Aluminum alloy rims are a highly desired item on any RV and offer a number of advantages over steel rims. They offer a better ride because they are truer and lighter than steel rims. It’s also easier to get at the valve stems without cutting your hands on the stainless steel trim rings. Oh, and did I mention, they look cool?

The Problem

However, aluminum rims do tend to get chalky after a while. The constant abrasion from swirling dust, effects of road salt and tar, and oxidation from the atmosphere doesn’t let them retain their brilliance indefinitely. Fortunately, uncoated aluminum rims are thick and the shine can be restored to them by polishing. Polishing is really nothing more than super fine sanding.

Rims that have been exposed to the elements over time take on a chalky appearance and if allowed to continue, develop pits in the polished surface. The only way to get rid of that is by removing the offending layer. A polishing compound that is designed for alloy metals will eliminate the haze and pits. If the polish is too abrasive it will clean that up real fast but won’t leave a very shiny finish. A polish that is too fine will leave a nice polished finish but you’ll spend the entire week trying to get there so it’s important to find a good polish that is designed for aluminum wheel rims to get the right balance.

There are a number of products on the market that are designed for this application, and just like vehicle waxes, everyone has their own preference as to which one works best. For this article we won’t attempt to perform a shootout test of the various products. We used Mothers products to show you how to do your own polishing but the procedure will be the same with other brands of polishes.

The Test

The first step is to determine whether or not your wheel rims are coated or uncoated. Some rims are available with a clear coating which acts as a sealer and will protect them from oxidation. Coated rims should never be polished and must be lightly washed with soap and water. If you use anything abrasive on them, the clear coat will get scratched and look foggy. While the clear coating helps to maintain the original shine, it also never lets them look their very best because the coating does tend to dull the original shine of the aluminum.

The two most common brands of coated wheels are the Alcoa Dura-Bright and Accuride Accu-Shield rims. They may still have stampings or decals identifying them, but if not you should test them by rubbing a minute amount of polish on a paper towel to a small area by hand. The towel will turn black as the polish reacts with the aluminum. If it doesn’t, you have coated wheels and should not polish them.