car wheel cleaning

Simple Guide to Cleaning Your Tyres & Wheels

Cleaning your tyres and wheels is not just for an appearance issue; it’s a preventive measure that needs to be taken for long term maintenance of your car wheels. With proper wheel care, your car wheels can stay as good as new without too much work.

Every time you go for a drive, your tyres, wheels and rims get covered in road grime and brake dust. Brake dust is a mixture of adhesive, carbon fibres that come off the brake pad and tiny metal shavings from the rotor. Letting this brake dust mixture to settle on your wheels can lead to the following:

  • Corrosion: The intense heat due to friction generated by the wheels can make this brake dust mixture to be highly corrosive.
  • Pits: If this brake dust remains settled on your wheels for a prolonged period of time, it can possibly eat into the coating and pit the metal of your wheels.
  • Rusting: Brake dust can cause the wheel rims to rust, thereby degenerating the quality of the wheels.

Even if you wash your car often, it may remove the loose grime off the wheels but does not really guarantee that your car wheels are clean and corrosion-free. By cleaning your tyres and wheels properly, you can remove stubborn stains caused by brake dust.

clean porsche

If you want to maintain a lasting shine and overall health of your car wheels, it is important that you follow the right procedure for cleaning your tyres and wheels.

A quick way to check whether your car tyres and wheels need cleaning is by checking the corners of your car wheels. If you find a thick layer of greasy material and dust deposited on the rim, you need to clean your wheels. However, if you allow for dust to accumulate on your tyres and in the wheel well, you are enabling corrosive elements that can damage the effectiveness of your brake pads as well as ruin the look and performance of your car wheels.

Before You Start Cleaning

Once you have determined that your car wheels and tyres need cleaning, you need to take care of a few things before you can begin the cleaning process for proper wheel care.

  • Before you get started, you must make sure that your brakes are cool. Basically, don’t start if you just drove your vehicle in the last 20-30 minutes or so. This is because if your brakes are still hot, spraying them with cold water may cause severe damage.
  • Wear gloves when working with car wheel cleaning chemicals because they could irritate your skin. Often car cleaning gels contain strong chemicals to clean the stubborn brake dust settled on the wheels.
  • Don't use harsh cleaners on uncoated aluminium or anodized wheels as they need a very gentle cleaner. Often just soap and water are sufficient to clean them and you only need chemical cleaners for aluminium coated wheels.
  • Always wash your car and car wheels separately. This is because the dust settled on car wheels and tyres are more stubborn and if you accidently use the same cleaning tools and drying towels for your car, you may end up scratching the paint of your car.
  • Make sure you use a separate car wash bucket and water specifically for your wheels and tyres, so you don't get the grease and grime from your wheels and tyres onto the rest of your car.

Before we explain the process of cleaning your tyres and wheels, let us look into products that you need for the same. We recommend the following products:

  • Wheel Cleaner: You need a good quality wheel cleaner that can clean the wheel wells, tyres and rims without causing any damage to your wheels. You need to make sure you pick a product that is safe on your wheel and does not harm the finish of your wheels, a pH neutral cleaner is ideal for most surfaces and all but the most heavily soiled wheels.
  • All Purpose Cleaner or Degreaser: This is primarily needed to remove tough stains that are difficult to remove with a wheel cleaner
  • Tyre Dressing Gel: You need a high quality tyre dressing gel or wax to give a gloss to your tyres after cleaning them.
  • Cleaning Brushes: You will need different varieties of cleaning brushes including a 1-inch wheel brush for cleaning lug nuts, a hard brush for cleaning the tyres and a long handle brush for cleaning the interiors of the wheel. You will need 2-3 types of brushes to clean the insides of the wheel and to make sure that the wheel wells are clean.
  • Water Source: You need a water hose for rinsing the wheels with a strong jet so you can get rid of all the grime stuck on the wheels.
  • Drying Towels: You need a few microfibre towels to dry the surface of the wheels and tyres.
  • Bucket with Car Wash Shampoo: It is a good idea to keep the soap water bucket close to you while cleaning the wheels so you can dip the brushes in whenever needed.

There are plenty of cleaners available that are made specifically to clean obtrusive elements from tyres and wheels. Some cleaners are creams that should be applied with a soft cloth; others are sprays that should be applied to all spots on your wheels and tyres. The key to a good wheel cleanser is its viscosity. A thick, gel-type wheel cleaner will hold its position, preventing it from running off before you can get to cleaning.

clean car wheels

You need to choose a cleaner that is appropriate for the type of wheels you have. Roughcast aluminium and chrome can withstand stronger cleaners than coated, painted, or anodized wheels.

In order to minimize damage to your car wheels and tyres, you must use the right method to clean your wheels. Before you start, you’ll want to wash and dry the vehicle thoroughly as you normally would. You need to prep the wheels for cleaning.

Before you begin cleaning your car wheels, you need to give them an initial rinse and remove any loose dirt or grime settled over the surface of the tyres and the wheels. Alternatively, you can give your car the 2-Bucket Wash. Use our safe cleaning guide to wash your car correctly and safely before proceeding to the wheel cleaning.

Next, you need to follow the following method to clean your tyres and wheels properly:

Step 1 - Spray the wheel cleaner

Wet the rims with water and spray them with wheel cleaner made specifically for them. Make sure to get the spray on the face of the rim, in the holes where the lug nuts sit, and on the inside of the rim as well. Let the wheel cleaner soak for a few minutes so the dirt can break down. You will see that all the dirt starts running off the wheels reducing the work for you. Some wheel cleaners such as Wolfs Deironizer, CarPro Iron X or Scholl Concepts Rim 7 have a visually way of denoting this by turning pink/red.

Spray the cleaner on the wheel, tyres and wheel wells. Remember to spray your wheel cleaner from the bottom of the wheel upward. Spraying from the bottom up will reduce the chance of etching caused by dripping chemicals. You can include the tyre in your spraying, as most wheel cleansers are perfectly safe to be used on your tyres.

Step 2 - Scrub the tyres, the wheel wells and the rims

Scrub the rims with a soft-bristled wheel brush or a clean, unused household paintbrush to agitate all the brake dust deposited on the wheel making sure you get every inch of the wheel. Loosen the top layer of brake dust and road grime with the brush and rinse the rims and the brush until clean.

You should scrub your wheels one set at a time, and rinse off the tyre you were just working on before moving on to the next wheel. Use a brush to clean inside the nuts and the outside rim areas. You also need to clean the inside of the rim. Push your brush into the rim and agitate the dust so you get everything nice and clean inside the rims as well.

Make sure you get into the crevices of the wheel where the brake pads are. This area accumulates the most dust from brake pads and is most sensitive to the corrosion that dirty wheels cause. If necessary, rinse and repeat. You can never be too cautious about cleansing your wheels and tyres.

Step 3 - Rinse off

Once scrubbing is complete and all the dirt is removed from the rims, the tyres and the wheel wells, you need to rinse the wheels with a stiff stream of water using a hose and spray nozzle. Thoroughly rinse the tyre, wheel and wheel well. Use plenty of water. You need to ensure that all traces of the wheel cleaner and soap are gone. After the rinse, check for missed spots and repeat the above steps if needed.

The key to cleaning your wheels and tyres is your attention to detail. It's easy to neglect the inside of your wheels and the wheel wells; it's often difficult to reach deep inside of your hubcaps and clean these areas. That's why, it's especially important to find a brush that will not only remove the dust, but one which also be able to reach into your specific wheels' crevices.

Step 4 - Dry the tyres and the wheels

After washing the rest of your car, you need to dry your tyres and wheels using a microfibre detailing towel. Make sure you dry the entire tyre and wheel off. If you don't completely dry your tyres and wheels, the wax and detailing solutions you use in the next step may dissolve and not work properly. You will also be exposing your vehicle to unnecessary rust.

You need to dry the rims with a microfibre cloth to prevent water spots from forming on your car’s rims. Clean the rims one at a time from start to finish so the cleaner doesn't dry on them.

Step 5 - Dress the tyres

With a freshly neutralized and clean wheel surface, you’re ready to apply protection and nourishing products on your wheels and tyres.

Begin with a wheel sealant, and spray it directly on the rims, but carefully enough not to overspray onto rotors or brake pads. An oil based wheel sealant formula will be much more effective as it can hold a higher melting point, and stay adhered to the surface for a longer time. By protecting, you’re keeping your wheels cleaner for longer, and lessening the load for the next time you need to clean them.

Tyre dressing is done in the very same manner that you wax your car. Apply the tyre gloss gel with the applicator pad before buffing the tyre for a protected tyre that will not only look good but will resist dust and other harmful elements. Detailing your tyres will also protect them from UV light that breaks down tyre rubber. Your tyre dressing simply goes on the surface and makes the tyre look shiny.

Finally - Conditioning Your Tyres

You can also condition your tyres that will not only rejuvenate the rubber surface of your tyres for a vibrant appearance, but it will also prevent cracking and fading of the rubber as well. With the appropriate applicator, apply a tyre conditioner to the tyres evenly and wipe of any that may have gotten on the rims. Next, allow the conditioner to sit for a few minutes and then wipe excess off with a cloth. As opposed to tyre dressing that brings a shiny look on your tyres, the conditioner will be absorbed into the rubber surface, rejuvenating and protecting the tyre.