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Wednesday Wheels Project: BBS RS Refresh Part 2: Cleaning and Centers

A few weeks ago, I started up my BBS RS Refresh post with work on the centercaps. The time had come to do some work on the rest of the wheels; in this case, although overall the wheels were certainly in serviceable shape they needed a good cleaning. In addition, the center “waffles” seemed to bear the brunt of the years of brake dust; two had given up the ghost completely and had nearly no paint on them. But before I got there, the wheels needed a good cleaning. In particular, the backs of the wheels had years of material buildup. I’m not sure why having clean backs to wheels is at all important to me, but I really like having clean wheels – front and back. Over the years, I’ve tried many different ways to get the crud off, from scraping to chemicals, and worn down my nails in the process. I wish I had known the ways I’ve found now, because it would have saved me a lot of time and effort.

The answer was staring me in the face, though I guess I didn’t know it. One of my favorite race cars of all time was the 1992 Audi V8 DTM, and it was sponsored by Sonax – a company that produced some impressive wheel cleaners, according to the reviews I looked up. I took the plunge and ordered a bottle. The product is pretty amazing; you spray it on, and as it reacts with metal deposits in the caked on brake dust it changes from a bright green towards a wine-color.

After that occurs – about 4-5 minutes, and make sure the wheels are cold and out of the direct sun, I agitated the built up areas with an old scrub brush, left it for another minute or two, then sprayed off. These wheels had considerable deposits on the back, so I repeated 3 or 4 times.

While there was still buildup in a few areas, it’s certainly coming off and I can see the product continuing to work well every time it’s sprayed. For a test, if you spray it onto a clean wheel, it indeed doesn’t change color – for what it’s worth, while it’s pricey (about $15 a bottle) it’s a lot cheaper than pulling the wheels apart and repainting the barrels. A quick hit on a few areas with a magic eraser and I was ready for the fronts.

While overall in good shape, as I said the wheels just looked tired. A cleaning certainly helped, and then I went to work on the spokes and lips with compound and polish. I like the 3M rubbing compound, and have recently started using Griot’s polish. The combination – along with some sore fingers – had great results. In spite of that, the waffle lug cover really stuck out as out of place.

The finish was just completely gone on two caps; I’m guessing that it was probably a reaction with either a cleaner or brake pad the previous owner utilized, but it was as if the paint had never been applied. You can see the difference up close below:

From my last wheel project, I still had a bit of leftover Einszett silver paint which seemed to color match factory wheels pretty well. I used a old box and ran a screw through the back to hold the waffle in place.

A couple of quick coats of silver paint, and it looked “new” again. I chose not to clearcoat the waffles at this time; the clearcoat I picked up seems to have cracked easily on the other products I’ve used, plus it really darkened the covered areas a lot. Until I find a better clearcoat, I’ll just clean them often.

All in all, the results were very good. The color match is pretty close though not perfect. In the image below, the wheel on the left was the repainted center wheel, the wheel on the right was the original paint. Total outlay on materials to this point has been about $30. There aren’t too many things left to do; the BBS bolts are in rough shape, so I need to figure out what to do there – I’ve even thought about just hitting them with some paint in place. Thoughts? Otherwise, I’m hoping to get some tires later this summer and mount them up on the GT. Look for another update down the road!


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  1. Justin
    Justin May 8, 2014

    Good start but you really will want to pull apart the wheels so that you can polish your drop lips, re-chrome the bolts and probably paint the barrel black and prep the centers for paint. I opted to send mine to as even with polishing my Style 42s myself after about 35 hours of work and some very good product, they come no where close to the RS’s he did for me. Here’s a sample:

  2. Carter
    Carter May 8, 2014

    Impressive set of wheels Justin, but not the look I’m going for. Just like me, my Audi is rough around the edges, so the wheels might as well match!

  3. Vic
    Vic May 8, 2014

    ewheelworks did a great job. Do you mind if I ask what the total bill for for that kind of quality work? They look better than new.

  4. CB Vickrey
    CB Vickrey May 8, 2014

    I used the Wurth BBS Silver years ago on my ’78 e12 and it looked so good and original! Highly recommend it.

  5. Justin
    Justin May 9, 2014

    Vic, I recommend emailing eewheelworks or any other wheel refinisher you want as prices vary on work done. I find FLOSS stuff on vwvortex to be quite amazing as well.

    Carter good luck with the rest of your work! It is fun to see projects like this.

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