TIPS FOR REFINISHING CHROME AND ALUMINUM RIMS

Should a collision job involve repairing a vehicle’s wheels, it’s important to keep a few guidelines in mind during the process.

For example, before refinishing chrome or aluminum wheels on 2011–2021 GM vehicles, first inspect them for any serious damage, such as corrosion, cracks, scrapes, bent rim flanges or other imperfections. Should any of these conditions exist, discard the wheels and replace them with new ones that meet the vehicle’s original specifications.

Ensure that any wheel damage is no deeper than what can simply be sanded or polished off. Only the cosmetic refinishing of the coatings is recommended.

REFINISHING TIPS

For wheels with minor cosmetic damage, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Painted aluminum wheels are finished using a primer, color-coat and clear-coat procedure. If the paint is damaged, refinishing is still possible, but the original coatings must be removed first.
  • Bright, machined aluminum wheels typically have a polyester or acrylic clear-coat. And, while surface refinishing is possible, the wheel must be totally stripped and should be resurfaced by sanding rather than machining. Sanding allows the least amount of material to be removed. Attempting to remove aluminum through machining could affect the wheel’s dimensions and function. In some cases, if the wheels have recessed pockets, they may be painted.
  • Polished aluminum wheels can be fully repainted.
  • Chrome-plated aluminum wheels should not be replated.

PAINTING VERSUS CLEAR-COATING

Note that instead of reapplying a clear-coat on polished and bright machined aluminum wheels, painting remains a viable option. In fact, paint will better mask any surface imperfections and is somewhat more durable than clear-coat alone. However, do not paint or clear-coat the wheel’s mounting surface and wheel-nut contact surface, as this could negatively affect wheel-nut torque.

For additional refinishing-related information, see Doc #17-NA-052 on Service Information.