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How to Detail Wheels & Tires

How to Detail Wheels & Tires

How to Detail Wheels & Tires

Cleaning your wheels and tires regularly is not just an appearance issue – it’s preventative maintenance!

If you allow brake dust to sit on your wheels for a prolonged period of time, it can eat into the coating (if there is one) and pit the metal. Brake dust is made of an adhesive and carbon fibers that come off the brake pad and tiny metal shavings from the rotor. The intense heat and friction generated by the wheels makes this mixture highly corrosive. Because you probably drive every day, more brake dust is constantly being made. Frequent cleaning is the only way to keep your wheels safe. A good start is the Pinnacle Wheel and Tire Kit! Check out our Tire & Wheel Care Page for more excellent tire and wheel products.

Start at the bottom

Step 1:

When you wash your vehicle, clean the wheels and tires first. This will prevent overspray or grime from splashing onto already-clean panels. If you like to clean your wheels and tires with soap and water, use a separate wash and rinse bucket and soft bristle brush.

Step 2:

Choose a cleaner that is appropriate for the type of wheels you have. Roughcast aluminum and chrome can withstand stronger cleaners than coated, painted, or anodized wheels. The cleaner will say what it is suited for on the label. For example, Mother’s All Purpose Wheel Mist can be used on any type of wheel, but their Chrome/Wire Wheel Cleaner is not safe for coated wheels. If you are not sure what kind of wheels you have, use a cleaner that is safe for all wheels.

Clean wheels the Montana Original Boar's Hair Wheel BrushI prefer to use a cleaner that works on the tires, too. Wolfgang Tire & Wheel Cleaner is a gel formula that clings to both the tire and the wheel surface to penetrate below the surface. It loosens brake dust that has crept into tiny holes in the metal and into the pores of the rubber. A little agitation with a brush will allow Wolfgang to work even better.

You’d be surprised how many tire and wheel brushes are out there. Basically, you want to look for a brush with feathered bristles for the wheels. This will prevent scratching. The Montana Original Boar's Hair Wheel Brush is a great option.

For tires, use Mother's Contoured Tire Brush. Tires require a stiffer brush to really scrub the rubber. Don’t be afraid to put a little elbow grease into it, particularly if your tires have layers of old dressings on them. These layers will turn brown and make your tires look worn out if you don’t scrub them off.

Step 3:

Always clean your tires and wheels one set at a time to prevent the cleaner from drying. Wash and then rinse with a strong jet of water before moving to the next tire.

Step 4:

Don’t forget to dry your wheels! Use a Cobra Microfiber Detailing Towel or a terry cloth towel, but not one that you plan to use on any other part of your vehicle. Once a towel is used on the tires or wheels, it should always be used for tires and wheels. Drying prevents water spots and helps you remove every last bit of the brake dust.

Wax your wheels!

Once your wheels are clean and dry, apply a quality wheel protectant like Detailer's Pro Series Wheel Glaze or Wheel Wax to seal the wheel surface. These products work just like car wax. Apply them with an applicator pad and then buff the wheel. They keep your wheels looking shiny, and they prevent brake dust adhesion. Your wheels look cleaner longer. You have to reapply these products weekly, but it’s better than scrubbing your wheels every two days. The good news is, if you use a wheel wax as recommended, water is the only thing you need to clean your wheels between waxings.

Detailer's Pro Series Wheel Glaze

Dressings provide UV protection and prevent drying, cracking and fading. With a little TLC, your vehicle’s wheels and tires will look as sharp as the rest of your ride! Dress for Success

Choose your tire dressing carefully. Old formulas contain silicone, which produces a glossy shine but it turns brown over time. These dressings deplete the rubber’s own protectants faster, causing it to age prematurely. Newer formulas, like Pinnacle Black Onyx Tire Gel or Optimum Opti-Bond Tire Gel,are water-based and less shiny. They create the look of new tires with a semi-gloss sheen that doesn’t turn brown. Pinnacle Black Onyx Tire Gel also nourishes the rubber to recreate the look of new tires. You can often layer water-based dressings to get a glossier shine. Follow the directions on the label carefully. Always apply thin coats and allow drying time before you drive your vehicle. Even the best dressing will sling off if it’s on too thick or it doesn’t have time to dry.

Dressings provide UV protection and prevent drying, cracking and fading. With a little TLC, your vehicle’s wheels and tires will look as sharp as the rest of your ride!

See our Metal Polishing Guide for details on wheel polishing.

Click on image to see video

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