Before becoming the owner of Michiana Wheel Polishing in 2017, Wayne Miller had no idea that this type of business existed. He had been looking for a business that provided the opportunity to work close to home and get out of factory work.
“It was all new to me,” he says.
In five years, Miller learned the skills and techniques to run operations at his shop on State Road 13 in Middlebury. Michiana Wheel Polishing had been in business for 11 years before Miller bought it. The previous owner, Miller says, helped him learn the procedures.
“They led me and told me what to do and how to do it at first,” he says. “I had to learn a lot by myself too.”
What he does is clean, grind and polish semi-truck wheels for a steady group of regular customers and new ones who find their way to his shop. Wheel polishing is not simply for looks – it also is a part of regular truck maintenance.
When he is in the process of polishing wheels, the wheels receive a thorough inspection. Miller is looking for cracks or flaws that could become hazardous to the drivers.
“It’s a good thing to keep track of so drivers know it’s there,” he says.
His equipment can handle wheel rims up to 30” in diameter. Most of the wheels he works on range from 22.5” to 24.5”. He has also done 14”-diameter rims. Michiana Wheel Polishing also specializes in most aluminum rims, as well as semi fuel tanks, semi steps, non-spoke motorcycle rims, battery boxes, tool boxes and bumpers.
“I’ve done all sorts of wheels,” he says.
Wheels with lots of designs etched in or spoke wheels, though, are not projects Miller can do. He tells a potential customer to send a photo of the wheel to make sure it fits into what he can do and what his equipment can handle. Quality work is his goal with every customer.
“I am looking for their satisfaction,” he says. “I hope they are happy with the product when I am done.”
Ninety percent of his business comes from truck drivers. He has a few commercial accounts, for which he provides wheel polishing for those companies’ fleets of 10 to 20 trucks.
Wheel polishing is a multi-step process. The wheels are taken through various polishing speeds, with the grit count of the sanding fabric getting higher and higher each time. It starts out slowly and progresses to a faster spinning head that allows the holes on the wheel to be cut and trimmed evenly and cleanly. Any cracks or dents in the wheel are polished out and the original shiny finish eventually comes through.
Each step in the process is designed to achieve a certain result, from cleaning off the debris and the pits to polishing out the wheel. Miller replaces the sanding wheel he uses in the process multiple times because it quickly gets worn out from the sanding.
Finally, the wheels are buffed. That brings out the shine. The wheels are then washed with soap and water.
The polishing will last about one and a half years to two years, Miller says. It is typically a more economical option to have wheel rims polished instead of replacing them.
If needed, Miller can also arrange to have new rims available for purchase when a customer comes into the shop. The customer will bring in the old wheel and Miller will exchange it for a new one.
“I try to keep all sizes in stock,” he says.
He also stocks valve stems, nut covers, hub covers and other hardware for wheels.
Miller and his wife Luetta lived in Goshen before buying the business. They moved their family of seven to Middlebury. The couple have four sons and one daughter. Their children are Isaiah, 10, Seth, 7, Katlyn, 5, Lucas, 3, and Timothy, who is turning 2.
Michiana Wheel Polishing is located at 59653 State Road 13 in Middlebury. For more information, call 574-312-9449, visit michianawheelpolishing.com or find Miller on Facebook.
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