Polished or Painted

It’s a bit like in James Bond. But while the question for 007 was “shaken or stirred”, those considering an alloy wheel purchase are always asking themselves whether they should go with polished or painted. After all, both types of surface treatment have their own advantages.

Painted aluminum wheels are treated with a special varnish that protects them from the elements while lending them a new color and luster. There is paint sealant or clear varnish, which ensures a sparkling finishing coat. In some cases, both color paint and an additional clear varnish are applied to the wheel.

The varnish not only improves the appearance, but also seals the wheel to protect it from corrosion. What’s more, it is also easier to care for painted wheel rims. This is no reason to get careless, though, since even the best rim paint does not eliminate the need for regular cleaning and maintenance.

Fully painted wheels show their biggest advantage in winter. When the cold months of snow, sludge, road salt, and grit come around, these conditions have hardly any effect on painted wheels – they are winter-proof. Rust and surface damage are typically not an issue.

Polished alloy wheels attract plenty of looks with their noticeable shine and luxurious surface. Unlike painted wheels, polished ones are refined through mechanical surface processing and then coated with clear varnish. There are two main finishing techniques: bare polishing and ceramic polishing.

The bare polishing – or front polishing – method usually begins with a darkly painted wheel. As the front of the wheel is rotated, a diamond tool removes the dark paint in certain areas, where the aluminum is then visible. This diamond tool is where the trade term “diamond-cut” comes from. The stark contrast between the bare metal and the base color highlights the wheel’s unique design elements.

In the case of ceramic polishing – or high-gloss sealing – the wheel is submerged in a liquid with ceramic polishing media. The container is then made to vibrate, causing the polishing media to removal a minimal layer of the wheel material. The wheel surface is polished by various media in several steps across many hours. This makes the wheel more resilient by smoothing off and sealing its surface material. Ceramic polishing lends the wheel remarkably shiny, mirror-like optics.

However, such finely treated wheel rims do require a higher level of care. Otherwise their glossy aesthetic is quickly affected by poor weather conditions. For this very reason, polished wheel rims are not as well suited for winter driving. Salts and mechanical impact can soon leave them looking dull and erode their material.

The decision is simple then: anyone looking for optics with maximum gloss and a hint of luxury should go for polished alloy wheels. At the same time, such buyers must be prepared to invest more time and money into caring for such a high-class product. Conversely, those looking to combine an appealing aesthetic with winter-proofing and resilience against weather conditions should look for a painted alloy wheel. Regardless of which variation consumers decide on, they need look no further than RIAL to find polished and painted wheels for every taste.