By on May 31, 2012

Between the comments, private messages and emails, you, the readers, sent over 100 comments on how to get the smoke smell out of Project Volvo. Thank you for providing me one of the rare opportunities to harness “crowdsourcing” in a way that isn’t some nebulous social-media pie-in-the-sky frivolity. I’ve made great strides with shampoo and vinegar/water solutions, and will be moving on to coffee grounds and other tactics. In the mean time, something else has caught my attention.

“Are those alloy wheels corroding?” That was the question, asked incredulously, by my father. I let him drive Project Volvo so he could compare the old dog with his shiny new XC60 (he liked the seats a lot). After giving it a once over, he flicked some paint flakes off the rim, and I noticed that after giving the car a good power wash, all four wheels were in a bad state.

The paint is flaking and bubbling, which means I need to do something or risk having them turn to utter crap by January. I don’t want to throw any money into buying new rims, so sanding and painting looks to be the way to go. The question is, should I keep them silver, or do something different. My initial thought was gunmetal, to look slightly more aggressive and to hide the brake dust. If you have a better idea (for re-finishing or for a different color) then let me know in the comments.

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69 Comments on “Project $1500 Volvo: A Big Thanks To The B&B As I Seek Your Counsel Again...”


  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    If you need new tires anyway, just get a new set of 4 new rims with tires mounted shipped from TireRack and be done with it. They have 15″ rims that would fit for around $70-80 a piece. I would rather do that then spend many hours stripping and refinishing old rims.

  • avatar
    spatula6554

    Sandblast. Acid wash. Powdercoat. It may be more money now, but it will last a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      Soda blast is more gentle but as powerful.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        Soda blasting can be done with the tires ON. Really gentle stuff.

        HF has a spot blaster for 15 bucks. Cheap as sin. Bags of Armex are about $20.

        3-4 cans of wheel paint = $20.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      I wouldn’t do an aftermarket powdercoat because that can harm the structural integrity of the wheels. Wheels are very specifically heat treated to harden them just right, and an aftermarket powdercoat can lead to catastrophic wheel failure.
      And honestly, since they’re old junky Volvo rims it would make no financial sense to powdercoat them anyways, this calls for either doing it the ghetto way (spray cans of metallic paint) or just buying new rims.

  • avatar
    ljwhitmire

    Go to DipYourCar.com and check out their wheel videos. Plasti-dip is just coming out with a Gun Metal Grey color which would be perfect for this application. No sanding, very little prep other than cleaning. If you get
    tired of it, peel it off and do something else!

    I personally think black would look great with the silver body, but that’s just me. :)

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    If you have access to a media blaster it would be a pretty quick job to strip and re-clear. You could get a polishing wheel for your drill as well and to the lips, or blast and paint them.

  • avatar

    I think gunmetal would look better than black. Black wheels tend to get “lost” with the tires and not look as good, IMHO

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    Two Words: Junk yard

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    Two Words: Junk yard What else would fit this Volvo?

    • 0 avatar

      Bolt pattern is 5×108. There are Volvo rims out there for about $50 a wheel but I was interesting in re-finishing myself.

      • 0 avatar

        In the great white north, why not do both so you can mount some winters to one set and save yourself aggravation/expense of constant mount and unmount?

      • 0 avatar
        kuman

        I would seriously considering a new set of rims. Sell the old ones for scrap or anything. Or if you prefer, you can install a set of winter tires on them and keep it for winters only.

        Changing wheels are easier than mounting the rubbers into the rims, perhaps you can save a bit twice a year for it.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      Taurus/Sable/Continental (’86-’07, not the Volvo-based ones), Windstar, MN12 Thunderbird/Cougar, Mark VIII, retro Thunderbird, Jaguar X-Type and S-Type, Lincoln LS, and any FWD Volvo (aside from the ’93 850) or ’95-98 960/S90/V90. Can’t swear on the center bore for some of those, though. RWD Volvos prior to the ’95 960 were also 5×108, but the lower offset means you’ll be pokin’ rim with a wide tire, and I doubt you want to bother rolling the fenders on a stock V70. Some Lotus Esprit and Ferrari wheels will theoretically bolt up, too… though I can’t say I’ve ever tried!

      I think a set of SHO slicers would be hot, but then I’m a bit ‘off’.

  • avatar
    peekay

    Gunmetal grey or satin black would be my choices. The wheels on my Cayman are satin black… I had them professionally done at a cost of about $700, but I’ve also painted lots of rims myself over the years. (33 years ago I painted the steelies on my Alfa GTV gunmetal grey, then the rims on my VW Rabbit, and many others since).

    Looking at the amount of corrosion on your rims makes me think it might take a bit of work to grind down to a surface where the paint will bond properly. I’d be inclined to find a better used set (junkyard; Craigslist), paint them, and then transfer your tires over. That’s what I did with a Subaru I owned… the corrosion on the wheels was not easy to grind down so I got a set off Craigslist, virtually new looking with tires at 50% for $300.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    The wheel integrity is at question as long as you don’t do auto cross or road race it.

  • avatar
    chrishs2000

    Derek: CRAIGSLIST!

    My wife’s Accord came with horrendous Honda accessory chrome (painted) wheels…3 years later, the chrome paint started flaking off just like that and rusting underneath. They stopped holding air due to the oxidation. I scored a set of 16″ factory wheels with almost brand new Michelin tires for $250. That’s less than the damn tires cost! I sold the “chrome wheels” and almost worn out tires for $150. Best $100 upgrade ever.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I say hit the scrapyard or look around Craigslist once you get the measurements, don’t buy anything with big rims but liuttle tires, it’ll ruin your ride quality.

    As for your wheels being shot to begin with, well I’ve had several old cars and the only one with a bad wheel was a VW Fastback that had a plethora of other problems. Your 10-30 year old Volvo shouldn’t have bad wheels all around.

    I’d say get some Lincoln wheels like the poster below mentions, they’ll probably hold up longer and look nice.

    Though, I just hope that this Volvo dosen’t yank anymore cash out from you, it seems to be turning into a genuine permanent piggy bank (it takes your money but never gives it back).

  • avatar
    Mike

    for two years, I spotted a Lincoln Mark VIII on my daily commute that in the winter was sporting a set of Volvo wheels with snow tires. Perhaps that opens up your junkyard options a bit. I believe the bolt pattern on the Mark is 5×1.25″ Just ask Sajeev. I’ll bet he has a set of “snowflakes” sitting out behind his garage. :D

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      A Volvo with snowflakes would be awesome, but would it make a difference RWD wheels on his FWD car? I thought that mattered…

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        The Thundercougarmarkeightbird wheels have, iirc, a slightly lower offset than those on a Taurus/Windstar or FWD Volvo, but it’s not a big difference – they’ll just sit a bit more flush. Now, RWD Volvo wheels have an even lower offset; those can sometimes cause rubbing on the inner fender.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike

        It probably does – I’d assume the offset is different. But based upon one of the posts above, the volvo in question has a different bolt pattern anyway. It was worth a shot.

  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    I know cosmetically those wheels just don’t cut it, but is there a structural reason to replace the entire wheel? If so, would re-finishing actually alleviate that concern?

    Here’s my thinking: I know that surface corrosion will cause stress concentrators, which along with the vibration of the wheel in motion, can cause crack propagation through the metal. If you already have surface corrosion (under that bubbly paint) at what point do you worry about cracks, and will re-finishing keep cracks from forming? Since Michael is the one asking about re-finishing it may be another of the B&B who answers this question for me.

    Here’s me second guessing myself: I’ve never seen a wheel failure on a car, so I surmise that wheels are over engineered (except racing) and can take this plus lots more abuse without ever becoming a hazard. In this case, they still look like a steaming pile o’ poo, and re-finish in any (non flammable) way you choose.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I doubt that what you describe is an issue. Stress concentrations come from irregularities in geometry (size changes, bends). Surface conditions will have little impact on that. There are other forms of corrosion that can affect the structural integrity, but I doubt you’d see that with modern steel wheels. So unless the corrosion is causing pitting (which is unlikely unless there’s trapped liquid) or significant material is lost, I doubt that the rust has caused a structural problem.

      However, once the current paint is removed & the rust is knocked off, it should be inspected–look for cracks, pitting, or general loss of material. If it was my car, I would not reuse the wheels if I found any of these problems.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        Aluminum surface corrosion is normal. Corrosion will NOT penetrate aluminum, as only the surface will oxidize.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        In air, that would be generally be true, and so any real problem would be unexpected.

        But corrosion for all metals depends on the environment. For example, if you have aluminum in contact with steel with saltwater present (such as trapped under flaking paint), you can get some nasty corrosion of the aluminum.

        ~2/3 down this page has a pic of aluminum pitting and an explanation of galvanic corrosion.
        http://tc.engr.wisc.edu/uer/uer99/author1/content.html
        http://www.watimas.com/ipi/EN/Images/Denso/Anodes-AL-400.jpg

        There are also some chemicals are very aggressive with aluminum. I had a prof who worked with one that attacked the grain boundaries. The crack growth rate was freakishly fast (measured in inches/day) and whole grains would fall out of the test sample as it corroded.

        But again, that kind of thing is rare.

  • avatar
    old fart

    When I had a lot of time but short on funds I cleaned up a set with a dremel and used rattle can wheel finish. They lasted for years, but I would try and find other rims or buy a little sand blaster and paint them in a two epoxy finish in the future

  • avatar
    Nate

    Rhino-liner?

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of owners paint moldings and wheels in a satin black; especially on silver cars. It seems to be the fashion around here in NY metro. One other concern is knowing if rim is corroding where the tire bead is seated.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Gunmetal.

    I know someone with a similar vintage Volvo and wheels that look just like that! I guess that’s the result of years of never removing brake dust?

  • avatar
    slance66

    How are they holding up otherwise? My old 2001 S60 used to have constant tire pressure loss due to various curb dings and erosion of the interior paint making a good seal difficult. Erie Volvo sells lots of used Volvo parts, and I got two OEM wheels there. Might be a good source for other parts for this car as well.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Princess Auto has a 10 Gallon Pressure Sandblaster SKU: 8003841 on sale at $149.99

    http://www.princessauto.com/pal/sku/8003841

  • avatar
    redliner

    How cheap do you want to go? For a super cheap solution you could try sanding, then spray painting with Rustoleum or some other anti-rust paint. Do a few coats of that, then spray paint a few clear coats. It should last a year or two. total cost: $50.

  • avatar
    McKennaR

    If you want to keep your existing wheels, just go with your gut and do what you set out to do – grind, sand, prime, paint. It’s cheaper and gives you more flexibility. Plus, if all else fails, you can always just have a pro do it, but why not try the cheapest DIY thing first?

    I have a silver S70 of similar vintage with “gunmetal” wheels. Volvo has a color code, 932 “Anthracite” that I used. I can’t post pictures here but here’s a link to the thread:

    http://matthewsvolvosite.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=25271&p=228197

    Above you’ll find a lot of good (and equally as many bad) ideas about what to do visually. I can get with you offline for many more pictures of the car with the anthracite wheels in the daylight.

  • avatar
    Feds

    Use Oven Cleaner + Elbow Grease to remove the old paint (and for the love of god, wear gloves, long sleeves, and a splatter sheild).

    Spray them with Metal Cast Ground Coat.

    Profit.

    The waffle’s on the left were done that way, the +’s on the right were polished then painted:

    http://s480.photobucket.com/albums/rr161/DrKool/Delica/?action=view&current=waffle1.jpg

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    You can get them media-blasted and powdercoated for around $45 a wheel, shop around a few places and see who offers the best deal.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Just get a set of steelies and be done with it. Paint ‘em black, add chrome nuts or some nice WalMart wheel covers.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    check out Mighty Car Mods on youtube on a how to paint wheels

    http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=_oG-1uzLJr0

    Also check out their “How to zombie proof your car”

    http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=iS8KXHBCimo

  • avatar
    SuperACG

    How do you get PMs and e-mails from the B&B?? I’ve been trying to contact any of you guys anytime I see something cool, but can’t figure it out!!

    As for the rims, just get new ones and be done with it, especially if you need tires. Keep the old ones around for winter use.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Stop obsessing over the imperfections of this used car. This kind of thinking is going to cost you a lot of dough and time.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      If you don’t fix a used cars imperfections early on it could cost you even more in the end.

      Thats why I always suggest to look over a used car with an eye sharper than a Kunai. And to keep the price low so you have left over money for repairs.

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    I was just browsing Craigslist for used Volvos and I’ve found quite a few here in VT. Most are high mileage with the “lowest” being 113k miles.

    Still, I worry that people would consider me insane for buying a 20+ year old car (I prefer an older Volvo) with over 100k miles on it.

    What’s the general consensus on that here?

    • 0 avatar
      nickeled&dimed

      Yes, but it’s a good kind of insane.

      I’ve done it before with great success… as long as you’re prepared for those little things to go wrong, diagnose, and wrench. On my ’87 740 Turbo it was a loose ground that occasionally prevented starting, window switches losing contact, A/C compressor, starter, and a windshield. Had it for 3 yrs 30k before selling to a friend. Overall respectable, reliable cars that will blend right in. Even at 20 years old.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I consider 100K miles “nicely broken in”, even for a white-block Volvo. My last three Volvos, admitedly RWD, are running nicely in the hands of friends at 235K, 255K, and 260K. The front drivers last just as long, they just cost more to get there.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    LOL! Rust is why one of my friends flew in from New Hampshire to buy a 1997 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon from me.

    I wouldn’t refinish the wheels at all. If you find a nice set somewhere and it bothers you that much, just buy those.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    This may have been said, but why not remove the tires and have the rim refinished? I had one wheel on my Probe refinished because when a jerk wedged me into a parked car, the wheel received a 1 inch scratch in what was an otherwise flawless wheel. Geico did great by me. Don’t know the cost, but the wheel is factory beautiful. I’d imagine you could request any common color…

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Why not powder coat them? Should be able to prep them pretty easily, get the tires dismounted and powder coat them somewhere.

    It’s pretty cheap to do and creates one hell of a long lasting and durable finish.

    I think sanding and painting, you’ll only be coming back to do this every year and perhaps more often.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    My roommate used to hit ebay when his tires died. He would buy a set of wheels with good tires already mounted. Then he would sell his old set with the dead tires still on. It worked out to be the same as paying for a new set of tires without mounting and he usually upgraded to a better wheel.

  • avatar
    claytori

    I have a lot of experience with aluminum alloy wheels in a northern climate, as a fellow TO resident. My first (1977) VW Scirocco came with 5 beautiful alloy wheels (full size spare). Ditto the ’83 special edition with the GTI bits & Recaros. Here is the score – Alloy wheels should never see any snow. Not one flake. Put on your winter tires with steelies before the snow flies and don’t take them off until it is truly gone. Ignore this and you will be plagued by perpetually deflating tires.

    Re the corrosion, many posters seem to have lost sight of the $1500 purchase budget and the low $ theme. I would tend to go with wire brush and rattle can here, or simply turn a blind eye.

    BTW, the last car I bought was $1000 CDN. Nonop. It needed a battery. My son has now driven it for 18 months, and it can be described as adequate. Steel wheels, no problems.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    When my wife went pothole hunting with my 850 last January, I was able to pick up a junkyard rim via eBay – $50 plus shipping and it was in better shape than the 3 good wheels I already had.


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