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How To Polish Semi Truck Rims? (Ultimate Guide – With Video)

As a semi-truck driver, you understand the necessity of maintaining your rims. It’s vital to master the art of polishing semi-truck rims to a mirror sheen if you want them to look great. 

Polishing your edges may appear purely cosmetic, but appropriate treatment can protect them from dirt and rust, allowing them to last longer.

Here’s a Quick Summary of How to Polish Semi-Truck Rims:

To polish an aluminum semi-truck rim, a power tool with a buffer brush can be used to apply the polish suitable for aluminum rims. For steel semi-truck rims, the paint has to be removed first before polishing. It is advisable to paint or plate steel rims after polishing to prevent them from rusting.

What Tools are Required to Polish Semi-truck Rims?

The tools that are required to polish semi-truck rims are:

  • Safety flanges 

Safety flanges are required when utilizing airway buffing wheels and must be mounted to each side of the buffing wheel. 

  • Personal Gear

The personal protective gear comprises ear, hand, and eye protection and, most importantly, breathing protection.

  • Buffing wheels 

Using buffing wheels is a must to smooth the surface of the rim.

  • Compound

Using compound can polish out scratches and remove old and oxidized paint. 

  • Microfiber Cloth

Use a microfiber cloth to remove dirt and serve as a dirt magnet. 

What Safety Gear Do you Need to Polish Semi-truck Rims?

The safety gears that you need to polish semi-truck rims are:

  • Ear protection

The grinder, for example, is quite loud and may cause eardrum damage if not adequately protected. 

This can lead to hearing loss, which is dangerous on the road because you need to be able to listen to horns, sirens, and other sounds. 

  • Hand protection

If the grinder slides, hand protection can prevent you from losing a finger — a pair of durable gloves could save you a trip to the hospital and all the pain, expense, and time that comes with it.

  • Eye protection

Of course, flying debris can harm your eyes; safety eyewear can help you avoid losing your vision.

  • Respiratory Protection

Finally, because the polishing process can produce airborne particles, you must wear respiratory protection. 

These are extremely finely ground compound particles that can float in the air. Inhaling these can cause significant health issues and put you out of work. 

It’s advisable to wait until you’re fully equipped if you’re missing even one piece of safety equipment.

Products Required to Polish Steel or Aluminum Semi-truck Rims?

The products that are required to polish steel or aluminum semi-truck rims are:

1. Perfection Metal Polish

This wipe-on, let-dry, wipe-off metal polish quickly cleans, seals, and protects aluminum, stainless steel, and chrome. 

2. Water Spot Eliminator

Eliminator eliminates hard water and mineral deposits off gel coat, aluminum, stainless steel, glass, chrome, and fiberglass.

3. Buffing Wheel

A revolving buffing wheel removes scratches and stains while providing a professional, detailed appearance in less time than buffing by hand. 

4. Polishing Rouge

This is the industry standard for primary cutting on iron, steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. 

Use with a medium to heavy cutting airway buffing wheel for best results.

How to Polish Steel Rims on a Semi-truck?

To polish the steel rims on your semi-truck, here are the simple things to do:

1. Mix equal parts CLR® Calcium Lime Rust and warm water in a well-ventilated environment.

2. Rinse the dirt from the surface with warm soapy water.

3. Using a brush, cloth, or sponge, apply the CLR/water solution.

4. Rinse with cold water after 2-3 minutes.

5. Display your gleaming rims.

You can follow similar steps in this video when polishing steel rims:

How to Prepare Steel Rims

Here’s how to prepare steel rims:

1. Remove the old paint from the rims.

2. The rims should be etched primed.

3. Fill in all the groves, and little defects on the rim with filler primer etched into the primer.

4. Using a contrasting color, softly spray the rim’s surface. Allow the rims to dry over the night.

5. After the primer has cured, smooth down the steelies with fine-grit wet and dry sandpaper. The damp and dry sandpaper must be soaked in warm water.

6. We’ll sand the wheels until they’re perfectly smooth and free of black speckles.

7. After finishing, wash the rim to remove any sandpaper residue. The steel wheels should then be allowed to dry.

How do you Fix Oxidation on Steel Rims?

Here are the three tricks to fix oxidation on your steel rims:

1. Water and Scrub method

Wash and brush the rims with soapy water to remove as much dirt, grime, and rust as possible.

2. Use safe acid-base cleaners

You can buy these acid-base cleaners in auto part stores or use a homemade alternative such as white vinegar, lemon, limes, or other sources of citric acid. 

3. The Sandblaster Method

Wearing protective gears, turn on the sandblaster and aim at areas of rust. 

How to Buff Steel Rims?

To buff your steel rims try the following:

  1. Use sandpaper.
  2. Move the sander at a 90° angle if there are any visible scratches.
  3. When changing the grit of the sandpaper, turn 90 degrees from the previous motion.

How to Restore Corrosion Protection on Steel Rims?

To restore corrosion protection on steel rims, make sure your rims are clean, polished, and plate properly. It’s advisable you use a pH-balanced cleanser to maintain the rim’s clear coating.

  • Cleaning

Make sure to clean the steel rims regularly to prevent the accumulation of dust or iron contamination. 

  • Polishing

After cleaning the steel rims, choose a polish that suits them. With a quality polish, the rims will be shiny as ever and look brand new as the scratch will not be as visible.

  • Plating

You will need a professional to do plating. This hack will minimize oxidation and increase your semi truck’s aesthetic value.

Final Polishing Steps of the Steel Rim

Here are the final polishing steps of the steel rim:

1. Use a commercial polish in a dry cloth, start at one edge, and work across the surface in circles.

2. When you’re done, use a clean, dry cloth to remove any extra polish.

How to Polish Aluminum Rims on a Semi-truck?

To polish aluminum rims on a semi-truck:

  1. Apply one rim at a time with an appropriate polish and polishing tool.
  2. Start polishing over the rim with your polishing tool, gradually increasing speed as you go.
  3. Wipe the rim clean with a soft microfiber towel and repeat the process on all of your rims.

Here’s a cool video on how to polish an aluminum semi-truck rim:

How to Prepare Aluminum Rims

To prepare aluminum rims, ensure that the surface is clean and dry and that any oil or grease is removed. 

Allow drying completely. If oxidization is present, it should be cleaned with a solvent wash before applying any polishing technique.

How do you Fix Oxidation on Aluminum Rims?

A pre-cleaner for metal polish is required to fix oxidation on aluminum rims. 

Allow the cleaner to sit for about 10 minutes after spraying it on. 

If necessary, brush oxidized spots. Before continuing, thoroughly rinse and dry the wheel.

How to Buff Aluminum Rims?

To buff aluminum rims, use a series of buffing wheels and compounds. 

The buffing wheel’s spinning material works with the abrasive material in the buffing compounds to smooth off the aluminum. 

Always work from coarse to smooth, and each combination should have its buffing wheel.

How to Restore Corrosion Protection on Aluminum Rims?

To restore corrosion protection on aluminum rims, use clear coating, including a protective layer applied at the manufacturing. 

While the materials and processes here differ from the clear coat on your rims, they both serve the same objective.

How do you Clean Badly Pitted Aluminum Wheels?

To clean badly pitted aluminum wheels, here are the steps to do:

1. Fray the edges with the new buffing wheel. 

2. Hold the rouge bar on the buffing wheel for 3 seconds, working it from edge to edge.

3. Divide the rims into pieces. Begin on the rim’s face and work your way to the edge. With good even passes from left to right, bottom to top.

4. Slowly ascend and steadily advance your black compound line.

5. When you detect the black line beginning to fade, remove all the old burnt-on compounds from the pad, reapply additional compounds, and repeat.

How do you Polish Aluminum Wheels to Mirror Finish?

To polish aluminum wheels to mirror finish:

1. Take out your buffing wheel and moss compound. Apply compound to your rim and rake it.

2. Begin on the interior and work your way outward. 

3. Grab a microfiber towel and dab some Eliminator on the rims in-between steps. 

4. Leave the film to see exactly where your polishing line is and clear out all of the rouges before moving on to the finishing step.

5. Grab the bar rouge and your untreated white airway or flannel buffing wheel.

6. Start on the interior and work your way out to the edges. This will break down any remaining buffing lines and blend everything for a beautiful finish.