How to Make Your Wheels Sparkle

You have just finished washing and waxing your car, but there is one very important step that remains: putting some sparkle back into your tires and steel wheels. Dirty wheels can detract from your vehicle’s look. Here is how you can quickly and easily restore them to a like-new sheen.

Assemble Your Tools

You will need several tools and supplies for handling wheel cleaning. While you are cleaning your wheels, you will be giving your tires a fresh look too.

wheelsStart off with a garden hose, a bucket filled with clean lukewarm water and a soft bristle brush. Choose nylon bristles as any other type might scratch your wheels. Your auto parts store will have a variety of brushes available for your selection. Choose a brush with a long plastic handle and long bristles measuring at least one foot in length. A large soft sponge, a bag of lint-free rags and a dedicated wheel and tire cleaner are also required. Optionally, a soft bristle toothbrush can be useful.

Wash and Dry

Cleaning your wheels follows the washing of your car. Before you begin, ensure that the wheels are completely dry and are not hot to the touch. Heat can interact with the cleaning agent, leaving spots behind.

Use one or two of the shop rags you purchased to wipe down each wheel. Put the dirty rags to the side when done.

Apply the Cleaner

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when applying wheel cleaner and work on one wheel at a time.

Liberally spray the tire and wheel until soaked. Take the soft bristle brush and work it through every wheel opening. For tight openings, use the toothbrush. Keep brushing until brake dust, dirt and other debris has been completing loosened. Dip dirty brushes in the bucket to rinse off as you go. Dampen the sponge and run it around the surface of the tire.

Rinse and Dry

Once done with one wheel, rinse it off with the garden hose and dry. All cleanser residue must be removed before drying.

Take a shop rag and wipe down the tire. Take a second shop rag and dry off the wheels. Push the rag in and out between each opening until the wheel has been thoroughly dried. Dirty rags should be placed to the side. Repeat steps two, three and four with the subsequent wheels.

Wheels Caution

The cleaning instructions for polished, painted, chrome-plated and certain other wheels are different and usually involve using a mild detergent and water only. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the cleaning of speciality wheels.


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Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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