How to Polish a Rim Wheel

a close-up of a black tire
  • 4-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30-50
What You'll Need
Wheel cleaner (degreaser)
Clean, cotton cloth
Rim polish
Rim sealant
Polishing buffs
Cloth buffing wheel

Many people add a rim wheel to their car in order to enjoy the appearance of the car more. These are rims that go over the circumference of the wheel. They are added for various functional reasons, such as racer rims are specifically designed to give the wheels a better grip over the ground at high speeds. There are truck rims which are designed to prevent the heavy vehicles from skidding. However, a lot of rims are merely for adding to the esthetic value of the car. Some popular rim wheels include, apart from racer and truck rims, chrome rims and spinning rims. Custom rim wheels are also becoming popular.

Over time, the rims can become dirty or hazy. The best way to keep them from looking terrible is to polish them. Knowing how to polish a rim wheel will allow your rims to look great without having to take it to a professional.

Step 1 – Clean the Wheel

Before getting started with polishing your rims, you need for them to be clean and free of brake dust. The best way to get rid of everything which might cover your wheels is to first spray them off. Use a high powered hose if possible to remove as much dirt as possible. Spray on a degreaser generously to the rim. Make sure to get in between the spokes of your rim and in all the tight corners. The cleaner the rim is, the easier it will be to polish the wheel to a high shine. Any remaining dirt will simply scratch the surface while you are trying to polish it. After the degreaser has set for 10 minutes, rub it vigorously with a cotton cloth. Spray the wheel down with high pressured water.

Step 2 – Polish Rims

Once the rim has completely dried, you can start to apply polish to them. Use a cotton cloth to apply polish to the metal. The polish will go on hazy and need to be buffed out. The polishing buffs will allow you to get into all the different corners your wheels have. Use the power of your drill in order to turn the haze into a high powered shine. Change buffer heads between applications in order to make sure you are buffing and not spreading polish around. Keep reapplying polish until you feel it looks good enough. Use a sealant to keep the polish looking as new as possible for as long as possible. After applying the sealant, use a cloth buffer wheel to gently polish the last layer on to the rims.

Step 3 – Wax Your Wheels

To keep your rims from getting dirty to the point of needing to be polished again, simply add a wax at the end of the whole polish. The most popular wheel wax on the market goes on with a spray. The wax should not sit for very long before it is wiped down with a cotton cloth. To get the best possible protective shine, make sure you use a second cloth to shine the rim to perfection. After this you should only need to rinse your wheels a couple of times a week to keep them looking polished.

Looking for new wheels? Compare brands, types and prices with our Wheels Buyer's Guide.