Wheel Masterclass – Achieve Alloy Wheel Perfection

Wheels aren’t just essential for your ability to actually use your car in any meaningful manner, they’re one of the most important areas to focus on when it comes to detailing. No other part (with the possible exception of the bodywork) has the potential to make or break your car’s overall look to quite the same degree as the wheels, and getting them looking better than the day they were first bolted into place by the factory is something of a badge or honor for most committed detailers. With this in mind, here’s the Autoglym guide to getting your wheels in show-stopping condition.

It won't have the power to remove stubborn contaminants like tar and iron, yet a power wash session is a good place to start when it comes to wheel cleaning

It won’t have the power to remove stubborn contaminants like tar and iron, yet a power wash session is a good place to start when it comes to wheel cleaning

1) Getting Started

It might sound obvious, but your wheels really are on the front line as far as road grime is concerned. They face an array of nasty contaminants ranging from organic compounds like simple dirt and grime, to more complex and potentially damaging material like tar, iron and brake dust deposits. The array of contaminants that your alloys must face-off against every time you drive your car is staggering when you stop to think about it, so it isn’t all that surprising to learn that a similarly diverse portfolio of Autoglym products is available to help you in your fight against grimy alloys.

Autoglym recommends starting out by giving your wheels a good rinse with a hose. Though probably adequate for removing recently acquired mud and general grime, the power of water alone won’t be enough to shift more complex, stubbornly baked on deposits. To get rid these you’ll need something a bit more specialised.

Clean Wheels is Autoglym's premier alloy wheel cleaner

Clean Wheels is Autoglym’s premier alloy wheel cleaner

2) Clean Wheels or Custom Wheel Cleaner

As the name suggests, Clean Wheels is Autoglym’s premier alloy wheel cleaner and a product that’s earned its detailing stripes many times over. Formulated to be tough on grime yet kind on the alloy itself, Clean Wheels is safe to use on lacquered alloys, painted and plastic wheel trims, though it should only be applied to wheels that have been allowed to cool, so don’t go spraying it on immediately after a spirited backroad drive!

Custom Wheel Cleaner was developed in response to the growing number of alloys with anodised and chrome finishes, but its mild yet tough chemical formulation means that it’s also completely safe to use on lacquered alloy, steel, painted or plastic finishes. Custom Wheel Cleaner’s acid free formulation means that it’s safe to use on these materials, yet is still able to shift brake dust and road grime.

Custom Wheel Cleaner is an essential tool in the war on grubby alloys

Custom Wheel Cleaner is an essential tool in the war on grubby alloys

No matter whether you opt for Clean Wheels or Custom Wheel Cleaner, the application process is the same. Spray an even, generous coating of your product of choice onto one wheel at a time, working from the bottom of the wheel upwards and taking care to fully coat the surface. Allow a few moments for the product to go to work, then use a non marking, metal free brush or mitt to agitate the cleaner, concentrating on any dirt trap areas and the tyre wall. Finish by rinsing off any remaining product, then move onto the next wheel.

The processes detailed above should be enough to rid your wheels of road grime, dirt, and brake deposits, though the latter two may require an extended period of agitation with a brush.

Use a non marking, metal free brush or mitt to agitate the cleaner

Use a non marking, metal free brush or mitt to agitate the cleaner

Tar can be hard to remove, hence why Active Tar Remover is such a useful product to have at hand

Tar can be hard to remove, hence why Intensive Tar Remover is such a useful product to have at hand

3) Tar

No matter how careful you are while driving, at some point your wheels will come into contact with tar, a contaminant that will show up as a collection of small, black spots once you’ve finished giving your wheels an initial clean. As you might expect, tar is sticky and tough to remove without a specialist product, hence why Autoglym has developed Intensive Tar Remover.

Intensive Tar Remover is a safe, fast acting product that gets to work on stubborn flecks of tar, glue residue, pen marks and stains from petrochemicals, all of which can well and truly spoil the overall look of your freshly cleaned car. Application is both swift and easy, simply apply directly to the tar stains with a clean cotton cloth, allowing a couple of minutes of contact time before attempting to wipe or wash them off. Heavy petrochemical stains may require a longer application process and gentle agitation before they can be removed.

Dressing your tyres can make a massive difference to the overall appearance of your newly cleaned car

Dressing your tyres can make a massive difference to the overall appearance of your newly cleaned car

4) Tyres

Wheels cleaned, it’s time to move onto the tyres, an all too often overlooked area and one which can make a massive difference to the overall appearance of your car. Instant Tyre Dressing is perfect for this task, and its durable polymer-silicone makeup has the ability to completely transform the sidewalls of your tyres.

Application is a doddle: simply ensure that the sidewalls are free from dirt and other detritus so that the dressing has maximum contact with the rubber, then apply a generous layer along the length of the sidewall. It can be applied to wet or dry rubber, left to dry for a light sheen or the excess removed with a microfibre cloth for a matt look.

Wheel Protector forms a protective barrier, effectively sealing in all your hard work

Wheel Protector forms a protective barrier, effectively sealing in all your hard work

5) Wheel Protector

There’s no point in going to all that effort and not protecting the result, right? Autoglym’s range of products designed to help keep your recently cleaned wheels in tip-top conditions is impressive, the principle product in the war on grime being Wheel Protector, a super-hydrophobic coating that acts as a durable barrier, minimising brake dust adhesion so your wheels remain cleaner for longer.

Wheel Protector is a highly effective product (it’s won numerous awards over the last few years), yet it’s also one that needs a little time to get to work. Apply to clean and 100% dry wheels, shake well and spray an even coating to the wheel, taking care to avoid getting any on the tyre – it can leave a white residue if left to dry. To work effectively and to remain in place for a long time, Wheel Protector needs time to dry, so don’t touch or buff the wheel once it’s been applied. Leave it on the wheels for several hours without driving the car or getting the wheels wet.

Autoglym's HD Wax is one of its longest standing and best known products, and one that can also be used on freshly cleaned wheels

Autoglym’s HD Wax is one of its longest standing and best known products, and one that can also be used on freshly cleaned wheels

6) Waxing Your Wheels

While perfectly safe to use on all types of wheel, Wheel Protector is unsuitable for dark grey or black wheels, or those chrome finish. Those that have wheels like this can still protect them from grime using the Autoglym range, they’ll just need to use a little out of the box thinking. Autoglym recommends using HD Wax, another of its most respected products, to apply to freshly cleaned wheels, the wax able to act as an effective barrier against most contaminants.

Want to learn more about wheel protection and the Autoglym range? Then click through to read our ultimate guide to Acid Wheel Cleaners

3 Comments

  • Barry 29th November 2016 4:35 am

    I clean my wheels as the article says, Polish them with Super Resin Polish & then put Extra Gloss Protection on top, lasts for ages & much easier to clean next time

  • Stuart Bell 29th November 2016 8:04 pm

    Extra Gloss Protection works extremely well on wheels too. As long as the wheel is properly cleaned first it provides protection for months. It can be used on black wheels too as long as you coat them thinly and wipe off any blobs whilst still wet.

    • Profile photo of Mark
      Mark 30th November 2016 2:19 pm

      Agreed, good tip there.

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