6 Common Mistakes People Make When Cleaning Alloy Wheels

Joe Terrell
02/19/202019th February, 2020
Filed under Car Topics

Lucked out on a set of special rims? Want to keep them in tip-top condition? Then check out our six part guide to common wheel cleaning mistakes.

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When your car has just been cleaned, and you can actually see it sparkling in the sunlight, it’s hard not to feel a sense of satisfaction.

On the other hand, when you see that your rims are covered with dirt and mud, it could wind up spoiling the effect.

If you really want a clean car, you can’t start by washing the body of the car. You need to clean the wheels first. If you don’t start with the wheels, you won’t get that perfectly clean car you’re after.

This is a mistake that a lot of people make.

Washing your tires is important!

  1. Don’t Clean The Body Of Your Car First

The dirtiest part of a vehicle is usually going to be the tires. Your wheels aren’t just covered in mud. There is also brake dust to worry about. It can cling to the clear coat of your rims. If you don’t take the time to clean it, you could have issues with corrosion. When cleaning your car, you should start with the parts of the vehicle that touch the ground.

This is an effective way to clean a car for a number of reasons. After all, if you clean the wheels after you clean the rest of your vehicle, that dirt and mud could wind up splashing all over your nice clean car! Starting with the wheels will save you a lot of trouble.

  • Don’t Try To Clean All The Wheels At The Same Time

It can take a while to get the wheels on your car to look clean. It’s also important to remember that there are four wheels that need to be washed.

If you wanted to clean them all at once, you’d have to dart around in circles.

This will leave you feeling lightheaded before long.

The soap and chemicals you’re using to clean your wheels could wind up drying out before you get the chance to clean everything away. You’ll have a smoother experience if you clean your wheels one at a time.

  • Avoid Dish Soap and Acidic Cleaners

You’ll find so many different kinds of cleaning products available. Since you have a lot of different products to choose from, you can read labels and find products that will work for you. An acid-based cleaner can get rid of brake dust, but it will also get rid of the clear coating that’s protecting the rim. Instead, you should choose a cleaner that’s PH neutral.

You’ll want to find an effective cleaner that won’t damage your rims in any way.

Why can’t you use dish soap? Well, you should remember that it was designed for washing dishes. It is cheap, and it can de-grease all kinds of surfaces. However, when you’re cleaning your car, degreasing shouldn’t be your primary goal.

You’ll be dealing with tougher things than grease as you work to clean your wheels. Dish soap simply isn’t going to get the job done.

  • Don’t Soak Wheels With Clean Water

If you soak your wheels with clean water and then try to rub them, the best results you’ll get are some scratches on the coat of your rims. This holds true when you’re washing the rest of your car as well. Using a hose to rinse your car works very well. However, you’ll run into issues if you try to use clean water to rub your car clean. Remember, there are sharp particles that are sticking to the surface of your vehicle.

You need to use a lubricant of some sort if you want to avoid scratching. It’s usually best to use soapy water. Make sure the surface is nice and slippery! You’ll get better results that way.

  • Don’t Clean The Cavities With A Toothbrush

You may not want to purchase additional tools to clean your car. However, a toothbrush isn’t a tool that you’ll want to use. Toothbrushes have short bristles, which aren’t effective for more cleaning. The bristles are stiff and they aren’t very malleable.

Beyond that, rims are a fairly large surface. A small toothbrush simply isn’t going to be large enough to get it clean. When you’re scrubbing rims, you’ll want to use a brush with long bristles that aren’t abrasive.

A brush like this will be capable of reaching every part that needs to be cleaned. You can expect to pay between $6 and $7 for a wheel brush. If you want a brush that has a longer stem, you’ll be spending around $25. Focus on the lug nuts when you’re using your brush. Brake dust tends to accumulate here.

Don’t use a tire brush on the rims, and avoid using a brush designed for rims to clean your tires!

Once you’ve scrubbed away the dirt and gotten rid of the grit, you should try using detailing clay to finish the job. It’s designed to get rid of fine particles that would cling to your finish.

After you’re done with all of this, you should take the time to rinse everything off.

  • Don’t Use Bath Towels, Paper Towels, Or Chamois When Drying Your Car

After you’ve cleaned your vehicle and gotten the rims nice and shiny, you’ll need to dry them to finish the job. If you let the air dry them, you could wind up with watermarks.

When you’re trying to wipe your freshly cleaned glasses, chamois can be extremely useful material. However, it isn’t what you should use when you’re drying your car. What material should you use instead?

Microfiber cloths are the best material to use when cleaning your car. Use four cloths if you have to! Cloth such as this is able to absorb water gently without leaving any scratches or marks behind. Because chamois is so smooth, it will actually just smear around the water you’re trying to clear away. It could even wind up rubbing dirt into your clear coat!

Once you’ve finished everything else, you can finish your vehicle off with a fresh wax. After the wax has been applied, you should allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before you buff it out.

From there, you can admire your shiny rims and appreciate the results of all your hard work.


author avatar Written by Joe Terrell Drifted.com founder, motoring journalist and all-round car enthusiast. Read more about Joe and the Drifted team on our about us page.

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