Wheel Care Made Easy April 26 2016


Let's assume this is the first time I'm cleaning the wheels.  It's going to be filthy.

You will clean:

  • Wheel arches
  • Suspension components
  • Brake calipers
  • Tires
  • Wheel face
  • Wheel Barrel
  • Lug nuts
  • Valve stem


  • Whitewall cleaner, or all-purpose cleaner (APC)
  • Car soap, or wheel cleaner
  • Sponges and/or soft brushes for the wheel face
  • Stiff tire brushes
Notes: Assorted paintbrushes can be used instead of special detailing brushes.  You can always cut the bristles to make them stiffer.
If your paintbrush has a metal ferrule, wrap it with tape so it doesn't scratch anything.  I promise it will remove paint in an instant if it does.
  • Automotive clay (bonus)

This looks like a lot of material to digest, but I promise it will become automatic with practice.  Read through the steps, use them, and refer back to the blog post when necessary.  If you're stuck or still have questions, get in touch.  We're here if you need us.

Step 1: Hose everything down, starting with the wheel arch.  This washes away all loose dirt and debris.  Spray APC inside the wheel arch, coating all surfaces and suspension components.  Agitate with stiff-bristle brushes to remove stuck on debris, tar, and road grime, working the product into a lather.  Softer brushes can be used if the contamination isn't stuck like glue.

Step 2: Rinse the wheel arch, and repeat Step 1.  Wheel arches are especially grimy since the wheel is constantly assaulting them with small projectiles like dirt and tar.

Step 3: Spray the tires with whitewall cleaner, or APC.  Dilute if necessary.  Agitate with either a soft or hard-bristled brush.  Hard bristle brushes are best for removing caked on tire gel.  More often than not, the soft brush will do the job.  As you agitate the cleaner it will produce a brown slurry.  This is normal. 

Tip: Roll the car back a couple feet to expose the lower part of the tire.

Step 4: Rinse the tire and repeat Step 3.  By the second time, the lather should be white instead of yellow-brown.  Rinse again.  The tire is clean.

Step 5: If you have it, spray the face and the barrel of the wheel with wheel cleaner.  Otherwise, if you're using a sponge or brush, dip it into a bucket mixed with water and car soap, and start scrubbing.  Wheel barrel brushes and lug nut brushes are great investments, because they are durable and make easy work of hard-to-reach areas. You will use them every time you wash the wheels.  Rinse the wheel when you're finished and inspect for leftover dirt.  Repeat Step 5 if necessary.

Note: One of the best times to clean your wheels and tires is during a tire rotation.  It pays to take advantage of the unobstructed access.

Bonus: when the wheel is clean, you can use Pocket Clay, an old Kleanmitt, or traditional clay bar to decontaminate the wheel.  Anything on the surface, no matter how small, will diffract light and obscure reflections.  Clay barring the wheel before polishing and sealing gives it extra visual pop. 

Step 6: Dry the wheels, tires, and arches using an old towel, chamois, compressed air, or an electric leaf blower (our favorite is the Toro 51619).  You'll love that last one.  We've been using ours for years.  It takes seconds to dry the wheels and leaves them spot-free.

Step 7: Wax the wheels.  We prefer to use K5, our durable synthetic spray sealant.  It capitalizes on the latest "liquid glass" SiO2 technology and protects our wheels for 6+ months.  Water beads, dirt doesn't stick, and they're easier to clean during routine washes. All that, and they look phenomenal too.  If you can, wax the caliper and wheel barrels.  It adds extra visual depth.  Few true detailers miss this critical step.

Note: Do not haphazardly spray sealant onto the wheel, caliper, or rotor!  It's best to use a towel or applicator in these sensitive areas to keep the rotor clean.  This is for your safety.

Step 8: Treat the tires and wheel arches with your favorite protectant or vinyl/rubber sealant.  Again, we recommend 303 Aerospace Protectant for its stellar finish and versatility. 

That's it!  You made it, and if you followed all of the instructions your wheels should look show-car ready.  Step back, walk around your car a few times, and admire your handiwork.