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Cleaning car rims

Step-by-Step Guide to Deep Cleaning the Rims on Your Car

A lot of people love detailing their car… but they ignore one major area. The rims.

If you’re spending hours detailing your car to perfection, you can’t forget about the four things that keep you cruising down the highway.

Cleaning your car's rims is a crucial part of the detailing process, but it's often overlooked or done halfheartedly.

As an auto detailing professional, I'm here to walk you through the steps to get your rims looking shiny and new again. It's not as daunting as it may seem - with the right tools and techniques, you'll have gleaming rims in no time. So, let's dive in!

1. Rinse Away Brake Dust and Grime

Start by giving your rims a thorough rinse from top to bottom. This initial rinse will help remove the superficial layer of brake dust and grime that's accumulated.

We recommend using a dedicated wheel cleaner that works great on all types of wheel finishes. Spray it on liberally and let it do its magic for a minute or two before rinsing.

2. Use Iron Remover

For those stubborn, caked-on brake dust deposits, you'll need to bring out the big guns: iron remover. We recommend the Image Wash Products Iron Remover for this step. Spray it onto the rims and watch as it turns purple - that's the sign it's working, dissolving the iron particles that make up brake dust.

One word of caution: If your wheels have wheel weights, avoid getting the iron remover on them, as it can cause discoloration. Rinse the iron remover off thoroughly after a minute or two.

3. Hit with Degreaser

Next, it's time to eliminate all that oily grime. Spray a quality degreaser all over the rims, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. For the best results, use a stiff tire brush to really scrub the degreaser into the rims.

Don't be afraid to put some elbow grease into it. The best solution to clean aluminum rims is to put a little work in and make them shine.

4. Use a Stiff Brush for Detailed Areas

To get into those hard-to-reach areas, like around the lug nuts and between the spokes, use a stiff-bristled detailing brush. We're fans of the Boar's Hair Detailing Brush for this task. Its sturdy bristles make quick work of dislodging dirt and grime in even the tightest spots.

5. Rinse, Dry, and Polish

Once you're satisfied that you've scrubbed every inch of your rims, give them a final rinse. If you have a pressure washer, now's the time to use it - the high-pressure water will blast away any remaining dirt particles.

After rinsing, dry your rims thoroughly with a microfiber towel. Then, if your clean alloy wheels are looking a bit dull, go ahead and polish them up. Use a metal polish for uncoated rims, or a clear coat-safe polish like Meguiar's Ultimate Polish for coated rims.

6. Spread High-Quality Protectant on Rims and Tires

The final step is to protect your newly cleaned rims and tires. For the rims, use a quality wax or sealant - the same kind you'd use on your car's paint. This will help repel brake dust and make future cleaning easier.

On the tires, apply a high-gloss protectant specifically designed for rubber. Not only will this make your tires look shiny and new, but it will also protect them from UV damage and fading.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Best Way to Clean Rims

How do you remove buildup from rims?

To remove heavy buildup from rims, start with an iron remover to dissolve brake dust, followed by a degreaser to cut through oily grime. Scrub with a stiff brush, rinse thoroughly, and polish if needed.

What cleans brake dust off rims?

Iron removers are specifically formulated to dissolve the iron particles in brake dust. Spray on, let sit for a minute or two, then rinse off for rims free of brake dust.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your car's rims isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when we think of detailing, but it’s not something you want to ignore. The wheels are the foundation of your car and with proper detail, they can bring the whole look together.

Now that you know how to shine rims and keep them clean, incorporate this into your regular car washing routine.

View our collection of brushes and squeegees for car washing here.

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