Caring for your car’s wheels takes a lot more than driving through a car wash. Many people wrongly use the term “wheels” interchangeably with tires, but they are not the same thing.
Caring for wheels is dramatically different than caring for those black, rubber tires. Consider wheels the accessories of your vehicle. They’re the pop of color or shine, the finishing touch and can make a huge difference in the overall look of your ride. If they’re blanketed in brake dust, you’re making a bad impression no matter how nice your vehicle is.
A big part of taking care of wheels is removing dust and keeping them polished. That’s followed by protecting them so they stay shinier longer and are easier to clean the next time around. A gentle soap and water wash using a wash mitt every few weeks is usually enough for most people. However, the trick is actually paying attention to the wheels, properly cleaning them and not glancing over the area. New protection layers should be added every two or three months.
Covering the Basics
The most important part of wheel care is having the right products. You also need to know what kind of wheels you have in order to treat them right. For example, alloy wheels probably already have a clear coat if they’re factory-made. This makes things simple since there’s no worry about oxidizing the finish. However, custom or aftermarket wheels might have bare metal that needs special treatment—otherwise, you could mistakenly damage them.
Start the cleaning when your wheels are cool. If you’ve driven the car recently, allow for plenty of cooling time. Park in the shade and avoid sunlight. Pick up a quality auto shampoo and wash mitt—this type of shampoo works with any type of wheel. It’s also strong enough to tackle basic contaminants and buildup.
Look for a pH balanced cleaner, which is safe and can be made stronger by simply allowing it to sit in the shade for a few minutes. Acidic cleansers are very effective, but may tarnish or oxidize your wheels if you’re not careful. Only use these cleansers on factory wheels that have a thick protective coat.
After washing, rinse the wheels thoroughly and pay close attention to the lug nuts. Inner barrels can be cleaned with a detailing brush, but this should be done first since you may bring out some dirt that will spread to other parts of the wheel. A clay bar can help prep the wheel surface, too, but practice caution when using this on a very high polish—you might cause small swirls.
Finally, adding a polish can increase gloss and get rid of surface scratches. If you have bare metal, start by putting a pea-sized dollop of polish on a foam pad. Spread the polish in a thin layer with light pressure. Polish until the layer turns milky, then remove it with a clean microfiber rag. Repeat as desired.
You want to protect your wheels and keep them looking newer longer, so always choose a sealant that’s designed for your specific wheels.