How to Clean Aluminum Wheels and Rims
When properly cleaned and polished, aluminum wheels, also known as alloy wheels, can shine with chrome-like beauty. Proper maintenance of your aluminum wheels is important, to avoid pitting and corrosion caused by the accumulation of dirt and brake dust.
Aluminum finish options include bare, clear coated, painted, powder-coated, and anodized. Bare aluminum tends to oxidize, so most aluminum wheels have a protective coating on top to prevent aluminum oxide.
Brake dust is comprised of carbon fibers that rub off the brake pad, as well as tiny metal shavings from the rotor which can do damage to the surface of your wheels. You can prevent this and keep your aluminum wheels looking great with frequent cleaning.
Detailers often turn to commercial wheel cleaners when they're looking to restore clear-coated aluminum wheels. These tend to use a mixture of acids, ammonia-based chemicals, solvents, and water. The acids in wheel cleaners may dissolve brake dust and road grime, but they can also dissolve clear coats, powder finishes, and painted finishes. Other than that, these chemicals can cause skin and eye irritation, and can be extremely harmful if inhaled or ingested.
Simple Green All Wheel & Tire Cleaner cleans tire rims and wheels by removing brake dust, road grime, tar residue, and more without removing the protective coating.
It's recommended you wash your wheels with generic soap and water every time you wash your car. You should aim to deep clean them about once every other month, or more if they look especially dirty to you.
Directions for Cleaning Aluminum Wheels:
Only clean wheels when they're cool to avoid warping rotors, brake discs, and more.
- Clean your wheels first. Your wheels are usually the dirtiest part of your car, so washing them first will prevent you from splattering any gunk on a clean car.
- Wet one wheel. Hose down the first wheel to remove loose dirt and brake dust from the crevices.
- Apply cleaner to one wheel. Thoroughly spray Simple Green All Wheel & Tire Cleaner onto the first wheel.
- Scrub the wheel. Use a soft-bristle brush, sponge, or wheel brush to scrub the corners and crevices of your wheels. Make sure to keep the whole area coated with water so the wheel doesn't get scratched, and make sure your Simple Green doesn't dry on the surface. Get in between the spokes and scrub the barrel and use a lug nut brush to clean in and around the lug nut holes, where brake dust tends to accumulate.
- Rinse. Rinse clean with water.
- Repeat for the other 3 wheels.
- Wash the rest of your car. For specific directions on how to do this, click here.
- Dry your car, including the wheels. Use a clean microfiber towel to wipe away any residue and dry your aluminum wheels, giving them a chrome-like sparkling clean, streak-free surface without any water spots.
- Apply polish and wax. If you polish your aluminum wheels with a clear coat and follow that up with wax, you can retain the like-new look you've just achieved. Be sure to follow the directions listed on the products.