Alloy wheels are a common choice for modern car owners because they add flair to a vehicle’s appearance. Keeping these wheels looking clean can be a challenge, however. Alloy wheels usually are light in color, and this makes dirt and grime especially evident.
One common problem you’ll face trying to keep these wheels clean is brake dust. Brake dust is created by your vehicle’s brake pads during the braking process, and it’s composed of tiny pieces of metal. Every time you depress the brake pedal, friction is created that causes particles from the pad to come loose. These particles stick to the rims of your wheels. If left unattended, they can create grime and buildup that worsens with time.
The friction created during braking causes heat, and the brake dust that is deposited on the wheels of your vehicle arrives there under high-temperature conditions. This heat can cause the dust to etch itself into the wheels, making removal difficult. If brake dust isn’t regularly cleared, it ultimately can lead to wheel corrosion.
Below, we’ve offered step-by-step guidance to help you clean your car’s alloy wheels.
1. Start with a water rinse. Rinsing your car’s wheels with water will help clear much of the built-up gunk and grime. The stronger the stream of water, the better. Garden-hose nozzles are available that deliver a high-pressure stream of water, and the force created by this jet of liquid works well to dislodge grime on your wheels. You can purchase one of these nozzles online or in a home improvement store for roughly $15.
2. Scrub the rims. A water rinse will help get rid of the looser bits of grime living on your wheels, but a scrub will be necessary to attack the more stubborn areas. A sponge or wash mitt should be used, and you can add car shampoo to help with dirt removal. You don’t want to scratch your car’s wheels, so choose a sponge or wash mitt that’s soft. You can purchase a car shampoo package online that includes a wash mitt for about $15.
3. Apply a dedicated wheel cleaner. Spray a wheel cleaner over each of your car’s wheels. These cleaners are effective at banishing substances such as baked-in brake dust and road salt. Wheel cleaners range in price from $5 to $15 or so. Let the cleaner soak for about five or 10 minutes.
4. Use a soft-bristled brush to loosen wheel buildup. After giving the wheel cleaner a few minutes to soak, use a soft-bristled brush to thoroughly scrub the wheels. Choose a brush that is designed to clean without scratching the surface of the wheel. Wheels have lots of crevices where dirt can hide, so be thorough. Spend time using the brush to reach the areas between the spokes of your car’s wheels. Also, pay attention to the lug nuts, since they are prone to accumulating dust, dirt and grime.
If the wheel begins to dry as you’re cleaning, use the hose to keep it wet. If you allow the wheel to dry in this way, it could leave spots on the finish.
5. Clean the wheel wells. Using a hose, car shampoo and a brush, scrub the wheel wells. The wheel wells are less prone to damage than the wheels, so use a stiffer brush than the one used to clean the wheels so you can speed up the process of grime removal. Ideally, this brush should have a long handle. This feature can help you use the brush to reach all parts of the wheel well.
6. Give the wheels and wheel wells a final rinse. Administer a final rinse to clear all cleaning products from the wheels and wheel wells.
7. Dry the wheels. If you let the wheels air dry, you’re very likely to be left with water spots on the finish. Use a microfiber towel to gently dry the wheels.
Timing Is Everything
It’s a good idea to clean your wheels right before washing your car. Cleaning the wheels can create dirty water that may splash on your vehicle and mar its appearance, so it’s wise to wash the car right after this process.
To avoid the hassles that come with removing caked-on brake dust, we recommend cleaning your car’s wheels every couple of months. If you follow a regular cleaning schedule, there will be less gunk on the wheels, and this will allow you to get the wheels clean in a relatively short period of time.