Friday, February 26, 2021

Removing rust from chrome Royal Enfield wheels

Rust spot on chrome wheel rim.
Before: Rust spot in "gutter" of wheel rim feels rough and looks ugly.

Little rust spots on the wheels of your Royal Enfield motorcycle might alarm you if you're a neat nut. I'm not. I won't wash or wax my Royal Enfield if I can ride it instead. It's simple: there's often not time to do both.

But it rained the other day, just as I was looking forward to a ride, so I decided to finally get around to attacking the rust spots on the front wheel of my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet.

I'd noticed these the last time I washed the motorcycle, proving that it is a good idea to wash the bike because it takes your eyes to places that aren't normally your focus. You can spot problems before they get worse.

In my case, the rust spots showed up in the "gutter" of the chrome wheel, the very point where the metal turns  to form the shape that holds the spokes. Perhaps the chrome is thinner there, or, I suspect, this is where water pools when the bike gets wet when parked.

The rust spots were worse on the left side of my front wheel (facing forward) and that "gutter" is just where water gets caught when the motorcycle is on its center stand and the front wheel is turned to the right so the handlebars can be locked.

The advice is to rub the rust spots with aluminum foil, perhaps wet with a bit of cola, to remove the rust, and then coat with chrome polish. Chemicals in the cola are said to help, but most of the benefit comes from the foil, which leaves a bit of aluminum to salve the wound.

Chrome polish, diet cola and aluminum foil.
Tin foil, diet cola and chrome polish.

I've used the tin foil-and-Coke routine on other rusted chrome and been surprised by how well it works. On the other hand, I am skeptical that finishing with mere chrome polish will adequately protect the wheel from rusting again in the same spots. If this doesn't work (I'll let you know), next time I will try using a bit of chrome paint to cover the exposed metal.

I know, chrome paint won't match and looks slapdash, but I like to say that my Royal Enfield lives in the real world. I would rather have it really protected than cosmetically perfect. Also I like the idea of applying and perhaps renewing paint rather than constantly rubbing away at the finish.

Rust spot after cola-foil-and-polish treatment.
After: Note the scratch marks on treated area left by the tin foil.

The results with just tin foil and cola were encouraging. The rust spots were smooth to the touch and reduced in size to the point some were hard to see. But only the smallest rust spots were removed completely.

But, wow, what an effect the chrome polish had. The wheel just gleamed, reflecting light so brightly that it was difficult to photograph. In fact, I wish I had marked the rim so that I could be sure to shoot the "after" photo in the exact place the "before" shot was made. After the full treatment, I could no longer tell for sure.

So, good. But you and I know the rust is still there. Let's see how long it takes to return.

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