With a little work and effort, you can make your mirror-like shiny wheels stay shiny for a very long time. Clear coating is the most effective way to protect aluminum from corrosion, oxidation, and scratches. It’s a process involving coating your metal with plastic to enhance its finish. Clear coatings can be applied to almost anything- from cars, bicycles & more.
Here is a comprehensive blog post that covers the process of why, what, and how to clear coat polished aluminum.
Can you apply a clear coat on a polished wheel?
I wondered whether clear coating a polished wheel would make the polished wheel not so shiny. The answer is no. Clearcoat can be used to a high polish wheel, but it will not adhere properly. It will always peel off.
When you’ve got the wheels nice and clean, put a coat of wax on them. Real wax on wheels will attract brake dust like a magnet. The wax will also melt very quickly. However, synthetic wax and polymers like Zaino work much better and last longer. I have used Zaino on my wheels and a different brand of polymer on the paint. For me, there is nothing that gives a more durable finish than Zaino.
Japanese polished wheels are not clear coated, they are anodized, and it doesn’t make them any less shiny. Before welding/bolting the cast center, this needs to be done because anodizing will attack and pit to porous casting.
One of my friends had some Speedline wheels on my RX-7, and the lip was polished and cleared. It looked great and didn’t look dull at all. The wax works and makes the wheels easier to clean.
He also had those 01′ wheels clear-coated. Before the clear coat, they appear to be more of a machined look than highly polished. I know this because he showed me the brushed the curb and roughed lip of the wheel a couple of inches. While polishing it back out, one could easily see the clearcoat paint edge. The section that was later polished has a brighter, more chrome-like shine.
If you want a low-maintenance wheel, consider a machine polished or diamond-cut wheel like the factory 95-01 wheel. The fine groves can hold paint and clean up with soap and water.
Can you clear coat polished aluminum wheels?
A really long time ago, my father polished several bare aluminum wheels to a brilliant shine. Then he cleared them with a product from DuPont called Imron. The wheels came out great, and Imron is a 2 part product that hardens with a catalyst similar to epoxy. If you check in the stores, DuPont Imron is still available today, and I see no reason this wouldn’t work.
Most polished aluminum that is clear coated seems to lose some shine. It tends to look as if it was cloudy. I have used Opti-Coat on my polished aluminum wheels, and it came out great. There was no loss of reflection, and the coating was crystal clear. The coat was not hard to apply either.
I recently used G-Techniq’s Wheel Armour on my barrels and am happy with the results. It does look a little different, but not a difference is almost unnoticeable. They are uncoated forged wheels.
On YouTube, I watched a video demonstrating how to clean and polish the aluminum wheels. The products he was using had a protectant in with it and the cleaner. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF21eHUAwlk and towards the end of this video, you will see how to polish aluminum wheels to look like chrome.
How do you seal aluminum rims after polishing?
I usually start with Mother’s aluminum polish to remove oxidation and minor scratches. Then, follow up with Mother’s Billet aluminum polish to give them a mirror shine. So what would be the best sealant to slow the oxidation process?
Go with Polish Angel Supersport Wheel Coating. You get the protection you need, and it’s great looking on a powder-coated clear coat. It would keep the polished billet wheel shining great. You can also apply several layers with wheels off and wipe them down again 24 hours before using. It’s the titanium oxide TiO2 that needs to be fully cured and get them as glossiest as possible during this time.
Another way would be to apply a ceramic wheel coating for longer longevity. Then top it up with the looks with PA Supersport Wheel Coating the day before. Bigger brands such as Carpro, Gyeon, or Gtechnic make great ones that also stop aluminum oxidation.
After finishing the polishing stages, apply finishing wax or finishing sealant as you would. All these products (Collinite No. 850 Metal Wax, Meguiar’s Flagship Premium Metal Polish, Turtle Wax Chrome Polish & Rust Remover) leave behind a protective film on bare metal.
A coating is not going to stop the oxidation from occurring. It will slow it down. I’ve used ShineSeal and Wolfgang MetallWerk Concours Metal Sealant. Your wheels will still oxidize, but these products will slow down the process and keep your wheels looking better longer. I still polish my wheels each spring and sometimes once more in the fall.
I have used nxt 2.0 on my chrome 20’s. Apply on a clean rim, but the wax seams to clean them further, leaving a great shine with a blinding reflection, the kind that reflects off the pavement and other vehicles. I don’t use any cleaners when I wash them. I use soapy water, and the wax seems to last a long time. Normal dirt and grime never stick to the rims. I usually apply a wax coating twice.
It is always good to go with a coating of wax. Remember that whatever you apply will wear off with time. If you’re using a wheel cleaner, they will tend to clean any coating off, as will washing with some brush or wash mitt.
How often do you polish polished rims without clear coating?
The clearcoat layer in the manufacturing is very durable and virtually maintenance-free. It only takes soap and water. I think all factory wheels are clear coated.
The clear coat does not last forever, and the wheels can dull and start to pit. You can either polish them with wheel wax or mothers or have them re-cleared.
To see whether you have clearcoat is:
- Take some mother’s mag polish and try polishing the wheels.
- Rub a cloth to see if there is any black. If there is no black, your wheel is clear coated.
- Don’t waste your time trying to polish. Instead, out on a coat of wax.
Clearcoat dulls the polish finish a bit, but not enough to notice. HRE wheels are not clear-coated. For Forged Aluminum wheels like HRE or IForged, the stuff you want to use is called ZoopSeal. They look amazing if you properly take care of them.
Once the polished lips are stained, it will take a lot of elbow grease to remove them. Put a lot of wax on your polished lip to make your life easier. You can get HRE lips clear coated at no charge. However, they do not warranty the finish of the clearcoat. So it would be best if you polished your rims every time you wash your car, which would be about once a week. Keep in mind that when you drive your car in the rain, it will be cleaned immediately.
Clear-coat makes the rim a bit duller. When washing your car, the easiest polishing method is to clean the wheels and then rub your favorite wheel polish on(while it is wet). Do not let it dry. Wash off using a soft sponge or cloth and dish soap. The dish soap takes the polish off without putting much effort into rubbing it. If you polish rims every time you wash the car, it will only take a few minutes.
Tips to keep the anodized lips nice and shiny
There is not much difference in luster between clear coated wheel faces and bare polished lips. The polished lip is anodized.
If the anodized lips are in good condition, then soap and water are all you should need. However, many safe cleaners and all-wheel cleaners will dull the anodizing. Wax won’t hurt anything. If the clouding is minor, consider unbolting centers and re-anodize the lips. But if your wheels are in good shape, not much will make them dull except chemicals. Chemical wheel cleaners will mess up the anodized finish.
Some places do anodize almost everywhere. It’s a pretty common industrial finish. You would probably need to have the wheels stripped and polished somewhere else first, or you can strip them yourself with oven cleaner, but then anyone who does anodizing can do it.