If you want to make sure that your car looks as good as possible, the wheels need to be clean. Since they’re in constant contact with dirt and debris, they can get extremely dirty.
Like the shoes on your feet, the wheels on your car take the brunt of the abuse that driving dishes out.
We’re going to teach you how to clean aluminum wheels the right way, and the technique just might blow your mind. A set of clean, polished aluminum wheels looks slick.
With the right cleaning technique, you can make sure your aluminum wheels shine almost as well as chrome.
Before we get started, you should know that aluminum is a softer metal, so it responds very well to polishing. The only problem is that bare aluminum can oxidize rather easily. Many OEM aluminum wheels come with a protective coating, which is designed to prevent oxidization.
If you’re trying to clean coated aluminum, you need to use cleaners and polish that are safe on the aluminum coating. For wheels that are made of bare aluminum, you can get away with using a stronger polish.
To find out if your wheels have a coating, you can apply a small dab of polish. Rub the polish and see if black residue appears.
A lack of black residue means there is a coating on the aluminum. This is an effective test because aluminum oxide comes off of uncoated aluminum as a black residue.
Why We Hate Brake Dust
Aluminum wheels hate brake dust because it’s made of carbon fibers and adhesive. The tiny metal shavings from the rotor get all over the wheels, and the intense friction and heat generated by the wheels makes the mixture of metal shavings very corrosive.
Since most people drive every day, they’re creating an enormous amount of brake dust. The only way to protect their car wheels from the corrosive effects of the dust is the clean them regularly using the techniques that we’re going to teach you.
How to Clean Bare Aluminum Wheels
It’s always a good idea to wash your wheels before you wash your vehicle because cleaning the car first will prevent dirty water and brake dust from splashing all over your freshly-cleaned car.
To get started, rinse your aluminum wheels off and remove any brake dust and loose dirt.
You can use a fireman’s nozzle to deliver a powerful stream of water. Make sure to rinse between the wheel spokes, behind the wheels and brake calipers. Brake dust can find its way into every tiny crevice.
Next, make sure to spray one wheel at a time using aluminum cleaner. There are several types of aluminum cleaner, and you should be able to find some at your local automotive store.
It’s important to use cleaners that are made for aluminum because they’re non-acidic and can effectively clean the wheel without causing spots.
Grab a brush with soft bristles and agitate the wheel. Even if you’re planning to polish right away, you should avoid using a stiff brush because the bristles will scratch the aluminum.
Ideally, you want to get a brush that will fit into all of the small crevices. When you’re cleaning, make sure that you don’t forget to clean the lug nuts. Brake dust can hide anywhere so consider using a lug nut brush to clean around the lug nuts.
When you’re working with the brushes, make sure that the wheels are always wet. By keeping the wheels lubricated, you’ll be able to avoid accidental scratching.
It’s a good idea to clean the wheel wells while you’re down there because they can get extremely dirty. An all-purpose cleaner might be needed for the wheel wells.
Once you’re finished with the main cleaning process, go ahead and rinse everything off. Spray between the spokes ad lug nut holes. After rinsing, it’s a good time to dry the wheels. Water spots are very unsightly and can appear anywhere.
You’ll want to dry everything with an all-purpose microfiber towel because it will get rid of any potential water spots. For the best results, make sure to purchase and use a black microfiber towel.
How to Polish Aluminum Wheels
Now that you’ve polished the wheels, you’ll probably want to polish them. The polish is like the icing on the cake, and it will carry the beauty of your wheels to a whole new level.
However, this polishing guide is only for wheels that don’t have a coating. If your wheels don’t have a top coating, you can use a stronger polish. A stronger polish is needed to remove the oxidized aluminum.
The problem with aluminum is that it can tarnish and rust. To get the perfect shine, there are several steps involved in the process. You’ll want to make sure that you have several terrycloth towels before we get started.
To get started, take off one wheel at a time to polish it. At this point, your wheels should already be very clean. You can apply some aluminum brightening cleaner to each wheel, which helps to remove oxidation and restore shine.
Next, apply the polish to the wheel. You can get it in the form of paste or liquid. Make sure to rub the polish into the rims. You can use smooth strokes moving in the same direction when you’re shining aluminum wheels.
A toothbrush can be used to reach the difficult areas of the wheel. To avoid cloudiness and get the best shine, make sure to polish the wheel in small portions.
Next, apply a finishing polish to the wheel. Continue the process until you can wipe the wheel down with a cloth without the cloth getting soiled.
These are some of the most effective ways to clean and polish aluminum wheels. However, you’ll need to make sure that they’re right for your wheels.