Wheels and tires are one of the most often overlooked parts of the car when it comes to detailing. Most of the focus for cleaning is on the body, windows, and interior, since these are the parts we come into the most contact with.
However, no matter how shiny the rest of your vehicle, it will never look showroom polished without a little attention to the wheels. And since your tires are constantly in contact with brake dust and the grime of the road, they tend to get dirty faster and corrode quicker than any other part of the car.
Tools for Detailing Wheels
You can get away with detailing the wheels using a standard automotive shampoo, a bucket, a wheel brush, and a wheel mitt, but you might also want to invest in specialty wheel cleaners. Because wheels tend to accumulate things like tar and rubber build up, they sometimes need more abrasive products designed for this use.
You also have options to apply a protective clear coat or sealant once the wheels are cleaned. This will not only ensure a glossy finish, but will also protect your wheels against future build up so you don’t have to detail them as often.
Getting the Wheels Ready for Detailing
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of cleaning your wheels every time you normally wash your car. By incorporating wheel care into your regular routine, you can reduce the number of times you need to do more in-depth detailing to every few months.
Wait until your car is completely cooled before you attend to wheel detailing, and do the wheels before your regular clean. You’ll also want to find a nice, sunny spot to do your work. Many of the more stubborn stains and water marks are only visible in the direct sunlight, so you’ll be less likely to miss spots this way.
Tire Detailing Steps
- Rinse the wheels, wheel wells, and tires.
- Apply any gels or specialty wheel products that need time to break down the grime and brake dust. You can work on one side of the car while the other side soaks.
- Using the wheel brush, find and work the smallest inner wheel areas. Always work from the deepest part out and rinse your brush frequently to avoid introducing grime to the outer areas. Brake dust—one of the worst wheel offenders—accumulates more on the inside than the outside, so you’ll want to spend extra time scrubbing deep.
- Using the wash mitt, clean the face of the rims. Pay attention to any areas you may have missed with the brush so you can go back and scrub them.
- Scrub the rubber part of the tires as much as you choose. Many types of wheel cleaners do double duty on the tires, or you can buy a separate product to keep the rubber in good repair.
- Wash the rest of the car before you wax, polish, or clear coat the wheel rim surfaces. This should be one of your last steps before you finish.
- Make sure the wheels are dry before you apply any sort of polish. Not only will this allow the product to stick to the metal, but you can also double check to make sure you didn’t miss any sections or allow water spots to harden.
- Wax weekly, seal every few months. A wheel wax typically needs to be applied every week or so, but a more protective coating only needs to be done every other month or so.
It’s also highly recommended that you use each product according to its specified instructions. There are dozens of different types of wheel and tire products on the market, and while many of them are used similarly, some come with special instructions. Read through everything before you apply, and talk to your car wash professional if you need additional tips or recommendations for specific products.