How to Clean & Shine Your Car Wheels

Are your car wheels splashed with mud? Make them shine again with this guide on how to clean your wheels. Click for chrome and alloy wheel cleaning tips.


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Your car is likely to be one of your most prized possessions, and you want to keep it looking its best. Even if you know how to wash a car, you’ll want to make sure that every part of your motor is left sparkling – right down to the wheels.

Whether your wheels are covered in mud or sprinkled with brake dust, learning how to wash car wheels is easier than you might think. Cleaning car wheels is actually an essential part of car maintenance, as a build-up of dirt can erode metal, so follow our simple guide to know all the tips you need.

To clean the car wheels, you will need the following equipment:

  • Hose or a bucket of water

  • A large soft sponge

  • Suitable wheel cleaner

  • Bristle brush

  • Microfiber cloth or chamois

  • Rubber gloves (optional)

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Before you start, make sure that you have the right type of wheel cleaner. Are you cleaning chrome wheels? Perhaps you have aluminium rims instead? Different wheels require different wheel cleaners, so always research what products are suitable for the surface of your rims and tyres. Using wrong chemicals on your car can corrode the metal, leaving irreversible marks.

Cleaning car wheels should be done after washing your car, otherwise, the dirt and debris from the chassis could run down onto your wheels. Always use a specialist wheel cleaner that is suitable for the metal used in your wheels, and test it on a small area first.

Cleaning car wheels – step by step

Now that you have your entire equipment ready, it’s time to get started on learning how to wash car wheels:

Step 1:

Wash the wheels with a hose. Remove debris and dirt by washing the wheels down with water. If the dirt is particularly stubborn, use a large wet sponge to gently scrub it away.

Step 2:

Spray on wheel cleaner. Using a cleaner suitable to your wheels, apply an even layer to your rim and tyres. Leave the wheel cleaner to soak up the dirt and dust for a few minutes before gently wiping it away with a sponge. Then get rid of any mud on the tyres by scrubbing well with a bristle brush – it’s a good idea to wear gloves for this part.

Step 3:

Rinse and dry the wheels. After wiping away the spray cleaner, thoroughly rinse the wheels with clean water and dry them using a microfibre cloth or chamois.

Step 4:

Don’t forget to clean between and behind the spokes. Use a bristle brush to thoroughly clean the wheel calibre behind the spokes. This is also a good time to clean the fender wells, as these collect a lot of mud and dirt when the wheels are in motion.

Step 5:

Rinse and dry the wheels. After wiping away the spray cleaner, thoroughly rinse the wheels with clean water and dry them using a microfibre cloth or chamois.

Step 6:

Go over stubborn stains. If the dirt or dust is still there on your wheels after rinsing, go over them again with your bristle brush before washing and drying them for the second time.

Step 7:

Once you’ve dried your wheels and tyres, you’ll want to protect the sparkling shine you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Apply a wax that is suitable for alloy or chrome wheels with a cloth and buff them until they gleam. Wipe away any excess wax with a microfibre cloth.

Know your metals: Chrome and alloy wheel cleaning tips

Cleaning aluminium wheels, or alloys, and cleaning chrome wheels require two slightly different approaches, so it’s important that you check what metal your wheels are made of.

Chrome is actually a very soft metal, which means it is often used to finish or coat other metals. This also means that it responds very well to polishing. When you clean chrome wheels, putting a little extra effort when polishing at the end can make all the difference. This is also true for other chrome features of your car, like the exhaust (only wash or polish them when they’re cool) or any chrome trim.

If you want tips for cleaning aluminium wheels then you’ll need to look for specialist cleaners specializing in alloys. Alloy wheels are made of an alloy of aluminium, or sometimes magnesium. They are often covered in “clearcoat” to protect them, so you need to look for a ‘clear coat-safe’ wheel cleaner.

One of the main alloy wheel cleaning tips is to avoid acidic cleaners as these could damage your alloys. Always check the label of your wheel cleaner before using it, and test it on a small area first to be safe.

So, there you have it. With these tips on cleaning chrome and aluminium car wheels, you’ll never have to ask ‘how to wash a car’ again.

Key steps:

  1. Identify whether you have alloy or chrome wheels

  2. Wash the wheels with water, using a bucket or hose

  3. Spray on a wheel cleaner suitable for your wheels

  4. Use a bristle brush to clean between the spokes

  5. Rinse and dry the wheels

  6. Finish with a thorough wax and polish

Originally published