How to Clean Wheels
We always want our ride to look like it was new, including our wheels (rims). Cleaning your wheels on a regular basis can prevent corrosion and brake dust build-up, which can stain or damage your wheels - sometimes permanently if left unattended. A few easy steps can keep your wheels looking shiny and clean.
It is important to avoid washing your wheels after a long drive. Longer drives can heat the wheels, which makes cleaning risky because drastic changes to the wheel's temperature can possibly damage the finish. Always allow your wheels to cool before beginning the cleaning process.
It is always best to clean your tires before you clean your wheels. Cleaning your tires after your wheels can result in water spots and grime on your wheels as well as undesirable results.
Cleaning Aluminum Wheels
For a simple, yet effective way to clean your wheels, you can follow the steps listed below.
Ready the wash buckets and cleaning agents that you will apply to the wheels. Wheel finishes are similar to paint job finishes, they can be safely cleaned by a mild detergent or cleaner specifically designed for automotive use. We recommend that you refrain from using chemical wheel cleaners, which can contain corrosive ingredients that might cloud or remove a wheel's clear-coat finish.
Begin cleaning the wheels one at a time by first applying the cleaning agent to the wheel and letting it sit for a few moments. This allows the cleaning solution to soften the accumulated dirt and brake dust so you can gently scrub away grime.
Gently scrub the wheel, preferably with a soft brush, sponge, washing mitt, or soft cloth so as not to damage the wheel finish. While you are working with your brush and/or soft cloth, the wheel should remain wet. The water and wheel cleaner help loosen grime, but they also lubricate the wheel surface to prevent scratching. You never want to let wheel cleaner dry on the wheel because it will spot the finish. Note: Brake dust hides wherever it can. Be sure to reach inside the wheel's curves and contours to clear any hidden grime to avoid build up; and don't forget the lug nuts. We recommend using a lug nut brush to clean around the lug nuts and inside the lug nut holes.
Rinse the wheel after scrubbing, and then dry with a terry or microfiber cloth. Drying your wheel will help prevent water spots from forming on the wheel’s surface.
After drying, you may want to wax the wheel for added shine and protection. Most wheel waxes come as creams or sprays that should be gently applied to the wheel surface with a mitt, towel, or foam pad. Using one of these items allows you to control the distribution of wax on the wheel surface, and prevents over application. You should wax the wheel 3-4 times per year, especially if you live in a harsh climate. This will extend the wheel's lifespan, and help keep road grime and the elements from damaging the finish.
Cleaning Chrome Wheels
You may need to be a bit more careful cleaning your wheels if they are chrome. Chrome wheels shine because of chrome's soft, reflective surface. Chrome plating is more delicate than painted wheels, as they are susceptible to corrosion caused by brake dust. If you live in and/or often travel through wintry conditions that use road salt as a de-icing agent for roadways, we recommend you swap out your chrome wheels seasonally. Chrome plated wheels will rapidly pit when in contact with chemicals that can deteriorate their finish.
Despite their delicate quality, chrome wheels respond to cleaning, waxing, and polishing much better than painted wheels. A polished chrome wheel distinctly outshines a polished painted wheel. To achieve and maintain this optimized finish, you may want to wash and wax your chrome wheels more often.
Use a soft brush that will not scratch the wheel surface. For waxing, you will need to choose a wax specifically designed for chrome. These waxes contain special ingredients that protect the chrome from oxidation and rust. We recommend washing your chrome wheels using the steps we have listed above.
Cleaning Polished Wheels
Polished aluminum wheels require a lot more care and maintenance than other wheel finishes because bare aluminum has a tendency to oxidize. To properly clean polished wheels, they must be fully unmounted from the vehicle, thoroughly cleaned, inspected for scrapes, scratches and erosion, then polished and remounted. Once cleaned and polished, aluminum wheels can have a mirror-like shine. Original equipment (OE) polished aluminum wheels often have a protective coating to prevent aluminum oxide. In the case, you’ll want to use gentle wheel cleaners and polishes that are safe on protective coatings. If your aluminum wheels do not have a coating, you can use a stronger aluminum cleaner that is developed to remove oxidation.
You can properly wash your polished wheels using the steps provided above, but be sure to use cleaners, polishes and waxes specifically for polished aluminum wheels. This will help maintain that brilliant mirror-like shine, while protecting your wheels from oxidation.
Routine cleaning will keep your wheels looking great so you can enjoy them for years to come. Learn more about wheel finishes and regular maintenance.
If you have any questions regarding wheel maintenance, stop by your local store, we can get you taken care of.