We all love a good looking set of wheels and a shimmering set could be just what your car needs to stand out. Unfortunately, with them being so close to the road, they’re often the dirtiest part of our car. The good news is, with regular maintenance and some top tips, they’re one of the quickest parts of your car to clean, leaving you with great-looking wheels all year round!
What types of wheels are there?
One of the most common types of wheels are steel wheels. Steel wheels (or steelies) are a more traditional look, as they were usually fitted to older cars. These wheels are pressed out of steel billets, and as a result, are often simple in design.
The good news is, “steelies” are cheap to produce and very hard-wearing! Most bangs and scrapes won’t damage the overall structure of the wheels and can even be hammered out. Whilst steelies are generally heavier than their aluminium alloy counterparts, the difference is minor for the average driver and shouldn’t noticeably affect performance or fuel economy.
Due to their cheaper construction steel wheels are usually found on older cars but are also used on some cheaper new cars and some serious off-road vehicles. Why off-roaders? Well, the sturdier, more malleable steel construction, allows you to go off-road without damaging your rims. The new Suzuki Jimny and the Ineos Grenadier come standard with steel wheels for this very reason.
The cheaper price also means you don’t have to stress about the damage, as steel wheels can be as little as £50 to replace. Nobody wants to scrape their 19-inch diamond-cut alloys!
Most cars these days come with aluminium alloy wheels. These are whole wheels made from a mixture or, “alloy”, of non-ferrous metals, usually aluminium and magnesium. Alloy wheels are generally seen as more desirable, as they are usually lighter, brighter in shine and can be made into more complicated designs.
Whilst most everyday cars won’t see performance gains from alloy wheels, they’re also preferred for faster, more premium vehicles due to their reduced weight and ability to disperse heat.
Forged alloys are the most premium wheels available. To make forged alloys, aluminium is heated to super-high temperatures and placed under extreme pressure through a press. The hot metal is forced into a precast design using a forging press. This process creates long grains of metal, making the wheels much stronger and can therefore use more minimal designs making them lighter and more performance focussed.
The downside is that forged wheels are extremely expensive (check these out for over £5000!) due to the long manufacturing process and the expensive machinery required. Not only this, but the shapes also formed can be less than perfect and require further finishing.
Cast Alloys are a much simpler manufacturing process. The alloy is melted and poured into a pre-made cast of the design. This process is quicker and cheaper than forging wheels and means that each wheel is uniform, as they have been created from the same cast.
The downside is these wheels are slightly weaker, which means they must be created in more robust designs, making them heavier.
Wire wheels are often found on old fashioned sports cars. You’ll recognise them as looking much like your bicycle wheels. We’re not going to lie; these types of wheels can be a pain to clean, and we would recommend having a long thin brush on hand to reach into the hard-to-reach places. The good news is, because of their smaller surface area, less dirt should sit on them – so you shouldn’t have to put too much sweat in for a premium finish.
What causes Tyres to fade?
Tyres are exposed to a lot, particularly if they’re on a car that’s driven daily. Large temperature changes caused by weather conditions and heat from general driving can cause the rubber to fade and lead to crazing and cracking. Not only that, road grime, grit and mud are constantly splashed over the surface making them hard to keep clean for long!
This can be frustrating, but if you read on, we’ll show you how we can help.
How to safely clean your wheels
What you’ll need:
- Pressure Washer
- Barrel Brush
- Wheel Cleaner
- Wheel Wax
- Tyre Glaze
- Microfibre Cloth
- Tar Dissolver
The Deep Clean
If you haven’t cleaned your wheels for a long time, or if they’re in a particularly bad state we’d recommend taking your wheels off to easily access all areas. Although this might seem like hard work, it can save you time particularly for more complicated wheel designs. Make sure to consult your manual to locate your proper jacking points and take care when raising your vehicle.
If you’re unable to remove your wheels, don’t worry the thorough cleaning process is much the same, you’ll just have a slightly harder time reaching the nooks and crannies. We would also recommend cleaning your wheels before anything.
The first step we’d recommend is a thorough rinse with a pressure washer. This will get rid of a lot of looser dirt and surface grime, allowing your products to get to grips with the tough stuff. Whilst you’re here, give your inner arches a thorough rinse to avoid dirt building up that could settle on your wheels in the future.
Once rinsed we recommend a quick spray with a pre-wash or all-purpose cleaner. This can be a good idea to help remove any of the tougher stuck on grime. We’d also use the prewash to spray over the tyre walls. Here though, we would recommend agitating with a wheel brush to help remove the most stubborn dirt.
Wheel Cleaner and Rinse
After the pre-wash comes the wheel cleaner. We would recommend our environmentally friendly, pH neutral, acid-free wash Hermes. Just like toothpaste works to remove plaque, Hermes is designed to lift, reveal and dissolve iron splinters, brake dust and general dirt from wheels.
Much, like your nightly routine, it helps to give your wheels a thorough brush in the areas where the contamination is concentrated. This will agitate any dirt, loosening it further from the wheels leaving them sparkling clean.
Try to limit the amount of Wheel Cleaner that's sprayed onto your tyres and brakes.
Leave the wheel cleaner to sit on your wheels for 5 minutes, and watch the colour change. If the colour changes to a deep purple, it’s a sign that the ferrous materials have been dissolved. Rinse thoroughly to prepare the surface for the next steps.
Wash Your Car as Usual
Continue to wash your car in your usual manner. If you need any guidance we have an in-depth guide here. There’s no harm in getting snow foam on your wheels or giving them a once over with some shampoo.
We’d suggest using a Microfibre drying towel as they're super absorbent, allowing you to dry as much as possible before needing to be squeezed out.
Now you may have noticed some small odd black spots on your alloys. These are called tar spots and are picked up from the road. There is no need for alarm!
All you need to do is gently place some tar dissolver on your cloth and dab/rub it onto the black spots, then leave this magical product of the gods to do its thing. Once finished here rinse any product off thoroughly.
The finish line is in sight. To make future cleaning easier and to give your wheels an improved shine we’d recommend using a wheel wax. Just like waxes designed for bodywork, this will provide an invisible defensive barrier from stubborn dirt, road grime and brake dust.
Not only that, but the hydrophobic formula will stop dirt from sitting on the surface for long periods, avoiding marking and marring. Apply by spraying the wax onto a clean microfibre cloth or a foam applicator. Rub over the clean wheel, and leave for 5 minutes until the wax hazes. Buff off using a soft, microfibre cloth
- Tyre Finishing
To help protect your tyres in the future and enhance some of the deep black colour we’d recommend a tyre glaze or serum. Our Adonis Tyre Glaze contains a rubber lubricant that will help restore tyres and prevent crazing and racking in the future.
Tyre glaze also contains coloured pigments, so will bring back some colour and seals the tyre in a hydrophobic layer, protecting them from future fading.
Regular Cleaning and Maintenance
If you keep on top of cleaning your car, you shouldn't require anything quite as in-depth. Here are a few things to do a little more regularly:
- Every time you give your car a quick wash, we’d recommend giving the wheels a quick spray over with a wheel cleaner. If used regularly, there’s no need to agitate our wheel formula. It’s designed to remove dirt just by sitting on the rims and dissolving any dirt and ferrous materials.
- Keep your wax layer topped up. It’s quick to apply and will help keep dirt and grime from settling, making your regularly washes even easier.
- Top up with tyre glaze. Whether you prefer Tyre Serum or Tyre Glaze, it’s worth giving your tyres a quick top-up. As well as helping avoid the ageing of your tyres, its hydrophobic properties will help keep dirt at bay and keep your tyres cleaner for longer.