How To Get Rust Off Chrome Rims

Do you know how to get rust off chrome rims? Nothing is more classic than a nice shiny chrome rim on a car or motorcycle. And nothing looks worse than rusty chrome.  With the number of different styles and finishes for rims today the first thing to be sure about is that the rim is actually chromed and not some other finish, the care can vary greatly. We will assume you have checked with the manufacturer and the finish is chromed steel and not some modern painted or polished finish such as aluminum which are very prevalent on todays vehicles. Since all the experts recommend against using abrasives on chrome wheels we will attempt to try and clean them without using abrasives where possible, saving abrasives for those examples where their use is a last resort to replacing or re-chroming.

Materials needed:

  • Soft cloths
  • Towels
  • Water
  • Mild soap
  • Automotive wax
  • Silver/jewelry or fine abrasive metal polish
  • Chrome polish
  • Fine steel wool

The process will go something like this:

  1. Wash wheel. Wash and dry the wheel with the soap and towel. Inspect the areas which may need polishing.
  2. Wax the wheel. Wax the entire wheel using the automotive wax and following the instructions. Pay special attention to the rust areas. Rub hard at those areas which are rusty to attempt to remove it. Polish off wax when dry.
  3. Inspect wheel.  Inspect the wheel carefully. If the rust is gone you are done. If not move on to the next step. The next steps are not generally recommended by the wheel companies. When we worked as a detailer at a used car lot for five years during high school and college they were used as alternatives to replacing expensive chrome where possible. Care of course must be exercised as overuse of them can wear off the chrome.
  4. Polish rust areas with fine metal polish or chrome polish.  Use soft cloths and the polish to polish the area with rust. Follow the directions on the packaging and when finished move on to next step.
  5. Inspect Wheel. Inspect the wheel for any remaining rust. If the rust is gone you can re-wax the wheel and you are finished. If there is still rust evident, it is time for a bit more aggressive action.
  6. Use chrome polish and steel wool to clean remaining rust. The following step is a last resort after the first steps fail. If it is getting to the point were it may need re-chroming why not give it a bit of a try, as lightly as possible. It may at least buy time before the purchase is needed. Add a small amount of the chrome cleaner on the steel wool. Rub the loaded steel wool over the affected area. Try to do as small an area as possible so as not to damage any further areas. When the rust is gone let the polish dry as recommended on the product and polish off with a soft cloth.
  7. Wax rim.  Final finish the rim with the automotive wax as recommended on the instructions.

Hopefully the wheel is nice and shiny clean now. If the wheel still has rust or pits evident it might be time to consider taking it to a professional. To keep it this way wash and clean then wax the wheels several times per year.