As I've mentioned in other entries, I am a bit of a rare-wheel "fanatic". I seem to spend more time seeking out and deciding on the wheels I am going to be running on a project, than I do picking a paint color! Because of my love for rare, old wheels; I often end up with a set of wheels that need a lot of love. In the past I have been a stickler for polishing wheels all by hand. This means starting with 6-800 grit sandpaper, and working my way all the way up to wet 2000-2500 grit paper, and hand rubbing the finish out with Autosol. This takes a LONG time, is messy, and often left my hands sore for days after polishing up a set of wheels. I considered using a buff motor, but as with any DIY'er, I am always on a budget and I couldn't justify buying a buff motor and supplies.
Here at Eastwood, we put together a Polishing/Buffing Kit that makes my life so much easier when it comes to polishing up an old set of alloys (and doesn't break the bank!). The kit comes with the essentials to get that mirror-polish look that everyone wants. I took the kit home and found a good way to turn your regular home electric drill and vice into a buff motor.
I first laid out the kit to see everything that I got with it, and pulled out specifically the buffing pads and compounds I would need.
For the job I was doing, I was restoring some polished aluminum lips on a set of vintage three piece race wheels. The lips were quite tarnished from years of use on a dedicated track car. I had previously used a few of our Hot Coat Powders to coat and restore the rear barrel and center portion of the wheel. Here are a few shots of the parts I powder coated. You can see in the first picture an example of how the lips looked almost gray before I used some buffing magic.
Before I began, I decided to get the dirt, grime, and residue from the sticky wheel weights off of the lips. The buffing wheels and compound will not work miracles, they do need clean/residue free metal to begin with! I used a can of PRE, a rag, and some elbow grease, which made the residue came off quite easily, even the old duct tape residue they had over some of the weights!
Next, I got the drill clamped into the vice and a polishing wheel into the drill. At first I tried an upright position with the drill, but I later found that clamping the drill into a horizontal position really made things more comfortable for me while buffing. I decided to start with a triple stitched buffing wheel and the brown compound. The brown compound is quite aggressive, so if you have a part that still has some shine to it to begin with, you may want to start with the less aggressive gray or the white compounds to avoid causing yourself more work.
You can see below that even just starting with the brown compound, the difference between the area I had worked and what I started with. Luckily I was only working with 13" wheel lips, so this process went quite quick.
Although the stitched pads seemed to be the best buffing wheels for the job, there were some heavily tarnished areas in the valley of the lips that I couldn't get to with the stitched pads. I changed out to a small cone wheel, and it blew right through the tarnish.
I also began using the softer "pear shaped" buff cylinder with the white compound to get the base of the lip where it bolts together. These spots are important to get nice and polished, as the bolts are so close together, it is nearly impossible to repolish them by hand with rubbing compound. So the better they look to begin with, the less work it is to maintain that finish in the future.
After a few hours of work I had all 4 lips polished, and WOW what a difference! You can really see the mirror polish coming out when doing the last step with the white compound. For the final step I used a microfiber rag and some Norton Detailer to remove any final buffing compound residue. Finally after assembly I could stand back and admire the difference between the wheels before and after.
To keep the mirror polish in place, and seal the lips from further tarnishing, I like to use our Metal Protect for an invisible barrier and easy cleaning in the future.
As I mentioned, any of the Eastwood Buff Motors will do the job just as well, but sometimes we can't always justify the space or money required to own one, and have to come up with creative solutions like this. Feel free to comment with any of your tricks, tips, or hints when buffing!