Routine wheel care can prevent corrosion and brake dust buildup, which can stain or damage your wheels. Typical road dirt traps moisture that can over time cause corrosion. Brake dust, created by braking friction, is corrosive and causes pitting of the wheel’s finish. It’s highly advisable to properly clean your wheels regularly to make sure they are well maintained.
It’s important to note that you should never use household cleaning agents as they are too harsh, and also never clean your wheels while they are hot. Doing so can possibly damage the wheel’s finish due to the drastic changes in the wheel’s temperature.
It’s always best to clean your tires before cleaning your wheels. Cleaning your tires after your wheels can result in water spots and grime on your wheels as well as undesirable results. For a simple, yet effective way to clean your wheels, follow the steps listed below.
Wheel Care Tips
- Ready your wash buckets and cleaning supplies that you’re using to apply to the wheels. Wheel finishes are similar to the paint job on your vehicle. To safely clean your wheels, use a mild detergent or a cleaning product specifically designed for automotive use. If you don’t have those laying around, using mild dish soap and water can get the job done too. We advise that you stay away from chemical wheel cleaners which contain corrosive ingredients that may cloud or remove a wheel’s clear coat finish.
- Begin cleaning the wheels one at a time by first applying the cleaning agent of your choice to the wheel and letting it sit briefly. Letting the cleaning agent sit on the wheel allows the solution to soften the accumulated dirt and brake dust so scrubbing away grime requires less force.
- Gently scrub the wheel, with either a soft brush, sponge, washing mitt or better yet, a microfiber towel. While you are working with the tool of your choosing, the wheel should always remain wet. The water and wheel cleaner help loosen grime, but also acts as a lubricant to the wheel surface which prevents scratching. Never let wheel cleaner dry on the wheel as it can and will spot the wheel’s finish. It’s important to also note that brake dust hides everywhere. Be sure to reach inside the wheel’s spoke by the barrel and clear any hidden grime to avoid build up; and don’t overlook the lug nuts.
- Once that’s done, be sure to rinse the wheel off with water, followed by drying the wheel with a microfiber towel or soft cloth. Thoroughly drying your wheels will help prevent water spots from forming on the wheel’s surface.
Cleaning Chrome Wheels
When it comes to wheel care for chrome-plated wheels, you need to be a bit more careful. Chrome wheels shine because of its soft and reflective surface. Chrome plating is more delicate than painted wheels, as they are more susceptible to corrosion caused by brake dust. If you live in, or travel often through snowy conditions that use road salt as a de-icing agent, we highly recommend swapping your chrome wheels out seasonally. Chrome plated wheels will rapidly pit when in contact with chemicals that can deteriorate their finish.
Cleaning Polished Aluminum Wheels
Polished aluminum wheels require much more care and maintenance than other finishes since bare aluminum is prone to oxidation. To properly clean polished wheels, they must be fully unmounted from the car, thoroughly cleaned, inspected for damage, then polished and remounted. Once the wheel is cleaned and polished, what’s left is a mirror-like shine. OEM polished aluminum wheels often come with protective coatings from the factory to prevent such oxidation. In this instance, you want to use a gentle wheel cleaner and polish deemed safe on protective coatings. If there is no coating present, using a stronger aluminum cleaner made to remove oxidation works just as well.