1981 CJ7 Restoration - 2019.09.21 - Leo Kahng

1981 CJ7 Restoration - 2019.09.21

The last time I posted about the Jeep was 4 months after the previous post, which I thought was a very long time. Today I'm at 5 months since the last one! I'm getting worse!

I've been wanting to get back to the Jeep project as I really want to see this thing back on the road sooner than later. Today, I decided to address the 5 wheels that I have. They are 15" x 8" polished steel 2-piece rims and are in fairly decent condition. The thinking is, if I get the wheels done soon, then I can mount tires on them, which will hold up the axles, which I can mount to the frame via the leaf springs. If this all goes according to plan, I'll have a legit rolling chassis. There is a lot of work to be done, though.

The plan for the wheels is to restore them in the following order:

1) Strip the old clear coat from the "show" side
2) Apply 2 coats of rust sealer on the back side of the wheels
3) Remove and treat all rust on the show side
4) Polish the show side to a mirror-like shine
5) Clean all residue from the wheels with solvent
6) Apply new clear coat

I picked up some chemical stripper from Home Depot and tested it on the spare wheel. I just applied a little bit and it seemed to start working, but the results were far from ideal. It barely flaked the old clear coat and left me thinking that this wasn't going to work.

Well, if one actually reads the instructions, one would note to shake the can really well then apply liberally to leave a thick coat of the gel-like stripper on the surface for at least 15 minutes. This is what happened.

After 15 minutes of a thick coat of stripper, the clear coat just bubbled off of the wheel and most of it could be sprayed off with water. The water also serves to deactivate the stripper so the metal isn't harmed.


Per the photos, the stripper is quite effective and when you blast it with water, the old clear coat has this gross skin-like texture to it. It all came off, but it took 4 applications of the stripper to get through all of the 38 year-old clear coat.

After spending several hours stripping the wheels, I was beat, but I wanted to see what kind of potential these things had. I took one of the wheels and hand polished the show side with some Flitz and a disposal shop rag...looks promising!

Not too shabby. Maybe these original wheels will be just fine.

That's enough for today. Also, I'm beat!


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