You need to do some serious cleaning on them before paint in any case, but no finer than 180 grit. Lots less time and materials.

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
3/17/20 5:47 p.m.

Id start at 320 grit in a linear motion. Move down if theres still pitting you can feel with a nail. 

Move up by 100 grit increments to 1200, then 2000, 3000, and 4000. Then break out the mag polish and a cone.


That will get them back to mirror finish. 

ebonyandivory PowerDork
3/17/20 5:59 p.m.

Anything (almost) is possible but is it worth the time and effort? That's why painting might seem like a better idea.

Loweguy5 New Reader
3/17/20 6:14 p.m.

^That is a great point.  It may make more sense to paint them and be done.  I appreciate the input.

pirate HalfDork
3/17/20 6:49 p.m.

I'd say time to dismount tires and have them blasted with glass beads that will remove all current finish and corrosion and give a good surface for paint to stick to. Also give you a good chance to makes sure there are no cracks or corrosion hasn't done irreparable damage.

L5wolvesf Reader
3/17/20 7:13 p.m.
pirate said:

Also give you a good chance to makes sure there are no cracks or corrosion hasn't done irreparable damage.

Yes, that is the first thing I would check too

02Pilot SuperDork
3/17/20 7:39 p.m.

Are you absolutely sure that's corrosion and not accumulated brake dust? I had something that looked very similar on my Saab Super Aeros, but on close inspection it was clearly raised above the surface. Scotchbrite pads and solvent took it down without too much effort.

Loweguy5 Reader
3/17/20 9:22 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

I hit it with strong wheel cleaner and a rag.  I wiped it clean and then hit the same spot with aggressive aluminum polish.  The bottom of that rim is the result.  I will take a run at them with scotch brite pads before deciding on a course of action.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
3/17/20 10:09 p.m.

The black stuff looks like brake dust.

Andrewsky New Reader
3/18/20 12:03 a.m.

The mags and power steering look beautiful! 

stylngle2003 Reader
3/18/20 9:06 a.m.

masonry cleaner may help get lots of that off.  i used sure klean 600, but it is nasty stuff.  use in a well ventilated area and wear gloves and a mask and eye protection.  apply with a red scotchbrite, let it work a little, and then scrub with the same scotchbrite.  rinse with water when you're done.  it helped me salvage a set of BBS RKs that had tons of baked on brake dust that looked like corrosion.  may work for you.

clshore Reader
3/18/20 9:12 a.m.

I'll suggest that a mirror finish is HORRIBLE for preventing stress fractures on highly stressed metal.

Much better is a satin or raw media blasted surface, it dissipates the surface stress.

Covered with a layer of paint or plastic that dampen and distributes the surface vibration is even better.

Mask off the parts that are OK, and have the pitted areas media blasted to a uniform finish.

Then cover the blasted areas with heavy layer of paint or powder coat.

_ Dork
3/18/20 11:28 a.m.

I had some aluminum wheels from the late 70's that needed shined. I used a drill and a brass brush bit. Looked like chrome when I was done. But MAN my trigger finger hurt!

imgon HalfDork
3/18/20 12:35 p.m.

That looks like brake dust. I had a set of wheels I tried to clean the brake dust off and it was brutal. The dust was so caked on I went all the way to oven cleaner, it did dissolve the built up brake dust, but it also took the silver finish off the wheels. I had tested on a small section of one wheel and it took it down to the black base finish on the wheel (Let oven cleaner sit for 6 hours). The biggest problem was lack of space to use any kind of tool, it is all hand scrubbing. This past winter, I ended up hosing them down with oven cleaner and taking all the brake dust and silver finish off the wheels and now have black wheels with out any paint involved, just a LOT of elbow grease. lesson learned, clean wheels often. I think if I had been more patient with the initial products and spent more time scrubbing I might had gotten the brake dust off and not damaged the finish of the wheels, but it would have needed a ton of effort. If your wheels are for winter use or ratty track wheels, clean and inspected them well and just live with them not being pretty.

Curtis73 MegaDork
3/18/20 5:49 p.m.

When I do wheels, I usually just go abrasive.  I haven't found anyone around here that does blasting for less than one arm and two legs so I bought a blaster which works terribly.  It's one of those cheap ones that you have to constantly shake the tank to get it to feed media.

So I usually use a really aggressive wire wheel or cup on a grinder.  Stainless or steel wires work great on aluminum.  It will leave it looking much like the brushed stainless on a fridge.  Follow with some sandpaper and a good solvent and paint.

Returning them to their polished aluminum glory can be done, but expect more elbow grease than you have elbows.  From a wire wheel you can sand with 180, 220, and 320, then switch to polish and rouge on a buffer wheel.  Your problem will be pitting.  You'll have to remove a LOT of aluminum to get them to be flat again.

I say paint.

Loweguy5 Reader
3/18/20 10:28 p.m.

All good input thank you.  Since the car came with 2 sets of wheels I'm not married to these.  I like them fine and they have the better tires, but I can:

A.  Leave them as-is and not sweat it for now

B.  Throw some plasti-dip on them for now

C.  Get some red scotch brite pads and take a hard run at them, but spend no more than 2 hours or so on the project 

D.  Sell them cheap and recoup some of the original cost of the car

It's a shame because the centers are in beautiful shape.  However time is money and these may be beyond their useful life to me.   Again, many thanks for the ideas.


_ Dork
3/19/20 10:59 a.m.

In reply to Loweguy5 :

Could combine C and D. Get the most resale by making them spiffy For the next guy. 

3/19/20 12:10 p.m.
Loweguy5 Reader
3/19/20 7:13 p.m.

In reply to NOHOME :

That seems brilliant and tremendously dangerous at the same time.  My cammed twitchy-throttle Neon may not be the best place to try it but I do appreciate that video.

chandler PowerDork
3/19/20 8:05 p.m.

Those will clean up, lots of elbow grease. Been there got the t-shirt

Loweguy5 Reader
3/21/20 4:45 p.m.

Color me shocked!  I really thought the brake dust had etched the E36 M3 out of these wheels.  I bought some aggressive wheel cleaner and hit them (hard) with a scotch brite pad followed by aluminum polish.  I'll do a better job, but at least this gives me a good sense of what they can look like.  Next up:  rid myself of blue lug nuts!

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
3/21/20 4:53 p.m.

Ill give you $5 and shipping for the blue nuts. I like them! 

Loweguy5 Reader
3/21/20 5:21 p.m.

In reply to Dusterbd13-michael :

Send me your address and as soon as I replace them I'll send them out to you.  I dont think I'm able to get pm here yet so email me at Loweguy1 at gmail dot com and I'll let you know when I get replacements and these are on the way.

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