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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.
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 Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner can be used on any type of coated 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.
I 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.
If the wheels have brake dust that's caked-on, or if they haven't been cleaned in months or years, consider a more powerful wheel cleaner. Pinnacle Advanced Wheel Cleaner Concentrate is a professional grade wheel cleaner that forgoes caustic acids, butyl ethers, and other harsh detergents that do more harm than good. Pinnacle Advanced Wheel Cleaner Concentrate changes colors as it dissolves brake dust and the concentrated formula can be diluted up to 1:3 with water for maintenance cleaning.
Brown tires are all too common, especially when caustic degreasers have been used to clean them in the past, or if they've never been protected with a tire gel. DP Tire Cleaner & Restorer removes browning and grease from tires, leaving them with a dark black finish. You see, tires contain antiozonants, rubber conditioners, and UV absorbers that help keep the tire flexible. The wrong cleaner will actually cause the antiozonants, rubber conditioners, and UV absorbers to leach out of the tire, resulting in browning, discoloration and cracking of the tire. DP Tire Cleaner & Restorer is non-caustic, non-acidic, and it will not harm your tires!
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. If you have a vehicle with low-profile tires, the Low Profile Tire Brush will quickly become your go-to tire cleaning brush! The Low Profile Tire Brush features hundreds of stiff nylon bristles that get into the nooks and crannies of your tire’s sidewall, removing stubborn road film and previously applied tire protectants. The curved handle minimizes fatigue on your hand while enabling maximum scrubbing power.
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.
Don’t forget to dry your wheels! Use a Microfiber All Purpose & Wheel 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.