A Detailer’s Guide To Creating Hot-looking Wheels
Brake dust, tar, grime--your vehicle’s wheels take a lot of abuse on summer roads.
How can you return the sparkle?
Prentice St. Clair of the International Detailers Association has some ideas.
Begin by making sure your tires and wheels are cool to the touch to help prevent cracking and pitting. Just let them sit for a few minutes, St. Clair suggested.
St. Clair uses a soft brush to apply a cleaner-degreaser. Make sure to apply products specifically designed for use on the tires and wheels.
Professional detailers like St. Clair may have a dozen brushes in their bags specifically designed for use on wheels. All of them have soft bristles designed to prevent scratching wheel surfaces.
St. Clair removes the charcoal-colored brake dust and other contaminants with a wheel cleaning solution. He recommends only using products containing chemicals that are safe to use on painted, chromed or aluminum rims.
Brake dust comes from the friction of brake pads on rotors. When left untreated, brake dust can corrode the protective coatings and stain or pit wheels and rims.
Most outer wheel surfaces are painted or powder coated. A light scrubbing with the wheel cleaner helps remove brake dust safely.
Haven’t cleaned your vehicle wheels in a while? Do they have nooks and crannies where contaminants get trapped? You may need to spend a bit more time and utilize the right brush to reach awkward spaces.
Once wheels are cleaned and rinsed, protect the painted portion using your favorite “spray-and-wipe” wax or a hand wax made specifically for wheels. Chrome wheels require a special chrome polish.
St. Clair applies a coat of wax to wheels using a soft pad and wipes away wax residue with a clean microfiber towel. To make tire sidewalls more attractive, St. Clair also applies rubber treatments to tire sidewalls.
Want high gloss tires? Apply a thick layer and let it dry naturally.
For a satin finish, spray down the sidewall and then wipe off the excess. Extra residue can create a problem detailers call “fling”--splatter from the wheel as the vehicle drives away.
“Wiping down tire sidewalls is the preferred method,” he explained. “Otherwise, you can create a big mess on the wheels and your driveway.
“Sometimes that fling can react with your paint and cause permanent staining.”
Here are St. Clair’s tips for giving your wheels and tires a professional shine:
- Wash your wheels and tires whenever you wash your car. This helps prevent staining and damage from corrosive brake dust.
- Use a soft bristle body brush and car wash shampoo to remove overall dirt and grime. Avoid stiff bristle brushes, aggressive scrubbing pads and steel wool--they can permanently scratch your wheel’s surface.
- Use a cleaner designed specifically for wheels to remove contaminants such as brake dust. A light scrubbing usually is enough to remove contaminants.
- Rinse off the wheels and apply a coat of wax. St. Clair recommends spray-on wax. Wipe off excess residue with a microfiber towel.
- Apply a tire dressing with a clean, soft pad. Wipe off excess dressing to prevent “fling,” which can stain painted surfaces.
- Remember, frequent tire and wheel cleaning simplifies the task. It also helps prevent contaminants from permanently damaging wheel surfaces.
- Brushes, clothes and buckets used for cleaning wheels should not be used for cleaning other areas of your vehicle. Corrosive contaminants can damage surfaces.