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Factory Wheel Refinishing Question


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Did a search and did not find much information on stripping the factory finish off and re-polishing the factory wheels? My wheels are in Ok shape, 2 are dull like some of the clear is gone, the other 2 a little better. Center caps would need some work also 2 dull others better. Just was wonder what products any of you have used for stripping the clear off and what you might have used to polish it back up. Any how to suggestions welcome. I was going to just put new wheels and tires on in spring, but just found great price on replacing the 14 year old tires its sitting on so I will use the Factory wheels for now.

Thanks in Advance

Happy New Year to you All !!!

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If you use a stripper it is probably easier to remove the clear coat but you would have to repaint inside the spokes. It would be almost impossible to remove the clear coat from the spokes without damaging the painted surfaces. If you are careful you won't damage the paint between the spokes by sanding. If you have any scratches or other imperfections on surface of the polished spokes you will have to do some sanding anyway.

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I used a commercial stripper from Home Depot and it took 8-10 applications to get all the Clearcoat off. I used an orbital buffer to polish the flat spoke areas and used a Meguires Powerball and drill to get in between the spokes. Oh , and get polish that's for aluminum.

Kit

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If you set your mind to it, the polishing can be done. Sanding is the better way to go unless you plan on repairing or powder coating the pockets.

I have lots of different wheels on my cars first two are polished. I did the red ones myself, had the blue ones done professionally (not much difference)

I like the 16" wheels the best myself. Chrome looks good no matter what. And on white cars, the '91 wheel painted white looks classy.

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These four wheels were in very poor condition. Curb rash, wheel weight damage and bad clear coat. I stripped them with Aircraft stripper. I then bead blasted them. I then spin balanced each rim. Next I did wet sand thing with a sanding block {I wanted smooth reflections} 180 through 2000 grit. Clear coat is Emron.post-59602-143142916834_thumb.jpg

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You all are making another project for me here. Seeing the stock 15's polished out makes me want to do a set for one of my cars. Looks and sounds like a real bugger to get it done though, and my list of work to be done is already rather unmanageable. What I need is a staff of minions to assist with Reatta restoration.

I've two sets of these rims (one with very poor original finish, the other passable), and about 25 center caps in varying conditon from very nice to outright nasty. I guess the poor set will be a candidate for this.

KDirk

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Thinking seriously of making that a winter project for the set on the Driftwood

Not me. While they look much better polished they are still not as nice as the Buick LeSabre chrome 7 spoke wheel. I use the Reatta wheels for my late fall/Early Spring and winter driving.

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Guest my3buicks

I like to stay with the stock appearance, even with the wheels being polished it will still appear more as it should. It's rare that I see A wheel on a car that didn't come standard on the car or as an option that looks right.

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I like to stay with the stock appearance, even with the wheels being polished it will still appear more as it should. It's rare that I see A wheel on a car that didn't come standard on the car or as an option that looks right.
If everyone felt that way the aftermarket wheel industry wouldn't be the booming business that it is. In my opinion the number one thing you can do to improve the looks of a Reatta is to put a nice set of wheels on it.

When I fist got my Reatta I took it to a friends house to let him look at it. As soon as saw it he said, "That's a sharp looking car but I've never liked hubcaps. You should get a nice set of mag wheels for it." That's when I made up my mind to get some different wheels.

The stock Reatta wheels may have been what GM liked but I agree with Dave. In my opinion my 7 spoke chrome wheels look better than stock Reatta wheels.

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I believe these cars needed a bit more "bling" [chrome]. This is proven by all the guys wanting to paint their wheels white, or polish the '88-90 wheels or get the matching [to the 91] chrome wheels. There just isn't enough "shine".

My 3 Reattas are all color keyed. Bumper,rub strip and mirrors to the color of the car. Alero spoiler and LeSabre chrome wheels like Ronnie has and car is set with timeless looks.

Course this just one mans opinion, but I sure get a lot of compliments.

Edited by DAVES89 (see edit history)
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Dave,

I'll agree with that. Of course, in 88 chrome wheels (aside from wire wheel covers) were pretty uncommon. Wheel size was also not what it is now (with 17" being considered "small" these days).

Anyway, I prefer chrome wheels. Ronnie's look great, and I like the one I have as well. But, I don't mind the stock 88 rims. They aren't fancy, but they suit the car well enough, IMO. A really clean set with nice finish looks good to me. Since the two sets I have are average and poor, respectively, both need refinishing. I would like to polish the one (currently poor) set to use on the "scrub" 88.

I look at it this way. I have two sets of these wheels and a bunch of caps to go with them. They have too little value to sell, and I won't scrap otherwise usable parts. So, I am going to use a set whether I polish them or go back with a machined clearcoated finish. I can't keep buying more parts and leaving unused stuff in storage (or just discard it), and the cost of 4 more rims and caps is greater than refinishing the wheels I have which I can do myself.

Time to be a bit practical about this after major upgrades and costs on 2 cars and having lots still to do on two more now. Like Inspector Callahan said, a man's got to know his limitations.

KDirk

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Not sure which way I will go. Its cold here and have to wash the wheels good and inspect the painted inserts. Just removed on of the emblems from center cap, half of the finsh came off so I will have to redo these. Really don't have a place to do stripping easily. So my plan at this point is to clean them and evaluate. Thinking of removing the tires that are on them so I am working with just the wheels.

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I'm one who likes to enter my Buick's in the BCA 400 point category. So, I strive to keep them as stock as possible when its time for judging. I found out that there had been an extra cost option ($100) available back in 1991 for white wheels on white (only) Reatta's. So, I purchased 4 extra cast aluminum wheels from Marck and had them painted/mounted. I think they came out pretty good. Thanks Marck!!

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I never did like the wheels on the '88-'90 Reattas. The 91's were a huge improvement. I have a question for those who have polished their '88-'90 factory wheels. How did you get the center caps to match. I know there is no way to polish plastic until it shines like chrome. I suspect you either had the center caps plastic chromed or found something else that was chrome that fit.

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I never did like the wheels on the '88-'90 Reattas. The 91's were a huge improvement. I have a question for those who have polished their '88-'90 factory wheels. How did you get the center caps to match. I know there is no way to polish plastic until it shines like chrome. I suspect you either had the center caps plastic chromed or found something else that was chrome that fit.

Chrome Vs polished is a noticeable difference.

In all the polished wheels in my post we used the factory center caps with the factory metal overlay that comes on them. They'll all polish up if they're not trashed.

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If you take a close look at the edge of the center cap in the first photo you can see that there is an aluminum skin crimped onto the plastic backing. You can see how the aluminum is formed into the depression where the emblem glues in. (second photo)

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click to enlarge photo

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Here are some pictures of the one cap I removed the emblem from. Looks like mine have been re-glued or are different. The backside of my emblem does not look like yours is Ronnie.

Thank You all for your input on this subject.

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The emblem center you see in the first photo isn't from a Reatta center cap. It is off my Cadillac STS chrome wheels. It just happened to be laying there when I took the photo.

NOTE: You must be careful with the back of the Reatta emblem. If you scratch the foil on the back of the emblem to get the glue off it will show up on the front of the emblem. If you remove the emblem just remove the loose glue as much as you can but don't use anything sharp on the back.

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Guest my3buicks
I'm one who likes to enter my Buick's in the BCA 400 point category. So, I strive to keep them as stock as possible when its time for judging. I found out that there had been an extra cost option ($100) available back in 1991 for white wheels on white (only) Reatta's. So, I purchased 4 extra cast aluminum wheels from Marck and had them painted/mounted. I think they came out pretty good. Thanks Marck!!

They look great!!!

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Unfortunately some of foil like backing stayed stuck to the center cap when removed, as you can see from the picture. So I plan to remove all of the silver backing on the emblem which appears to be silver paint, touch up the black that is missing in few spots and spay the back again with chrome type paint to see if I can fix it. The backing does seam like foil where it was stuck to the glue, but on rest of the emblem where it did not pull off looks and feels like paint. Since I do not have any extra caps or emblems I will have to try to make them look good again. I will post picture after I re-work this one.

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I had some flaking when I removed the emblems too. You can carefully scrape big flakes off the cap and glue them back on the emblem. I did that and it turned out good as you can see in the photo below. A large flake came off on the emblem on the bottom left but you can't tell it unless you look closely at it. The emblems you see in the photo are Reatta center cap emblems that I ground down to fit the STS wheel centers.

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You can prevent a lot of flaking if you put a small deepwell socket under the cap so it pushes up on the emblem as you push down on the cap and pry the emblem out at the same time. The photos below will help explain what I mean. Hold downward pressure on the cap and pry up with a small screwdriver just enough to allow the glue to slowly release from the back of the emblem. Patience pays off when removing the emblems.

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A few years ago ,I stripped my stock wheels using an aircraft paint stripper and then took the four wheels and center caps minus the emblems to a local plating and polishing shop . It was the best $200 that I have spent on the car. Trying to do them yourself without the big polishing wheel is a dirty,time consuming job.So far they have stayed great looking. Frankpost-46439-143142919079_thumb.jpg

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This is how I did it. Aluminum Wheel Refinishing

Hey Ronnie. Just started the process after reading this thread. Did a test spoke off a spare and am astonished at the appearance. Your tutorial is great. Thanks.

Am finishing the first driver wheel now. Started with #180 on a DA. Followed by #320 wet sand. Then #600/1200/2000 and compound on an angle head air tool. Finish it off with Wenol metal polish and a polish cloth. Did you protect yours with a final wax or clear coat? Not sure if top coat clear coat will work.

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Glad to hear the tutorial helped you. When I finished mine I didn't put any wax or clear coat on them. The Mother's Mag Wheel Polish was all I used to finish the wheels in the tutorial and they were still looking excellent after about a year when I sold them. The Mother's polish must have a protectant in it that prevents them from tarnishing.

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Just finished the center caps.

Removed anodizing with a D A on sand position using 320 followed by 600. 320 might be too aggressive. Keeping the sand swirls in one direction makes a huge difference. Then a slow buff polish on a stand up buffer using white rouge. Wiped with isopropyl and clear coated. Very happy with results.

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Edited by waltmail (see edit history)
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