I want to remove the paint from my wheels for a polished look

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General concept

What you are doing here is taking the paint off the lips of the rims to allow the natural color of the aluminum wheel to be seen. The paint on the spokes and the other rough surfaces on the wheel isn't coming off without a fight. For this reason, most people strip only the lips; use a good quality masking tape to define a line around the wheel, exposing only about the outermost inch of wheel. The finish is shiny and looks great.

Polished rims.jpg Polished rims 2.jpg

Polishing the gas cap

Remove the cap from the tank by removing the seven allen bolts around the perimeter and one screw that is visible with the cap open. Be careful not to drop that one in the tank! With the cap assembly removed from the tank, you'll see two screws that allow you to remove the cap from the ring; do that, and then apply stripper to the ring as shown below.


Polishing the wheels

Items Needed

1. Safety glasses
2. Latex gloves
3. Old coffee can or glass jar (to hold the paint stripper)
4. Paintbrush (1 - 1 1/2 inch)
5. Nylon brush
6. Masking tape (2 inches wide)
7. Shop rags
8. Steel wool #000 (fine) or #0000 (super fine)
9. Paint stripper (methylene chloride)
10. Lacquer thinner
11. Clean terry cloths (for polishing)
11. Mag & Aluminium polish

All the supplies cost about $30 (total) at Home Depot.


Clean and tape up the rim

Put your bike on its centerstand. Make sure you clean the rims really well, or else the masking tape will not stick right. Do not use any polish or waxy cleaning products. Rubbing alcohol and Windex work well. Note that our model didn't take off the rims or the tires - they were left on the bike. It would certainly be easier without tires in the way. You don't want to get any paint stripper on the tires.

Pick the area you want to have polished. It's best to use one of the edges on the rim; this way you'll get a clean, straight line. You will want to tape up any places that you don't want to remove paint. DON'T RUSH. This is the hardest part. Take your time and tape the whole way around the wheel. Only work on one side of the bike at a time.


If you have any weights, you should take them off. Be sure to mark where they were because you need to put them back on when you're done.

Brush the stripper on

Take the paint stripper and pour some into the container that you set aside for it. Then, using the paint brush, begin brushing it on. Cover the entire area you want paint to be removed from. Use a good amount. The more you use, the easier it comes off, but make sure you don't slop on areas you don't want stripped. Once applied you will need to wait. Read the directions on the can.

CAUTION: Wear your safety goggles and gloves until you finish the entire process. Make sure you're doing this in a well-ventilated area.

Tip: While you are waiting for the paint stripper to work, go to the other wheel and begin to tape that one up (remember to work on one side at a time). By the time you are done with the taping the stripper will (should) have set in and be ready to be worked on. Do not apply stripper to the second wheel yet - work on the one that already has the stripper on it.

Remove the paint stripper and loose paint

First, take the nylon brush and remove all the loose and flaking paint. Be very gentle around the tape - you do not want it to come loose. Second, take a clean rag and wipe off the remaining paint stripper and loose paint. Make sure all the stripper is gone. Third, apply lacquer thinner to a new, clean rag, and wipe the residue off the rims left by the paint stripper.


Clean up the rims

First, take the fine (#000) steel wool and buff the rim to remove any leftover paint and any defects on the rim. Use the thinner to aid you. Second, take the super fine (#0000) steel wool to smooth out any marks left by the previous steel wool buffing. This is where you will need to put in some elbow grease - this is where you are going to define that fine line and get the cool-looking rim.

Don't worry; it's pretty easy. When you first remove the paint, it may look like it's all messed up and you're not going to be able to get that fine line between the painted part and the polished part. Don't freak out; elbow grease, steel wool and a little thinner will fix it right up. This is why it is important to be careful with the masking tape. The tape should still be on - do not pull off the tape until you have removed all the paint and have your fine line between the painted part and polished part.

In this picture you will see the "line" is not so neat. After some good old scrubbing it came out a lot better than expected.


Polish by hand

Remove the tape. Clean and then buff the rim by hand, using a good polish. Be sure to use a clean rag. If you see anything that needs to be touched up, do so and re-polish. Here is the finished front:


Now you have a nice set of polished rims. You have the option of clear-coating the rims, which may take away some of the luster or shine. If you don't clearcoat them, you just have to spend a bit more time wiping them down. It's a good idea to buff them up about every one or two months using a good polish.