Wheel and Tire Clean-UpIt's not just soap and shine anymore
Wheel and tire care has come a long way over the years. Used to be you just soaped up the tires and wheels while you were washing your car and left it at that. Of course, we used to wash our cars with dish soap too. Alloy wheels and high performance tires give us more incentive to take better care of our rolling stock; dish soap followed by silicone spray doesn't cut it anymore.
Given a few weeks without cleaning and care, wheels and tires quickly start to look poor. Alloy wheels with a bright finish look especially bad up front where brake dust accumulates rapidly. Depending upon where you live, the sidewall of the tire deteriorates as it ages. This deterioration speeds up due to air pollution, road salt, heat and humidity. Also, though you may be getting your tires clean by scrubbing with harsh detergents, you're also wicking the tire's moisture and promoting the deterioration you want to avoid.
Like we said, the days of washing wheels and tires with dish soap should be behind us now. You'll need a good quality car wash soap, liquid wheel cleaners, tire brush, wheel brush and any special brushes you may need to get between spokes and such. If you've got particularly intricate wheels, you may even need a small toothbrush to complete the job.
Start with the wheel first. We chose a high quality liquid wheel cleaner that sprays on and rinses off. Be sure the cleaner you choose is for use with your particular type of wheel. Some wheel cleaners have a strong acid content that will damage painted or clear-coated wheels. By the time you realize your wheels are clear coated, it may be too late. If you're not sure, choose one formulated for use with all types of wheels. Also, never spray wheel cleaner on a hot surface. It's best to do it in the shade to prevent the cleaner from staining the wheel.
These spoke wheels require a good scrubbing to remove brake dust residue. This brush is perfect for getting in between the spokes and back around the caliper. While you're scrubbing, feel free to spray more wheel cleaner on, but don't allow it to sit and dry. With the scrubbing complete, give it a good rinse with clean water.
These tires were pretty stained, so we had to apply a good amount of elbow grease to get through it. Part of the problem is simple deterioration and the drying out of the tire's sidewall. We used a high-quality car-washing detergent and a stiff bristle brush. You can also use a brass bristle brush if the tire really needs some scrubbing.
After cleaning, dry the wheel and tire off prior to applying any kind of tire preservative. We like to use a sponge with a wipe-on paste rather than spraying the tire and having to clean up the wheel again. You can get tire preservatives in a variety of formulas and forms, and there are some that actually have less sheen now. You may need to roll the car forward or back to get to the bottom of the tire where it rests on the ground.
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