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Andrew Havens

How To Diy Restore Steel Wheels And Hubcaps?

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(edited)

I'm going for an original/vintage look and would like to restore my wheels and hubcaps so they look shiny and new (or better than new ;)). I came across this post which mentioned a few things specific to restoring the steel wheels. It sounds pretty straight forward: sand/blast, prime with Rustoleum "rusty metal" primer (or maybe this one after sanding?), then Krylon "dull aluminum" for a finish coat. I also came across this Eastwood Silver Argent paint which might be even better.

 

However, restoring hubcaps is still a mystery to me. As far as I can tell, my hubcaps were never chromed. Or maybe they are just dull and faded. Maybe they are stainless steel. They are dented and will need to be smoothed out in order to look original. Then there's the BMW logo in the center...

 

So how can I restore them on the cheap, but still look original? Any thoughts and tips related to this topic would be helpful, but reiterate, I'm going for an "original shiny hubcap" look.

Edited by andrewhavens

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(edited)

Sandbag and hammer any dings out. Sandpaper scratches out and polish.  Depending on the logo size, they are still available (find part number in ETK).

 

Lots of useful writeups on the muscle car/hot rod/low rider forums, we use the same methodology.

Edited by AceAndrew

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(edited)

Krylon's Dull Aluminum and Wurth's Silver Wheel Paint are the closest matches if you're looking to duplicate the original appearance with a spray can.

Steve

Edited by Conserv

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For the hubcaps--presume here you mean the full wheel covers as used on roundies, not the little center caps on the styled wheels used on squarelights.  If the former...

 

'68 and '69 cars came with these caps painted with a dull silver paint on the raised center section.  They started peeling in six months, so the factory went to highly polished plain stainless steel covers.  If yours are the former, drop me an e-mail and I'll send you a column I did on how to refurbish the '68-69 wheel covers.  If the latter, work the dents out with a soft mallet and a sandbag, then polish with a buffing wheel and polish meant for use with stainless steel.  Top off with new roundels, and they'll look gorgeous.

 

cheers

mike

 

PS--I still use Rustoleum primer and Krylon dull aluminum on my steel (and alloy) wheels.

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I too subscribe to the hammer and sandbag approach. The hubcaps on my NK had seen nothing more than soap and water (if that) for 40 years.  I laid a bunch of shop cloths flat on my work bench then folded one rag up and placed it on the inside of the hubcap.  I used the rounded end of my shop hammer and gently tapped at the dents to pop them back out.  Go slow and gentle.   For polishing, I used Autosol - IMHO its one of the best polishes on the market. You can buy it on line, its the gold and black can. Buy the large can, its expensive, but you'll have it for years.  For the emblems, i laid the hubcap flat and put a bit of mineral spirit in there to start working at the glue behind it. Then i took a fine metal L shaped pick and pulled up on the edge of the emblem. As the mineral spirit gets underneath the emblem, it will release the glue.  Once the emblem's off you can clean off all the residue and replace the emblem with a new one from BMW - still available as far as i know.

 

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You guys are awesome! Very helpful information. Thank you! When you say "the emblem is still available"...where would I find it? Do I call up a local BMW dealership and say I'm looking for the emblem sticker that was on the 2002 hubcaps? What does ETK mean?

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ETK = Electronische Teile Katalog = electronic parts catalog.

http://realoem.com/bmw/select.do?kind=P&series=114&body=Lim&arch=1

http://bmwfans.info/parts-catalog/114/

http://www.penskeparts.com/fiche.aspx

Calling your local BMW parts counter and asking for 2002 hubcap emblems will be countered with, "What model?" You'll need to tell them the year your car was produced first! Help them out and provide the part number when possible, or call BluntTech.com or Maximillian at 1-800-950-2002 - they'll know!

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Over the weekend, I got a chance to paint my wheels and put some new tires on. I was on a deadline to finish over the weekend and didn't really have a chance to track down everything that I wanted, so I made some compromises. I went to Home Depot and bought some Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer and Clean Metal Primer, as well as Rustoleum Aluminum. After getting the tires removed at my local tire store, I began the rust removal.

 

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I started by trying to use an angle grinder with a wire wheel and found it to be too fast and difficult to control. So I moved onto a smaller wire wheel attached a drill. It worked fairly well at smoothing out some of the rusty patches.

 

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I used a drill I didn't care about and don't use anymore. I wasn't sure how well it would hold up after hours of sanding. I think it overheated after using it non-stop for a few hours. It took me a few hours to sand all five, but it didn't take off as much rust as I thought it would. Two of my wheels had been painted already, but some of the paint was peeling. I wish I would have spent more time using some heavy grit sandpaper to remove the flaking paint in the hard to reach places. I decided that this was a temporary quick fix and would invest in some sandblasting the next time I repaint my wheels.

 

After I decided I was finished cleaning the metal, I wasn't sure if they were considered "clean metal", but I decided to use the clean metal primer anyway.

 

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The Rustoleum dries fast, so I was able to put multiple coats of primer and top coat with multiple coats of the Rustoleum Aluminum within an hour. I had to wait 24 hours to flip them over to prime and paint the other side. I thought that the Rustoleum Aluminum would be comparable to the Krylon Dull Aluminum, but the Rustoleum Aluminum turned out way shiner than I was expecting. The other thing I didn't notice is that on the can, it says that it's not intended for outdoor use. Oh well, they turned out pretty nice compared to what I started with. Then I took them to the tire store and bought some new tires. Here's the end result:

 

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A few things happened. The machines that they put my wheels in to install the tires scraped of some paint in some places. I didn't account for that. I'm guessing the only way to avoid that is to paint them with the tires on, but that would require a lot more masking. Maybe there is some type of paint that is tough enough to prevent nicks and scrapes. I could probably repaint but I'm not going to worry about it right now. The second thing that happened was that some sort of solvent they used to clean some marks off the tires splashed onto my wheels and reacted with my paint. I think they realized this after the first one and didn't use it on the rest because I only have one wheel that looks like this:

 

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I didn't expect that. Again, I'll probably just add another coat of paint, but I don't have time right now. They'll be covered by hub caps for the time being.

 

Next project, hubcap restoration.

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The machines that they put my wheels in to install the tires scraped of some paint in some places. I didn't account for that. I'm guessing the only way to avoid that is to paint them with the tires on, but that would require a lot more masking. Maybe there is some type of paint that is tough enough to prevent nicks and scrapes.

An experienced tire person with equipment that does not touch the wheel with any metal parts will solve this problem.

Powder-coating is a durable, yet more expensive option.

I'd ask to have them kick back $20-40 for your time needed to redo the wheel affected by their chemicals.

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I have painted a number of wheels with the tires on, it is a little time consuming to mask them but not to bad, just used regular masking tape and newspaper.  I am surprised about how bad your finish was messed up on the wheel, but I don't know what they used to clean them, the paint may not have been fully cured also, which doesn't help.  I have used the Rust Oleum aluminum color on a number of wheels, the brightness tones down a little on its own with time and exposure to the sun, washings etc, but it is good paint, and I have had not problems with flaking or crazing or subsequent rust through, even on wheels that were pretty rusty to start (but I did use the rusty metal primer, good stuff).

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Did my steel wheels this past winter before new tires. I used Dulicolor silver wheel paint on the outside and low gloss black on the inside. No masking the black so I could duplicate the original look. Turned out great.

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That Rustoleum looks too bright - The Argent Silver Rally Wheel paint from Eastwood I think is the best for steel wheels, with Diamond Clear Satin on top. For factory or other alloys, I'd probably go with the Wurth paint.

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(edited)

I went whole hog on the steel wheels...media blasted them to bare metal and before they flashed I used a 2-part epoxy primer. The color is from the bespoke Krylon rattle can. But the previous owner of the hubcaps I bought online must have been pretty fond of his steel wool SOS pads.  Before I took on the task of cleaning up the mess, I wanted to see what others were doing. Looked to me like most are using lot of hand work as  here and in other posts. I just don't have that kind of patience. I took a gamble and used my trusty old buffer and some stainless compound. It made for fairly quick work of the job, roughly 5 min per piece. I think it turned out okay. A little touch up with white rouge compound will make them sparkle.

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Edited by Mike A
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Great thread!  So I've got these 1600 hub caps which are scuffed and banged up.  Any advice on how to rescue them or if it's even possible?  

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Catalyzed paint is the only way to get a durable finish, other than powder coating, rattle can paint comes off easily with solvents, etc. Check out Summit Racing to get single-stage acrylic urethane paint and epoxy primer, will need to spray (use a certified respirator!) but worth the effort. 

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