Re­furb­ing three-piece wheels

NZ Performance Car - - Workshop Weekend - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: JADEN MARTIN

Wel­come to the Week­end Work­shop, a place where you can save some cash by get­ting your hands dirty. These tech guides aim to arm you with the nec­es­sary info and knowl­edge to get out there and give it a go your­self, with no pro­fes­sion­als needed and for a price that won’t break the bank. This month, we delve into re­fur­bish­ing three-piece wheels.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, you’ve pur­chased a slick new set of three-piece wheels. But when they ar­rive, they aren’t quite the shin­ing ex­am­ples the seller de­scribed, and they are in dire need of some ten­der love and care to get them back on the train to e-fame. Since you’ve more than likely blown any­where be­tween $1K and $4K on buy­ing them, tak­ing them to the lo­cal re­furb shop may be a bit harsh on the wal­let — es­pe­cially at this time of year. So, to­day, you’ll learn how to turn some kerbed-up, scratched and peel­ing rub­bish­pile-fillers into straight-outta-the-man­u­fac­turer’sshow­room ex­am­ples, thanks to a pair of Work Equip 05s that have been sit­ting in the shed wait­ing for their day for far too long.

TIME RE­QUIRED Two days, de­pend­ing on de­sired fin­ish TOOLS AND MA­TE­RI­ALS

Ratchet, 8mm star socket, 12mm span­ner, metal file, mal­let, paint strip­per, as­sort­ment of sand­pa­per (400grit to 2000-grit), acid wash (op­tional), metal pol­ish, clean rags, spray can (op­tional), sil­i­cone sealer, wax, rub­ber gloves


First things first, get the rub­ber off ASAP — the tyres aren’t any good to you right now and won’t al­low you to split the wheels — trust us, we’ve tried. Next, you want to get the bolts off: grab the ratchet and socket set out of the tool­box, a cou­ple of span­ners to swing and some kind of stor­age con­tainer. Note: man­u­fac­tur­ers use dif­fer­ent-size bolts — in the case of the Works, it was a 12mm hex span­ner for the nut and an 8mm star socket on the bolt head. Tech­niques may vary here, and how seized the bolts are will fac­tor into it, too; how­ever, in this cir­cum­stance, it was easy for us to ap­ply pres­sure from the bolt-head side. Be care­ful do­ing this though, as too much force will cause the head to strip and ruin the look of your bolt.


Once ev­ery­thing hold­ing the three sec­tions to­gether has been re­moved, each wheel should sep­a­rate fairly eas­ily. In case they are a bit harder to sep­a­rate — if age has fused them to­gether, as it did with the Works here — at­tempt to re­move the rear bar­rel first by lightly tap­ping the out­side edge away from the cen­tre meet­ing point. Once you have got this un­stuck, rest the outer bar­rel on two pieces of wood, al­low­ing room for the face to drop down be­tween, and to the face. If trou­ble per­sists, check that all sil­i­cone has been cut away and isn’t hold­ing the sur­faces to­gether, then re­peat.


When you’ve got rid of the bolts and they are safely stored in a con­tainer where none can go astray — we rec­om­mend soak­ing them in de­greaser while you con­tinue — you can move onto break­ing the seal. Most wheels will be sealed via a sil­i­cone bead run be­tween the three sec­tions’ meet­ing sur­faces (outer bar­rel, face, and rear bar­rel), but oth­ers can be welded. If it’s the lat­ter, un­less you’re will­ing to try some nasty DIY tech­niques, take it to the clos­est en­gi­neer­ing shop and have the guys lathe the weld out. Sil­i­cone, on the other hand, is easy — sim­ply grab a Stan­ley knife and use it to slice where each sur­face meets to form a sin­gle piece of sil­i­cone that should sim­ply pull out/off. Note: slic­ing at ran­dom will make things a lot harder, and more clean-up will be in­volved.


Your outer bar­rels are likely to be kerb rashed and dented. To fix this, you’ll need a metal file and mal­let. Us­ing the file as you would a piece of sand­pa­per, at­tack the kerb rash, mak­ing sure to work your an­gles to main­tain a round edge — don’t file one spot un­til it’s flat and warps the shape of the bar­rel. It may take some prac­tice to get the mo­tion right, and if the dents are too big to file out, give them a tap to help push them back. Once things look a bit bet­ter, hit them with some 400-grit sand­pa­per and dou­ble your grit each un­til 2000-grit to cre­ate a smooth fin­ish. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant if you in­tend to pol­ish-fin­ish them — a pol­ished fin­ish can be achieved by us­ing a metal pol­ish (we found Au­tosol to be the most ef­fec­tive) and ap­ply­ing a bit of el­bow grease to cre­ate the de­sired fin­ish.


To re­move pow­der coat and paint, pick up a strong paint strip­per and spread spar­ingly over the face, then wait 30 min­utes or un­til the coat­ing bub­bles up. If noth­ing hap­pens, reap­ply and wrap with cling film to speed up the process. Once it’s stripped, you’ll be able to ac­cess the dam­age un­der­neath. Re­mov­ing flak­ing chrome is a bit trick­ier, and hinges on how bad the cor­ro­sion is. Try scuff­ing the af­fected areas back with medium-grit sand­pa­per to achieve a smooth fin­ish that can later be pol­ished out — if the flak­ing is be­yond this, you’ll need to have the face acid dipped to re­move all plat­ing. For a pol­ished fin­ish, fol­low the process de­tailed in step four. If you in­tend to paint, give it a quick scuff, as the paint work will fill in fine scratches — lay a cou­ple of coats of primer be­fore ap­ply­ing the colour of your choice and fin­ish­ing with a clear coat.


Chuck on a pair of rub­ber gloves, or han­dle pieces with a clean rag to avoid dirty­ing the sur­face. Lay the rear bar­rel on the ground with the mid­dle end fac­ing up. En­sure that this is free of any con­tam­i­nants on the meet­ing sur­face, and, if needed, give it a quick scuff with a light sand­pa­per to re­move any traces of grime. Do the same with the front and back sur­faces of the face be­fore plac­ing onto the rear bar­rel — take care to line up the valve stem, as some de­signs will need it to feed through a spe­cific point on the face. Then fit the outer bar­rel in the same man­ner and lo­cate all three sec­tions to­gether with a few bolts. Vis­ually in­spect that all the holes are lin­ing up then feed bolts through, fin­ger tight­en­ing each un­til com­plete. Torque each bolt in the same way you re­moved it, tak­ing care not to ap­ply force to the bolt head, as you will strip it.


Brake dust is your en­emy, and the rear bar­rel is its turf. Over years of brak­ing, the rear bar­rels end up caked in a com­bi­na­tion of dirt, water, and brake dust. To re­move all that crud, clean away any ex­cess grime with soapy water, dry off with a rag, then sand back the brake dust with a medium- to fine-grit pa­per un­til you can see the orig­i­nal sur­face. To speed up the process, you can be­gin by acid wash­ing the bar­rels then sand. For the per­fect fin­ish, you can re­paint and clear the rear bar­rels to make main­te­nance easy.


Ar­guably the most crit­i­cal part of the re­furb is re­seal­ing the three sec­tions back to­gether to en­sure air doesn’t es­cape when they’re fit­ted with a tyre. This can be achieved by us­ing reg­u­lar bath­room sealer — there are prod­ucts de­signed specif­i­cally for seal­ing wheels, but the bath­room equiv­a­lent hasn’t failed us yet.

Pre­par­ing the sur­face is im­por­tant. Re­move any loose sil­i­cone that may re­main from the pre­vi­ous sealant, and use iso­propyl al­co­hol for good mea­sure. We rec­om­mend lay­ing a line of tape along each side of where the bead will lie to cre­ate a clean fin­ish. Be­gin by lay­ing a smooth, con­sis­tent bead all the way around, and run your fin­ger (in gloves) over the bead to press and spread the sealant into all the gaps. When still wet, re­move the tape to clean the lines, and al­low to sit overnight.


These can be a real pain in the arse in terms of time con­sump­tion — that’s why you chucked them in de­greaser ear­lier on to help soften up what­ever is likely to be coat­ing them. In this case, the bolts were cov­ered in what ap­peared to be spray-can paint, which peeled off eas­ily after soak­ing. To scrub them up to an ac­cept­able stan­dard, you can ei­ther fine-brush them to re­move all grime and then pol­ish by hand, or line them up se­curely in a row then run a lick of paint over them — the al­ter­na­tive is to chuck them back in after a bit of spit shin­ing with a rag.


After all your hard work, it would be a shame to see the wheels go back down the same road you have res­cued them from be­cause of poor pro­tec­tion. If you opted for the pol­ished al­loy fin­ish, pro­tec­tion is ei­ther a sim­ple lick of clear coat — although this is known to dull the shine — or a reg­u­lar pol­ish and wax to pre­vent cor­ro­sion. Painted sur­faces are much easier to pro­tect, as they will have the clear to fin­ish the sur­face, although wash­ing reg­u­larly and wax­ing is rec­om­mended to stop brake dust build­ing up.

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