A Complete Guide On How To Polish Rims: Turn Your Wheel Into A Dream

Looking at a car, what will be the first thing you notice? Its bodywork, color, logo, license plate, or wheels? Everyone will have a different approach and assessment of a car at the first meeting. However, there is a part, that is not often mentioned but is vital and can bring out the most aesthetic vibe for the car. It’s a rim.

The rim of a car’s wheel, along with the wheel, is the part that comes in closest contact with the road surface. And how to polish rims is also the most asked question when it comes to the maintenance and refurbishment issue of this part. 

We will now give you a better insight on some reasons why these rims are easily exposed to troubles and ways to polish car rims at home with tutorials. Let’s get into it. 

How To Polish Rims: Different Materials, Same Easy Way of Approach

Wheel rims are made from a variety of materials such as iron, aluminum alloy, magnesium alloy, and carbon fiber. In general, car rims will have different lifespans and durability, referring to the specific maintaining method for each type of produced material.

Iron rims, though are cheap and have good heating resistance, cause too many problems to ensure the car’s aesthetics and lightness. Aluminum alloy and stainless steel rims are two widely used types with optimal advantages. There are also expensive rims used on higher-end vehicles that are made from magnesium and carbon. 

Just looking at the above-mentioned materials may be enough for you to see that there are quite a few issues to consider when starting the process of polishing your 4 car rims. So if you want your car rims to be cared for in more depth, consult mechanics from specialized repair shops for a more professional process.

However, there is still one best way to polish wheels at home that can safely be applied to all kinds of materials. So if you are interested in the full-time shiny status of these rims, take a look at some cash-saving and car-shop-standard polishing steps we will present later below.

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How To Polish Rims: The Scratched Rims Causes

Before going into each detailed car polishing step, we will discuss a few reasons why we have to spend time and effort polishing car wheels occasionally.

Contrary to the sporty and shiny-luxurious appearance, car wheel rims are the ones that are most exposed to scratches among car parts.

First, we have to admit that the scratching problems arise clearly because the bottom edge of the rim is a blind spot on the rearview mirror. It is an irreversible issue, so the only thing you can do to avoid this problem as much as possible is to keep a safe distance from other vehicles and objects on the road, such as curbs and sidewalks.

The second reason for rims damaging is cramped traveling and carelessness. Do you often have to commute on some rough, bumpy, and uneven roads at high speed? It is always those strong roadie-shocks that cause your rims’ surface to garnish with a few more blemishes.

The traffic is always complicated, especially at rush hours, when all kinds of vehicles jostling on narrow streets with impatience. This glorious scenario may make you want to quickly (and carelessly) cross the street to dodge yourself from the crowd, which can cause some fatal scratches on your rims. Remember to be careful and keep your patience when being on the road.

how to polish wheels
There are multiple visible causes, from objective to subjective, that lead to the “scratching to the skin” condition of car rims. (Photo: Frank Albrecht)

In addition, car rims are also stained or rusted due to environmental influences. Sometimes, a sudden rain is enough to expose your car to several problems, including road dust, acid rains, and high heat. These issues, over time, will wear away the surface of rims, which will not only cause an unattractive look for your wheel but also affect the safety of each trip.

At last, this problem can happen due to improper self-car-care and cleaning. Applying inappropriate cleaning methods and maintaining habits are also causes of unwanted scratches.

The subjective thinking, the laziness to regularly clean, the recklessly letting rust and corrosive agents invade the metal surfaces, the faulty use of cleaning chemicals with high acid,… All of these reasons can form silently triggers that can slowly destroy the wheel rims.

Polishing Rims Step-By-Step: Simple Tutorials

When discovering that car wheels are lovely-marked, some drivers can be confused in finding a quick and cash-saving solution. Many may refer to a series of self-fixing methods on the internet. However, due to the lack of experience in car care, these efforts can end in quite bad results.

Keeping your car wheels spotless can prevent corrosion and limit the possibility of blemishes. However, using soap and water to clean isn’t enough. The wheels and rims can only be as clean and shiny as new if you use the suitable methods. You can follow these steps below to renew their almost original state.

Needed tools for wheel rims polish process:

– Car rim brush

– Specialized cleaner

– Bucket, faucets

– Soft-clean fabrics

– Sandpaper

– Wheel wax

– Soap

1. Cleaning Rims Carefully

  • Disassemble the wheel from the car. By doing so, you can save more effort when cleaning as your car body will be kept dry and clean. Moreover, placing the wheels as your wish on the ground will ensure that all dirt inside will be rinsed down.
  • Clean the whole wheels, including the rims throughout with pure water. Use a pressure spray to get the water deep inside the spokes and around the lug nuts. It will remove dirt and brake dust from the wheels quicker and allow them to be well-treated later. 
  • Apply specialized cleaner around the surface of the wheel rims. You can find rims cleaning fluids in car repair shops and every online shopping platform. If your car wheel rims are covered with Teflon non-stick coats, dishwashing liquid can be useful. A simple DIY cleaner that is made from soda and lemon is also a good choice for your polishing task.
  • Scrub the rims’ surface with a soft brush and use a stiff brush on heavy dirt-caked areas. You need to use small specialized brushes or toothbrushes to reach the hard-to-reach spots. Always keep the wheel rims wet to avoid scrubbing to their finish. 
  • Rinse off the water and dirty liquid left on the wheels. Take notice to spray water on every hole and spokes.  
polishing rims
The better the cleaning process, the easier the rims polishing will be. (Photo: Aleksei)

>> Find out: How To Remove Heavy Brake Dust From Your Car Wheels?

2. Polishing Car Wheel Rims By Hand 

  • Carefully inspect the rims for scratches. Smooth out this scratch carefully with a flat metal file.
  • If there is rust on the wheels, use wet-or-dry sandpapers type 400 or 600 grit, or specialized sandpaper of wall painters to polish the rust to remove.


– Using lower-than-180-grit sandpaper may make the rims rougher. Check carefully after rubbing sandpaper on the surface to make sure no traces are left. 

– If the wheels are coated with a glossy finish, do not use sandpaper to avoid damaging the paintwork.

– When using sandpaper, first, polished-testing with grade 600. If it is not effective, gradually increase to level 400.

– All edges of the car rims should be de-polished, evenly. Use the 600 grit sandpaper to smooth the surface.

  • Srub specialized polish on the wheel part by part. Do not rush as your wheels may end up with an uneven finish, keep note of the areas you have previously polished. After polishing the surfaces, you can carry on with the lug nuts.
  • Rinse the wheels again with water and wipe them off with clean cloths.

3. Covering Rims With Wax

Overall, wheel wax will protect your wheels and keep them looking cleaner and shinier for a period.

  • Apply wax to every corner of the wheel, scrubbing it vigorously in the same direction. 
  • Use small brushes to get on narrow grooves on the wheel.
  • Rub in turn, do not rush to avoid missing out parts.
  • Use a clean towel to wipe around the rims’ edge. If it no longer shows any dirty traces, we are all done.
  • After completing the above steps, remember to reassemble the wheel and check the screws carefully.
polishing car wheels
Blemishing rims are not problems without cures. (Photo: Ashkan Forouzani)

Except for the incurable severe-cracked wheel rim, you can always learn how to handle them at home with some easy steps without heading to buy a replaced one immediately. 

>> See more: 10 Best Spray Paint For Rims To Buy Right Now!

Final Thoughts

We have just skimmed through some instructions on how to polish rims in a most simple and economical way. With visible parts like wheel rims, it is important to pay them close attention to act when problems arise. We hope this article will be helpful to you when taking care of your car in due season. 

For more car maintenance tips and updated news, check out Car From Japan right now!