Alloy wheels look great, but cleaning alloy wheels and keeping them maintained can be stressful. They experience considerable damage from everyday road use. The dust that settles on them from brake pad and brake shoe wear and tear, road salt, tar, and other elements can scratch the once-bright surface, and can even become acidic and pit the surface permanently. Washing alloy wheels has been a topic discussed for decades, and everything from ‘folk remedies’ to professional advice has been thrown about for possible solutions. Automobile manufacturers will often tell you to just use soap and water, but you will have to do this often to keep damage from occurring, or you can just use a spray washer every couple of days to keep them cleaned off. Aside from soap and water, the following are some of the most effective tips for keeping your alloy wheels looking great.
Homemade solutions can range from lemon juice to Coca Cola and are just that–word-of-mouth (and not guaranteed) remedies. For wheels in good shape, leave lemon juice on them for 10 minutes and then rinse off. For rust spots, wet some aluminum foil with Coca Cola and lightly sand the wheels. For grease, try soaking your wheels in a tub of white or cider vinegar. For deeper problems, Oxy-Gel kitchen cleaner can also be used. It is an oxygenated bleach, however, so take care with it.
Standard over-the-counter alloy wheel cleaners abound. Some of the more often recommended include Tesco, Eagle One, Meguiars Hot Rims, Planet Polish’s Wheel Seal and Shine, or Castrol Superclean. A standard tar and bug remover can be used to prevent permanent tar stains, such as Autoglym Tar Remover.
Look for the more unique products out there, such as Mothers Power Ball or Flitz Power Ball, which are attachments for your power drill that will polish your wheels. It’s recommended that you operate these at lower RPMs (300-400), with at least an 18V drill, for maximum effectiveness.
Never use abrasive cleaners, polishing compounds, or steel wool to clean alloy wheels. Use a specially made alloy wheel brush if you must use one.
Automatic car washes sometimes use acid-based cleaners or more destructive brushes, so be sure you know what yours uses before ruining your wheels.
Wait to wash your wheels until the car is cooled off, so the heat doesn’t evaporate the water, leaving soap spots on the wheels. Also, spraying your wheel area when it’s hot may warp your brake discs.
If you clean the wheels first, before the rest of the car, you can avoid the detritus from the wheels overspraying onto the car’s painted finish. And do not steam-clean your wheels, as this can harm the finish. After cleaning the wheels, be sure to change cleaning cloths or sponges, so you don’t scrape the car’s finish with the particles that came off the wheels.
Once you follow these tips to achieve thoroughly clean wheels, don’t forget to protect them from future harm by applying a good coat of wax, at least every three months, such as Autoglym wheel wax spray. Following these tips, and keeping up with your alloy wheels consistently, will assure you of long-lasting, great-looking wheels.