Bikers Workshop Series

Part 12; Polishing Goldwing Wheels.

By Steve Saunders.


I always hated cleaning my Goldwings and other motorcycles. That's a crude way to open an article about wheel polishing , but that's the way it is. I've always found it a chore to keep my bikes clean, but I do it anyway in order to keep them looking right while I ride them and for when the time comes to sell them. I also find that it's easier to inspect for damage or potential problems while cleaning. You can't keep Goldwings clean for long in Ireland as the chances are that it will rain (or at least shower) within a few days at the most after you wax the beast, then it's out with the cleaning materials again.
Many Goldwing owners tend to neglect the wheels when cleaning the bike. The large amount of painted plastic panels (almost 40 on a GL1800 and more than 50 on a GL1500 Goldwing) means that most owners tend to clean the bodywork like they would a car and (apart from a cursory wipe with a rag) reserve little effort for the wheels. On the GL1800, the un-lacquered wheels need attention in order to keep the dreaded white fungus (from damp and water) and black spots (caused by brake dust) get a chance to settle in and cause damage.
Over almost 30 years of riding motorcycles, I (like many others) have used various products to clean the aluminium, alloy or chromed wheels on my bikes. Very few of these products lived fully up to their claims, but some of them did and nowadays I tend to stick with the products that I know will work for me. The following article shows me in the process of cleaning wheels on two Goldwings.

Click the thumbnails for a bigger image.


Here is the front wheel of a GL1500 which had been laying idle out in the weather for about 15 months. The Goldwing was covered but the wheels were exposed because the cover was a shallow one. This picture is of the wheel after washing! The lacquer coating has been weathered off and the wheel has oxidised (the aluminium has dulled severely) and some pitting has occurred as well.

This is what I use on  my wheels. It's called "English Custom Polish" and the three bottles you see in the picture are (from left) Metal Restorer, Showmans Finish and Custom Blend. The Metal restorer is the first step for badly neglected wheels like the one you seen in the first picture. The Showmans is the finishing touch for use after the Metal restorer, or for wheels that just need a bit of help. The Custom Blend is the finest of the lot and will give an almost mirror finish on your aluminium. I tried many other metal polishes before I found this stuff and most of them gave a good finish, but I always felt that good wasn't good enough and there should be more shine there if only I used something different (most bikers will know what I'm on about here). English Custom Polishes contain no ammonia, anhydrous chemicals or acids, which can cause harm to your metals. Note; I have no connection with the English Custom Polish company or it's agents and I have not been bribed, coerced, forced, cajoled or otherwise persuaded to do this article. I'm just happy to share my findings with the visitors to my web site.

This is a section of the grubby GL1500 wheel after using the Metal Restorer for a few minutes. Not bad for a start!

Next I used the Showmans Finish. I spent about 15 minutes rubbing this in until I was happy with the shine.

The wheel after the Custom Blend. The difference between the Showmans and the Custom Blend is subtle but worth the extra effort. It's the difference between very good and excellent! I had to turn the cameras flash head away a bit as it was overexposing the image and you couldn't see the detail in the wheel. This whole wheel would have probably taken hours to do properly, some parts were so gouged from pitting that I would have had to sand them down.

If you have a wheel with severe pitting, you will need to sand it down before even attempting to use any polish. You need to start with around 400 grit wet & dry paper (used wet with some Fairy liquid or soap). If this doesn't remove the pitting you will need to try a coarser grade (220 or 180 should do). Then when the pitting is gone you should use finer paper in stages (400, 800, 1200, 1500) until all the sanding marks are gone and you have a uniform dull and smooth appearance. Only then should you use your polishes.

This is the front wheel of my GL1800 Goldwing before I cleaned it up. If you look closely you can see the dreaded white fungus that gathered on the wheel (even in the dull evening light). The shiny aluminium surface also started to go dull. This was in spite of the bike (10 months old) being kept in a garage with a de-humidifier. The fungus kept coming back after I wiped it off so I used 400 wet & dry on the whole wheel. I then just used the Metal restorer and Custom Blend polishes. The wheels are now almost shined to a mirror finish ( I had to stop polishing before I got too carried away) and are definitely better than when they left the factory new!


All done (for now anyway)!


For more information on the English Custom Polish range, click their graphic below to visit their site;