How to Get Rid of Rust on Tire Rims

March 18, 2013

If you have a spare hour, you can save yourself the cost of having a professional detailer get the rust off your tire rims.

Rusty Tire Rim

With a few simple steps and common materials, it is easy to remove rust from tire rims. If allowed to remain, rim rust will eventually eat its way into the metal, leaving pits and weakening the structure of your rims. Rust should be removed from tire rims as soon as it is noticed in order to prevent permanent damage. Rust removal can be performed on steel and true chrome rims. Tire rims that have been painted with chrome paint will be scratched with the following process, and should not be used.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Mild soap and water mixture
  • Stiff bristled brush
  • Clean, lint-free towels
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Wire brush and steel wool (Medium grade and Fine grade)
  • Chemical rust remover
  • Safety equipment
  • Rust proof coating (Clear sealant, Rust-Oleum paint)

Step 1: Clean the Tire Rims

Use a mild soap and water solution and a stiff bristled brush to clean all dirt and debris from the tire rims. Once tire rims have totally dried, completely wipe them with a towel dampened with rubbing alcohol.

Step 2: Tire Rim Rust Removal

Using the wire brush and/or the steel wool (medium grade), brush and rub the affected area. The amount of force you will need is dependent on the severity of the rim rust. Periodically wipe the area off to check on your progress. Remember, you do not want to be too aggressive and damage the underlying metal. Use the chemical rust remover as directed to remove more stubborn areas of rim rust. If you come across an area of deep rust, do not remove it or it will leave a pit. If you find a few small areas like this, you may want to apply a chemical to bind the rust, such as Plus Rust Converter. This product ensures that none of the metal from the tire rim is lost. The deeply rusted area will be converted to a useful metal coating that can be finished with paint and/or sealant. Note that if you found large areas of deep rust or have found many areas of deep rust, you should consider scrapping the tire rim and getting a new one. Finally, use the fine grade steel wool to buff and polish the previously rusted areas.

Step 3: Applying Protective Coating to the Tire Rims

After the rim rust has been removed, and the areas have been buffed and polished, wipe down the tire rims with an alcohol dampened cloth. This will ensure an oil and dirt free surface for the protective coating. Following the manufacturer's application instructions, spray or paint the protective coating on the tire rims. Allow the rims to fully dry. Lightly buff out the tire rim with the fine grade steel wool, and wipe clean with an alcohol-dampened towel. Once the alcohol has dried, apply a second coating of the protectant.

A tight budget does not mean you have to live with shabby looking tire rims. With a little bit of time and elbow grease, you can keep rim rust at bay and have nice looking tire rims on your vehicle.

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