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Wheel Finishes: Polished

Number of visits: Date:2018-11-26 16:15

There are several different types of polished wheels out there; traditional, machine-polished and brushed. All are based on some technique of buffing the metal of the wheel to a high shine, but the methods, the results and the necessary care and maintenance differ widely.


Along the spectrums of beautiful finish, durable finish and easy-to-care-for finish, polishing tends to straddle the gap between painted wheels and chrome supermodels.


The advent of clearcoat for polished wheels especially, has mostly turned these finishes from maintenance monsters into acceptable housepets.





Traditional, or ball polishing is applied by buffing the wheel, usually with progressively softer materials, until the metal achieves a deep metallic glow. Older polished wheels were generally not clearcoated, as it took a while to develop a clearcoat that could adhere properly to the extremely smooth polished surface. Polished wheels without a clearcoat would have to be washed, dried and waxed, usually every week, to keep air and water from corroding the metal. Even with all that many owners would find it necessary to do some repolishing with a ball polisher and fine compound every once in awhile.


Lately however, nearly all new polished wheels have a clearcoat, making possible some configurations that probably would not have been attempted back in the day.


Many 3-piece wheels, for example, now sport polished lips that would have been nearly impossible to wax.


Repairing a polished finish is relatively simple, if generally somewhat expensive, as it must be repolished by hand. Fortunately, older polished wheels can now be clearcoated after being repaired.





A machined finish is applied by spinning the wheel on a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) lathe. The lathe bit cuts a small amount of metal off the face of the wheel, flattening and polishing the surface to a high metallic shine. This process leaves tiny concentric lines in the finish, giving it an effect somewhat like the surface of a CD.


Most often, the wheel is painted a contrasting color before being lathed. The lathe polishes the high spots in the wheel while leaving paint in the low spots, an effect we call "paint in the pockets." Or the lathe might only cut the outer flange and leave paint in the center of the wheel, called a "flange cut."


Machined finishes can be repaired by putting them back on the CNC lathe - up to a point. Because the lathe operates by removing material, there obviously has to be enough material to remove. Repeated lathings will eventually reach a point where there is simply not enough metal left to safely refinish the wheel. Certain wheels with flanges that are thin to begin with may also be unsafe to lathe.


Whatever the type of polish, if it is clearcoated, the wheel should be cleaned with amild, non-acid, non-abrasive cleaner and water.

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