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How To Clean and Maintain Your Wheels And Tires

All products will be linked at the end of the post so don’t worry about searching for them as you learn how to clean and enhance the look of your wheels and tires.

Why Should You Clean Your Wheels and Tires

The wheels and tires on your vehicle are a very important part of your vehicle to be able to drive the vehicle, but its also a key feature on your vehicle and can really tie the whole look of your vehicle together, so it is important to keep your wheels and tires looking their best. Additionally, cleaning your wheels and tires is a good time to check the condition and life of your tires for any damage such as nails, or even get some indicators that it’s ready to rotate your tires if the tread wears down unevenly. I will go over the methods and steps I use to keep my customer’s wheels and tires looking exquisite.

Dirty Range Rover Wheel and Tire

First off, when cleaning the exterior of your vehicle it is important to start with the wheels and tires as they will be the dirtiest and most contaminated part of the vehicle due to brake dust and contact with the road. I always use dedicated equipment for the wheels such as dedicated brushes, wash mitts, and even microfiber towels so I do not damage the paintwork since there are way more contaminants and abrasives on the wheels and tires. I recommend an electric pressure washer for efficiency which should be in the range of 1000-2000 pounds per square inch (PSI) and 1.2-1.8 gallons per minute (GPM), but a standard garden hose and garden hose attachment works and will get the job done for a more affordable approach.

How To Clean The Wheels And Tires

Step 1.

Fill a 5-gallon bucket with about 3 gallons of water and place a grit guard at the bottom to trap the dirt and grime. Next place your boar hair brush, tire brush, inner wheel barrel brush, and a dedicated wash mitt for the wheels. I add a little bit of wheel cleaner (Adams Wheel and Tire Cleaner) or pH neutral car shampoo (Meguiars Gold Class) just to add some lubricity and product to the brushes and wash mitt.

Step 2.

Tire cleaning with tire brush

Adams Iron Remover reaction

Once you have your bucket ready spray down the wheel and this is important for two reasons. The first reason is it will rinse off loose dirt and grime to reduce the amount of contaminants you are moving around during the contact cleaning. Secondly, if the vehicle has been sitting outside in direct sunlight, it will cool the surface of the wheel and tire so the products do not dry up quickly from the hot surface and reduce the chance of damaging the wheels and tires. If the wheels are extremely dirty I spray Adams Iron Remover at a 1:1 dilution and wait for the product to break down the embedded iron particles in the wheel and look for the chemical reaction that produces purple streaking. Never let iron remover dry and spray more product as needed to keep the product from drying. After the iron remover starts creating the purple streaking, I spray Adams Wheel and Tire Cleaner at a 1:3 dilution and start scrubbing the tires with the tire brush. Once you have scrubbed the tires you can move on to cleaning the wheels.


Step 3.

Cleaning Wheel with boar hair brush

Next, I move to the wheels using the wash mitt to do the bulk of the cleaning and use different size boar hair brushes to get intricate spots on the wheel and lug nuts. Boar hair brushes are great for also cleaning brake pads, especially bigger brake pads like Brembo pads.  Pro-tip, for large brake pads that part of it is covered by the spokes of the wheel, move the car a little to expose that part of the brake pad to get a full clean. For intricate wheel designs take your time cleaning in between the spokes and hard-to-reach places. If it is a sunny and hot day make sure to apply more wheel cleaner to keep the product from drying or a light spray of water. Once the wheels and brake pads have been cleaned, I start cleaning the inner barrel with the EZ Detail Barrel Brush. If the wheels are older the inner barrel can be stained or damaged from the brake dust that has accumulated over the years so try your best when tackling the inner barrels. I have found working with slow and intentional movements will reduce the fling back of dirt when using the inner wheel barrel cleaner.


Step 4.

Inner wheel barrel cleaning

If the foam is extremely brown after a rinse it is important to go back in for a second round of cleaning following the previous steps. Another thing to note is with the Adams Wheel and Tire Cleaner and even P&S Brake Buster, these products foam well and will be a good indicator if the wheels and tires are still dirty if the foam is not a clean white. From my experience, a second cleaning is as far as I go as the products and methods ensure a thorough clean the first time, but is always important to check with a second round of cleaning.

Protect Your Wheels And Tires

After cleaning the wheels and tires you may notice once the tires dry there are no more brown spots. The cleaning process is going to remove dirt but also something known as tire bloom since tires will have antiozonant that pushes to the surface and becomes oxidized creating that browning (sometimes tire bloom may remain after cleaning and tire shine will help hide the browning). Antiozonant helps keep the tire from deteriorating faster increasing the life of the tire. During the cleaning process, it can remove some of the antiozanant removing the protection and making the tire more susceptible to the elements. This is where it is important to add a tire dressing that will add back some of that protection until antiozonant pushes its way back to the surface. Additionally, tire shine such as Adams Tire Shine leaves an even matte finish look around the tires which is the finish I tend to go with, but if you are seeking a finish with more sheen and slight gloss, multiple coats of Adams Graphene Tire Dressing will do the trick. This is also a great time to add some protection to the wheels to make the cleaning process easier in the future and I like to add Turtle Wax Seal N Shine to a microfiber towel and apply it to the wheel for a more controlled application. Any residue can be wiped off with a clean side of the microfiber towel and my recommendation is once a microfiber towel gets used on the wheels, it’s no good anymore and toss it in the trash.

Maintaining Your Wheels and Tires

Ceramic coated wheel and dressed tireThe added protection from the Adams Tire Shine and Turtle Wax Seal N Shine on the wheels will make cleaning the wheels and tires easier moving forward and generally requires less effort and time. This is especially true for ceramic-coated wheels but that will be for another blog.  During maintenance washes for your wheels and tires, I generally will skip the iron remover step and inner wheel barrel cleaning and will do these steps every 3-6 months depending on how much you drive your vehicle and the accumulation of brake dust. So that means during my maintenance washes for my wheels and tires I only clean the tires, wheels, and brake pads. I personally use P&S Brake Buster during my maintenance washes as this product can be used for both the wheels and tires and reserve the Adams Wheel and Tire cleaner when that 3-6 month mark hits when I need to do a deep clean on my wheels and tires. After every wash, it’s best practice to apply Adams Tire Shine and top off the wheel protection with Turtle Wax Seal N Shine.

Now you know the steps and products to clean and maintain the appearance of your wheels and tires for that detailed look on your vehicle.

Product List and Links

*All Amazon links are my affiliate link that may or may not earn me a commission if the product is purchased through the link.

If you would like to see the end results for some of the vehicles I have down feel free to check out the gallery for the complete look.

It's in the Detail Premium Car Care
Woodland, CA