Wheel Clearcoat Removal

by Vince Ponzo



In order to remove the clear coat on most wheels follow this procedure. I mean FOLLOW it. If you don't you will have a tough time correcting the mistake. I know I had to work hard to fix the wheel as shown in the photo with this article.

Shopping list:

  1. 1500 and 2500 grit wet sandpaper

  2. Four spray cans of Heavy Duty Easy Off Oven cleaner.  Cost $3.89ea

  3. Three or more sponges, lots of rags and toilet paper, water, spray with hose. The toilet paper is disposable and I used it first, then the rags, etc.

  4. A minute timer with a bell to let you know how much time has elapsed. Kitchen timer is okay as long as it is 10 minutes long.

  5. A jar of Mother's Mag and Aluminum polish or similar  polish. P21S was not strong enough and would take you longer to finish a  wheel. Cost $10.

  6. A box of disposable gloves.

Caution if you plan to use tape to mask off the wheel remove it after each application of Easy Off. Read below for what happened to me. Disclaimer: I am not, nor will I be responsible for any bad results you may get when using the following method to remove the clearcoat. YOU have to be careful .The hardest part is the polishing with the Mother's.

Clean off all the dirt and grime from both sides of the wheel. Really clean the wheel first. You will be happy you did when you find out the oven cleaner runs all over the wheel and you. Remove all black residue from the back and in the cracks. I used detergent, a plastic/foam sponge called 3M Scotchbrite and plenty of water. I only worked on one wheel at a time. This served a purpose as not to get tired doing the same thing. I am suggesting you do one wheel at a time and complete the procedure. If anything goes wrong or you don't want to continue and you only used one wheel.

If you are doing this indoors ventilate the room. Outdoors there is no problem. This is a messy job so what I recommend is you lay out a 5 foot piece of cardboard on the floor or table. Remember this stuff eats metal like candy if left on long enough. Keep away from shrubbery, etc. After you remove the tire lay the rim on the cardboard and spray the entire face of the
rim. Wait a minute and respray. Reason: you will notice the surface bubbling and by respraying you change the area of the bubbles. I think the bubbles prevent the clearcoat from softening therefore the double spray. LEAVE IT ON FOR 5

The first time you spray it might be okay to let it stay on for 10  minutes. Legs wobbly? Try 5 minute sessions. After a session or the 5 minutes, remove the oven cleaner with the paper and then the wet sponges and the water. Respray again and wait the 5 minutes and you will see after the second application that the clearcoat came off or the wheel will be speckled.  This means the clearcoat came off in part or it looks it is mottled and only came off some of the wheel. You may have to do this a third time. Messy, but worth it. Clean the wheel with soap and water after the rim looks chalky white and all the clearcoat is off.


After you stop jumping up and down with fright for five minutes, it will be time to polish the rim. At this point the wheel is chalky white and somehow you may discover small scratches on the rim. They were hidden by the clear coat. Take a clean rag [old tee shirt will do] and put some Mother's polish on it and start rubbing a 4 in. section of the rim. Rub it in, hard at first and then ease off to a gentle rub. You will see a lot of black coming off which is the metal being polished. Don't be discouraged and keep polishing and it will come out almost chrome like, it just takes more polishing. Then polish the next section and the next until the wheel is uniformly polished. It will take time. Patience is needed and no cursing at me.

FOR THIS SECTION YOU WILL NEED A BUCKET WITH WATER AND SOAP TO WET THE  SANDPAPER. DO THIS SECTION GENTLY. For the scratches you should use this or your own method to remove them. I used the 1500 grit sandpaper wet first and gently rubbed the scratch. Eventually a 1/2 scar will develop to a 4 in.
brushed aluminum look spot. You have to smooth out the scratch. Do not rub in one spot. Then use the 2500 grit wet sandpaper and gently rub the same area. You will notice that it is getting smoother. When you cannot detect the scratch then it is time for the tee shirt and Mother's combo until the area is highly polished. EASY ON THE SANDPAPER. Everytime you use the sandpaper on a scratch you will have to repolish the spot and it takes time. Use the sandpaper very gently.

wheel_refinish_2.jpg (120290 bytes)I MADE THIS MISTAKE. In order to demonstrate how a wheel looks in various stages for this article I decided to tape off sections during the procedure. So, I taped off three sections: One-third showing the clearcoat; one-third after the clearcoat was removed [chalky white]; one-third highly polished. I went through the instructions above except I left the tape on during all the oven cleaner spraying, neglecting cleaning under the edge of the tape. It will get under no matter how hard you try. Under the tape, the oven cleaner probably stayed on the wheel for 40 minutes. Five minutes spraying on and removing the oven cleaner, 5 minutes to take it off and see the results, respray and clean, go to the bathroom, respray and clean for a total of 40 minutes. Time flies when you are having fun. Result: A long 5 inch groove that looked like a deep scratch. I had to sand for a long time to resurface the scar and then polish the hell out of it. Don't make the same mistake.

The results were more than satisfactory. Total cost about $30. Maybe 4 hours a wheel. Now I have to buy a set of tires to complete the look.

This whole procedure could be used for those lousy track wheels that you did not car about. You can make them look great. Try it. If you have a problem email me for help. I will be glad to help you.

I will forward pictures of the rims with tires on the car in the near future. Porsche.....ain't it a bitch.

Finished result