- car wash
How to clean your wheels like a pro
Updated 30 Apr 2020
The wheels, as well as the wheel arches, are often forgotten when it comes to the bi-weekly (is that being too optimistic?) cleaning of a car.
They might get a quick rinse at the same time as the paintwork, but then they are ignored once more until the next wash.
And that’s a shame, because not cleaning the wheels and wheel arches properly can really diminish the appearance of that freshly washed paintwork - it’s like pairing dirty runners with a tuxedo.
But fear not, the team at AutoGuru have put together a ‘How-to’ article and video to show you just how simple it is to clean your wheels like a pro!
The first step is to grab the proper products to be able to clean effectively and thoroughly.
Some of these tools are specifically made for tyre and wheel cleaning, but if you can’t find them locally, a microfibre towel and a long-handled brush will allow for a good clean without breaking the bank.
These products include:
- Wheel cleaner (obviously)
- A biodegradable degreaser or all-purpose cleaner
- A specific tyre and rubber cleaner (optional - if you don't have access to this product, the all-purpose cleaner or degreaser will work)
- A selection of wheel brushes or a microfibre towel to agitate the cleaners
- Protective gloves and safety glasses
- A pressure washer or garden hose
- A bucket
- A small amount of car wash product (whatever you use on the paint is fine)
- Tyre Shine and foam applicator (optional)
Now you have all the tools ready to go, it’s time to start cleaning.
Make sure the wheels you are going to clean are cool to the touch, as wheels that are warm will increase the chance of the wheel cleaner and degreaser drying, which may damage the surface of your wheels.
Grab your gloves and safety glasses before using any chemicals.
Firstly, before applying any products, rinse the wheels and arches down with your pressure washer or a garden hose to remove any loose dirt and debris.
This will help minimise any scratching when it comes time to agitate with the brushes or microfibre towels.
Once you're happy with the rinse, it’s time to crack out the degreaser or all-purpose cleaner and spray it liberally into the wheel arch. Make sure to cover as much as you can, including the mud flaps.
Let the degreaser dwell for a few moments to allow it to start breaking down the dirt and grime. This is the perfect time to clean the tyres!
Spray your tyre and rubber cleaner or degreaser onto the tyre and scrub with a brush. You will notice the foam created will turn brown as the cleaner removes old tyre shine and built-up dirt.
Keep scrubbing until the foam is no longer turning brown and then jump back into scrubbing the wheel arches.
Once you’re happy that you’ve cleaned as much as you can, grab the pressure washer or a garden hose and rinse off the arches and tyre to remove any excess product. Reapply as needed.
It’s time for the fun part - cleaning the actual wheels!
Grab your wheel cleaner, spray liberally onto the face and the barrels (the bit at the back) of the wheels, and let it sit for 30 seconds or so until you see it start to change colour.
Most wheel cleaners will turn a shade of purple depending on how much dirt is on the wheels.
Once this happens, grab your brush or microfibre towel, gently clean the faces of the wheels and then move onto the barrels.
It may be difficult to get all of the barrel if you have large brake calipers, so moving the vehicle slightly will allow access. Rinse off thoroughly and reapply if needed.
Once you’re happy with the state of the wheels and arches move on to the next wheel and repeat the process.
Now the wheels and arches are clean, it’s time to dress the tyres.
It’s best to avoid the cheap aerosol products as they contain silicone which can dry out and crack rubber over time, and sling all over your paintwork leaving unsightly black spots everywhere!
A water-based dressing and a foam applicator make this job a breeze. Start by adding a small amount of dressing into the applicator and apply to the rubber.
You will notice it will blacken straight away, so continue around the tyre making sure not to miss any spots.
If you have applied too much product and it is building up, simply wipe the excess with a microfibre towel - this will help prevent sling.
Work your way around the other tyres, and then stand back and admire your handiwork!
Cleaning your wheels, tyres and wheel arches is one of the easiest ways to keep your car looking spectacular. Doing it regularly will show how well you look after your pride and joy.
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Finding a passion for cars from a young age, Joel carried out work experience as a mechanic whilst at school before starting an apprenticeship after finishing year 12.
After almost 10 years on the tools and in customer service, he moved into the IT realm as a Data Analyst and In-House mechanic at AutoGuru.