September 30, 2010 Brad Will

Wheel and Tire Detailing

Mechanically, the wheels and tires on your car are very important.  They are the point where your car makes contact with the road.  Wheels and tires are also an important part of the appearance of your car.  Visually, most people are drawn to a nice set of wheels and tires before anything else.  Dirty wheels and tires can dramatically reduce the appearance of your car.   Wheels and tires are subject to a harsh environment because of the heat and brake dust generated by your car’s brake system.  If left neglected, they can quickly become unattractive and damaged.  Wheels are usually constructed of aluminum or steel.  Aluminum wheels are lighter, while providing strength equal to steel wheels.  Aluminum wheels are usually coated with paint only, a base-coat/clear-coat paint similar to what is on the car’s body, or chrome plating.  In rare cases you will find wheels that are polished non coated aluminum.  Steel wheels are usually covered by a removable plastic covering.  In general, the care of the different types of wheels and tires is the same.  What is important, is that they are detailed frequently and properly.  Here are a few tips:

  • If done often, car wash soap or a rinse-less wash combined with a microfiber towel is all that is needed to clean wheels and tires.
  • Most European cars, because of the brake pad composition, will need to be cleaned more often to avoid damage.
  • Harsh cleaners or wheel acids should be avoided because they can damage wheel and tire surfaces, and can damage brake components.  These chemicals are also bad for you and the environment.
  • Wheel surfaces should be protected often, just like your car’s paint,  with a wax or sealant.
  • Protect and beautify your car’s tires after cleaning with a quality tire dressing.
  • Avoid using thick silicone tire dressings.  These products leave a thick residue that can stain your car’s paint and wheel surfaces.
  • If needed, painted/clear-coated wheels can be polished with a paint polish to remove haze and scratches.  Chrome wheels can be polished with a metal or chrome polish.

Remember, keeping your car’s wheels and tires looking great is a fairly simple process.  The key is to use the correct cleaning methods, and do it often.