How to clean tires and wheels.
If you use your regular car wash soap to clean your wheels, you may discover that they are not as bright and shiny as they should be. That’s because car wash soaps are not strong enough to clean away brake dust, road tar, and road grime. To clean your car, truck, or SUV wheels properly you may need to use a cleaner that’s formulated for your type of wheel.
The finish on your car’s tire wheels will determine the type of cleaner you should use. Most wheels are either painted, powder coated, anodized, polished and clear coated, chromed or polished with no coating. If your wheels are chromed, you can use an acid-based wheel cleaner. For all other wheels, use a non-acid cleaner. If you are in doubt, look for a product that is for “all wheels.”
Professional car cleaner commonly uses acid-based cleaners because they clean very rapidly. If you are not accustomed to using strong cleaners, you are well advised to stay clear. Acid cleaners can damage painted, polished and anodized surfaces. A good acid-free cleaner is the best alternative for most car owners.
How-to Clean Tires & Wheels
For proper cleaning, you need a large bucket, a tire brush, a soft wheel brush, a sponge, a garden hose and nozzle, spray wheel cleaner, and your favorite soap for the car wash. As an alternative to car wash soap, you can use Dawn dishwashing liquid.
Caution: I don’t recommend cleaners containing bleach. You’ll find it in some over-the-counter products for whitewall tires. In my experience it causes tires to gray and become very dull looking. It may also discolor your alloy or polished wheels, so be careful!
Here are a few tips that I find make wheel cleaning a bit easier:
1. Clean and rinse one tire and wheel at a time.
2. To avoid water spots, clean your car tires and wheels before washing the car.
3. Use a bucket of soapy water along with your wheel cleaner. This makes your wheel cleaner last longer, and the soapy water lubricates to prevent scratching.
4. If your car wheels are heavily soiled, spray liberally with wheel cleaner and allow time to soak before scrubbing (up to three minutes).
5. Use proper brushes with additional soapy water to wash the wheel and tire surface. Follow with your sponge to remove any remaining dirt film.
6. Use soapy water and your wheel brush to scrub the fender wells.
7. Ensure to rinse your car tire, wheel, brake caliper and fender well thoroughly with water. All cleaners need to be flushed away once you finished with cleaning. Do not allow cleaner to dry.
Be sure to dry car tires and wheels after washing. Cotton toweling works well.
Once dry, tire dressing can be used to protect and beautify the rubber. For best protection and appearance, tires need a liberal application of tire dressing or tire gel after every other wash (twice a month). Apply dressing to the fender wells, too.
Wheels also need regular protection. Don’t forget to polish and wax your wheels when you wax the car. A great product that cleans protects and shines in one easy step is Wheel Wax.