Smooth It Over
Simple Repair Technique Saves Time, Headaches and Money
Consider this common scenario: You just sold an expensive set of tires and wheels, and are feeling pretty happy with the accomplishment. But while you’re mounting the tires, the mount head on the changer suddenly slips and damages the wheel’s outside flange.
The pure euphoria you were enjoying from the sale is gone in a nanosecond. More importantly, now you face buying another wheel out of your pocket. Goodbye profit margin!
The same accident could occur in a slightly different fashion, with potentially worse results: The customer only bought new rubber for their sports car – staying with their existing, and quite expensive, wheels. Now you not only have to find and buy a replacement, but you have one angry customer to deal with.
Or do you?
Many dealers spend a great deal of time and money on outside wheel repairs for minor scratches caused during the mounting process. But with a little effort, most blemishes on polished wheels can be handled in-house, saving you time and money.
For example purposes, we’re considering the wheel that was damaged in the situation explained above – the tire slipped and forced the tire changer mount head into the edge of the outside flange while it was rotating (see Figure 1). From my experience, this is a pretty familiar problem.
Tools and Patience
Our list of needed tools and supplies includes white buffing rouge, 280-grit sandpaper, 320-grit sandpaper, a die grinder with a high-speed buffing wheel, polishing compound and several cleanup rags.
Notice how badly scarred the flange is in Figure 1? In severe cases, the first step is to use the 280-grit sandpaper to clean the jagged metal down to where it is pretty smooth. If the scratch is deep, work beyond the damaged area by two to three inches, feathering the area back as you go.
This will make the repair less noticeable than if you just worked on the damaged area where the result will be a noticeable "dip" in the metal that will probably be detected (see Figure 2).
Use the 280-grit sandpaper for only as long necessary as overuse will leave a surface that will take much longer to finish out.
When you go to the polishing compound, test it first to make sure you won’t cause more problems. Same with 320-grit sandpaper. Plus you can see whether the compound or the 320-grit paper will work better.
If you go with the 320-grit sandpaper, work it the same way as the heavier grade paper, feathering back for a smooth surface,
If polishing compound is the choice, use only as much as needed to make the repair. This will save you time.
Once you have sanded the surface, it is time to buff the fine lines left by the 320-grit sandpaper and begin final smoothing of the surface.
Using a die grinder with a high-speed buffing wheel – available at the local hardware or auto parts store, or from mail order companies specializing in metal finishing – run the buffing wheel through white polishing rouge first. Polishing rouge is a paste that will brighten the finish and remove extra fine scratches left after sanding (see Figure 3).
Once the wheel has been buffed, you can see if further sanding and rebuffing is needed or if the finish is near perfect. Using a polishing compound – readily available from auto parts stores or wheel distributors – work the repaired area to clean dried-on rouge, then clean a wide area around the repair by rubbing the compound in until it turns black (see Figure 4). This will remove oxidation and help make the repaired area blend in with the rest of the wheel’s finish.
Wipe away the wet polishing compound with a soft cotton cloth, then buff the area with another clean cloth to finish the job. Take a look at the difference in the accompanying photo (see Figure 5). The section on the left was after the first sanding, the section on the right is the finished repair.
Due to the severity of the scratch, this repair took approximately 45 minutes to complete. Some will be quicker, others a little longer. Material cost was less than $4, quite a savings vs. buying a whole new wheel.
Plus, as you become more proficient at these repairs, you can offer your services to other tire and wheel dealers, or directly to consumers who may have suffered a scrape or nick on their cherished wheels.