How To Clean And Polish Alloy Wheels

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Alloy wheels on your car require regular cleaning and polishing to keep them looking their best. However, you have to be careful with what products you use as aluminium wheels can be susceptible to damage, and some product work better than others.

In this article, we cover the best methods for cleaning and polishing alloy wheels using both household products and store-bought detailing equipment.

How To Clean Alloy Wheels With Household Products

Keeping alloy wheels clean can be easily done at home, using household products you likely already have. Two of the most effective solutions for this are WD40 and vinegar.

For the best results, remove the lug nuts and take the wheel from the vehicle to clean it thoroughly. Be sure to keep the lug nuts somewhere safe. Take the opportunity to clean each lug nut separately as well.

How To Clean Alloy Wheels With WD40

Before using WD40, perform a pre-wash and remove any loose dirt using a soft-bristled brush. Use the brush especially around the spokes. Doing this will clear the wheel’s surface and make the WD40 much more effective.

Once the wheel is dry, follow these steps:

  1. Spray WD40 onto a cloth: WD40 can be harmful to the tyre and brake pads, so it is better to apply it using a cloth. Apply some onto a soft microfibre cloth which you will then use to transfer it onto the alloy wheel.
  2. Wipe the alloy wheel: Using the cloth, rub the entire surface of the alloy wheel with the WD40. Focus on the areas where you notice stubborn grime or brake dust.
  3. Avoid brake pads and tyres: WD40 should only be applied using a cloth to avoid getting any on the wheel or brake pads. Doing so could damage the brake pads and undermine the tyre’s performance.
  4. Wash the wheel: To finish, wash off the excess dirt and WD40 with a hose until it becomes smooth.

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How To Clean Alloy Wheels With Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar will break down grime, brake dust, oil, and more. Pre-wash the wheel and use a brush to remove loose grime, then follow these steps:

  1. Apply the vinegar: Use a microfibre cloth to apply a coat of vinegar throughout the wheel and between its spokes.
  2. Let it sit: Let the vinegar sit for a minute as it penetrates and breaks down the dirt.
  3. Wipe it clean: Using another microfibre towel, clean the wheel until smooth.
  4. Rinse the wheel: To finish, rinse the wheel to remove any excess dirt and vinegar.

Alloy Cleaning Products

If you prefer to take a more professional approach, you can purchase specially formulated car cleaning products.

Here are some of the best alloy cleaning products you can find on the market today. 

Bowden’s Own Wheely Clean

This is a convenient spray-on solution that is locally designed by Australian chemists. Inside every bottle of Wheely Clean is an acid-and abrasive-free solution that is not corrosive or caustic. 

Being acid-free is a plus because it makes Wheely Clean gentle and safe for use on all wheel types, including alloy, chrome, and more.

Autoglym Custom Wheel Cleaner

Autoglym is a well-known name when it comes to auto cleaning products. Their product line offers the Autoglym Custom Wheel Cleaner, another acid- and abrasive-free solution.

This product is suitable for all types of wheels, including alloy and chrome coated. One of the best things about this product is that it’s a gentle wheel cleaner, suitable for people who want to avoid harsh chemicals.

Alloy Wheel Scratch Repair

If you notice scratching damage while cleaning aluminum wheels, you can repair them in one of three ways:

  • Alloy wheel repair kit: You can buy inexpensive and easy-to-use alloy wheel repair kits from your local vehicle accessories seller. The downside is that the repair process involves many steps, and the result will not be as smooth as professional repair.
  • Refinish the wheel: You can also refinish the wheel by removing all the paint, filling the scratches, and repainting the entire wheel. You can get great results with this approach, but it’s a costly and time-consuming process that requires skill to perform.
  • Take it to a professional: Taking your wheels to a professional is costly, but it does offer the best results.

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How To Polish And Protect Alloy Wheels

Once your wheels are cleaned, the next step is to polish and protect. You can do both by using an alloy wheel polishing product that includes protective ingredients.

Here is how to achieve a perfectly polished wheel:

  1. Transfer:  Transfer the alloy wheel polish to a polish applicator.
  2. Apply: Using the polish applicator on one wheel at a time, apply a thin coating of polish to every inch of the alloy wheel.
  3. Cure: Let it dry for 10-15 minutes while you continue to polish the other wheels.
  4. Buffing: Buffing the wheel with a soft microfibre cloth gives the wheel is polished and shiny like a mirror.
  5. Wax: Once coated with polish, you can apply wax to the wheel to finish. Using wax after polishing will protect the metal for longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Make My Alloy Wheels Shine?

To make your aluminum wheels shine, you will need to clean them regularly. Once you have cleaned the brake dust off the wheel, let it dry. Polishing will also enhance that shine, so apply a thin layer of polish and buff it out until your wheel shines.

Can You Polish Aluminum Alloy Wheels?

Yes, polishing aluminum wheels is possible. Be sure to use a metal polish that is compatible with aluminum surfaces. Also, remember that you can only buff bare aluminum wheels and not coated surfaces.
Avoid buffing any painted wheels or the clear coat on aluminum wheels. Buffing could damage the coated metal surface.

Does WD 40 Clean Alloy Wheels?

Yes, you can use WD40 to clean aluminum wheels. However, be sure to apply it using a soft cloth. It is safer not to spray WD40 as this can damage the rubber tyre and brake pads.

Will Vinegar Clean Aluminum Wheels?

Yes, you can use vinegar to clean bare aluminum wheels. Simply apply the vinegar to the wheel and let it sit for a few minutes to break down the dirt and grime. Then, wipe the wheel clean and rinse off any excess vinegar then leave to air dry.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Aluminum Alloy Wheels?

The disadvantage of aluminum wheels is that they are less durable and more prone to damage. An aluminium wheel can break easily under pressure and cannot be easily repaired. On the surface, an aluminum wheel can also suffer cosmetic damage even by using the wrong cleaning products.
So, when cleaning and polishing an aluminum wheel, be sure only to use products designed for use with this material.