It's no big revelation that the right wheel choice can totally transform the way a car looks. This is true no matter what the make, model or genre of car. Both cars below illustrate just how much wheel choice, combined with ride height adjustments can change the overall appearance of a car.
For the better....
or for the worse...
We wanted to do something about the wheels on our Mk5 GTi project car to improve the appearance. Someone in the past had painted the standard 17" Monza alloys satin black and while it is a look than can work on some cars, it wasn't for us.
If money was no object we'd have gone for a brand new set of wheels and tyres, probably 18's and probably BBS to really fill those arches while maintaining an 'OEM' look. However, money was an issue. Add to that, the fact that we'd only just shelled out for a brand new set tyres, so changing the size of the wheels was definitely out of the question.
So we turned our attention to refurbishing our existing wheels. The thought occurred to try it ourselves but the time it would take us to do a decent job made it prohibitive.
We got in touch with local alloy wheel specialists Rim Solutions, popped down to see them and had a chat about what they could do for us. We were impressed! Not only by the range of finishes available but by the amazing contrast between the tatty wheels being dropped in by customers and the pristine refurbished examples being handed back.
We decided rather than just refurb our wheels back to the standard silver we'd go for something a little bit different and replicate the finish on the larger (and cooler) 18" Monza alloys fitted to some GTi's. These wheels have a diamond cut surface and metallic grey inserts and really suit the car.
After seeing some of the processes involved on our first visit we thought it would make a really interesting video, so we came back a few weeks later and the guys at Rim Solutions let us film them reconditioning our wheels from start to finish. Check out the video:
How it's done:
Once the wheels are removed from the car, the tyres, valves and old balance weights are removed. The wheels then go into and acid bath to strip away the original paint, dirt and grime. What comes out is a very tatty looking set of wheels!
Next the wheels are individually checked for damage, including buckles, cracks and runout. This is the most disconcerting part of the process to watch as buckles are straightened out with a hydraulic ram which forces low, buckled point on the wheel rim from the inside, outwards. During the process the rim momentarily deforms into a decidedly egg-like shape. The metal has amazing 'memory' and returns immediately, but without the buckle!
The level of damage that can be repaired is also impressive. Wheels that i would have thought fit for the bin can be repaired to as-new condition.
The next stage of preparation removes curbing and deep scratches by building up metal with an aluminium TIG welding process, this is then ground back by hand to a smooth finish.
Smaller scuffs, scratches and imperfections are sanded out by hand and the wheels then get sand blasted to achieve a uniform finish and to remove the last traces of any contaminants. The wheels are then washed and dried and move on to the first stage of the powder coating process.
Rim Solutions powder coat their wheels as opposed to painting them. Powder coating using a "gun" or compressed air sprayer which electrostatically charges the powder material so that it sticks to the grounded base metal object (the wheel) receiving the coating. When applied the powder has a rough, matt texture, it's only when the wheels are baked or cured in an oven at just over 200 degrees C that a smooth shiny finish is achieved.
Depending on the style and final finish of the wheel, they may need a number of layers of powder coat, each of which needs to be baked. In addition to the powder coat, our wheels were being diamond cut, a process which gives a raw, machined metal finish which is extremely popular on new cars at the moment. The diamond cutting process takes place on a CNC machine and removes a wafer thin layer of aluminium from the face of the wheel, leaving a shiny surface, contrasting with the painted surfaces.
After diamond cutting the wheels need a final layer of powder coat lacquer. When this goes on it's white but after curing in the oven it comes out as completely clear with high gloss finish.
The final step is to refit the valves and tyres, balance the wheels and refit the whole lot to the car with new centre caps!
For more examples of Rim Solutions work go check out their facebook page
or just give them a shout on 01 620 5432!
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