Your expensive alloy wheels have to endure all of the elements including what the road throws at them. It is important to know how to care for your wheels. Just like our own bodies we often take time to look great but neglect our feet. I have formulated some tips to help you keep your wheels in tip top condition that will make your whole car look great and give your wheels the longevity they deserve.
The Minefield of Products
There are hundreds of products on the market offering a quick and easy solution to clean your wheels. Most of these are not wheel 'care' products. They often use strong acid or alkaline or salt and sometimes they have chemicals that can change from PH neutral to alkaline or acid when in contact with water or air. All of these products are corrosive which is how they remove dirt and brake dust.
The Dishwasher Scenario
When you put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher and add a dishwashing tablet, close the door, press start and miraculously your dishes and glass-wear are squeaky clean! A dish washer relies on strong alkaline products, water agitation and heat to remove the dirt.
You will notice that over time your glass-wear and plates start to look worn and have a cloudy appearance. This is corrosion! Now relate this to using chemical wheel cleaners on your wheels.
Mobile Wheel Repairs refurbishes wheels every day and have been doing so for many years. On a weekly basis I am asked to refurbish wheels that have been chemically damaged from wheel cleaner products. I have refurbished hundreds of wheels that have been corroded.
Wheels Most at Risk
With out a doubt the wheels at highest risk of chemical damage are wheels with a shadow chrome finish. These are found on many modern cars but most Lexus wheels and modern Mazda car wheels and some Jeep wheels have this finish. Shadow chrome is ultra fine silver paint (see-through) that is sprayed over black paint. when corrosion happens you will see streaks of black appearing through the silver. This really stands out. Other wheels corrode with more subtlety and are not so obvious. You may notice dull paintwork or cloudy appearance.
What About Automatic Car Washes?
If you refer to the dishwashing scenario you can see that you are basically putting your car through a dishwasher. Most car washes have a sign (usually in very small print) that is a waiver to tell you that you take your car through the car wash at your own risk. Good car detailers will tell you to never take your car through a car wash. If in doubt ask at the car wash for a guarantee that there will be no corrosion.
The Best Products to Use
The best advice I can give is to avoid any product that says 'wheel cleaner' but instead use a good quality product that you would clean your car body with. The finish on your wheels is no different that on your car body and I'm sure that you would not use corrosive chemicals on your car body. I will not recommend any specific product here as I do not want to endorse any particular company but If you talk to a professional detailer they will give you the best advice on products.
The Best Method to Clean Wheels
Unfortunately without using harsh chemicals there is no quick and easy way to clean your wheels. I would advice to rinse wheels with a hose to remove loose debris and dust then use a decent car body wash and warm water. Use a microfibre cloth to clean the wheels (yes this means you will have to expend a small amount of energy).
To get inside the wheels do not use a hard bristle brush as this can scratch your wheels. Instead get a long handled brush but wrap a microfibre cloth over the bristles and secure with a cable tie. This will enable you to get in behind the spokes with no scratches!
Rinse off with a hose and if you want to have no water spots then dry off with a chammy.
Brake dust is aesthetically displeasing but is also corrosive. This means regular cleaning otherwise corrosion can set in and nothing will remove the pitting except abrasive methods and a full refurbishment. European cars are the usual culprits as they have very soft compound brakes. My best advice is to talk to your mechanic about replacing the brake pads with ceramic brake pads. From my experience there is about a 90% reduction in brake dust. They are not much more expensive either! The extra cost is well worth it if you don't like cleaning wheels often.
If you don't have time to clean your own car or wheels then use a reputable car detailer. They are experts at getting your car looking great but in a caring way. You may be surprised how inexpensive they can be and they offer a wide range of services. You can contact Mobile Wheel Repairs if you would like advice on who to use in your area.
The Finishing Touch
I get asked all of the time if I think wheels should be ceramic coated. There are positives and negatives. Yes it will make cleaning easier but it also makes repairing a damaged wheel very difficult as paint will not stick to ceramic coating. Ceramic coating will not stop brake dust but it will be easier to clean off.
A lot of people use a silicone based tyre shine and this is absolutely fine and will not corrode your wheels.
To summarise, there is no quick and easy solution to care for your wheels. It takes a bit of time and effort but it will be worth it. Avoid any products that say 'wheel cleaner' and avoid car washes unless they can guarantee zero corrosion. Use a professional detailer if you don't have the time to clean your own car. If you need any expert advice about wheels then contact us at Mobile Wheel Repairs.