I want to take advantage of having my summer wheels off for the season and do some repair. I have a heated workshop and have done some minor bodywork - i.e. scratches - so want to tackle a couple of scratches on the edge of each wheel where they have been marked when the tires were changed. The passenger-side wheels have a little more damage where they came into contact with the curb. Those marks are a little deeper but, for the rest, it looks like a coat of clear paint has been scraped off. Can I do this repair myself? - Toby in Toronto
You could do it yourself, but it is a pretty intense project to do properly.
The biggest problem is that, unlike bodywork where you can work with a small area and use fill to bring the surface back to the right level, you can't just do a small or local area and blend it is with the rest of the wheel.
To do it properly you have to break down the tire so you can get at the inside edge of the rim, then carefully sand, polish or buff out the scratch from the surface of the alloy.
Here is where the difficult part comes into play - blending the freshly polished area into the adjacent wheel surface. Depending on the depth of the damage, this can include a fairly large area if you don't want it to stand out.
Since you can't use fill to get a level surface, you have to gradually blend the damage area into the rest of the wheel. Then you need a special clear primer, sand it, then a proper-quality clear coat, which has to be impervious to the tremendous heat and corrosive dust generated by the brakes.
The short answer is that you can try a repair but it will be much more noticeable than an amateur fix on a painted surface.
I think you should just ignore the marks or have a professional do the job. Most will charge in the region of $150.
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I want to clean the engine in my car but worry about all the electronics. I used to wrap a plastic grocery bag around the carburetor and another around the distributor and use a high-pressure spray at the local coin-operated wash to do this - but now there is no longer a carburetor, and you can't see anything under the hood because of a big plastic cover. Is it okay to go ahead to try to clean it out? - Jim in Montreal
No, it is not okay to clean it yourself - for several reasons.
The first is that if you were to do this you would be washing plenty of nasty used petroleum products down the drain, either at the car wash or at home. The accumulated road grime and possible result of leaks, whether from coolant, oil or transmission fluids are all harmful to the environment and ground water systems. In most jurisdictions it is against the law to do so.
The second reason is that there is indeed the possibility of getting water into some very sophisticated and expensive electronics. That big plastic cover you refer to is designed to keep heat in as a byproduct of emission regulations and direct air around the engine for aerodynamic and cooling purposes.
I, like you, like to clean around the engine and use an environmentally friendly cleaner such as Simple Green carefully sprayed in a fine mist on hoses and large plastic and metal surfaces to loosen crud and applied via the cloth to more sensitive or questionable areas. Dispose of the cleaning material as required in your community.
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