How to bring your aluminum wheels back to life

It just takes a little cleaning product and some elbow grease to get your factory alloy wheels shining like new again.

Do your wheels look like they were painted a dark gunmetal colour when they’re supposed to be bright silver or chrome? Then it might be time for some easy DIY detailing at home to get them nice and shiny again. 

In most cases, the same soap you use to wash your vehicle is fine for the wheels as well. Using a separate cloth or sponge, give the face a gentle scrubbing, making sure to get in all the nooks, crannies and sides of the spokes. 

If it’s been awhile since you’ve tended to your car’s rollers, you may notice that brake dust and grime continue to stubbornly cling on even after the initial wash. If this is the case, it might be necessary to move up to a more powerful cleaner. 

When choosing such a product, make sure to read the label to see whether it’s designed to be used on your particular type of wheel. For example, Mothers has a lineup of various sprays like the Chrome Wheel Cleaner specifically formulated for chrome-plated surfaces. 

If you’re unsure, the safest route is to pick one designed for all-purpose use, like Meguiar’s Hot Rims All Wheel & Tire Cleaner. The foam-based agent is described as being OK to use on all factory clear-coated and painted wheels, helping to break down road residue. As a bonus, you can also apply it to dirty tire sidewalls as well.

To use, simply hose down the wheels and tires with cold water, and then coat them while holding the bottle about six inches away. Let sit for 15 seconds — if there’s heavy build-up, using a brush can quicken the process. Afterwards, rinse thoroughly with water and dry with a clean cloth or microfiber towel. 

Now that you know how to restore the appearance of your wheels, stay tuned for our future post where we dive into proper tire care.

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights