Car Care & Tips – Proper Wheel Care

By Auto News Log • December 7th, 2009

Proper Wheel Care

Modern wheels can enhance your car’s appearance and performance but they also present a substantial cleaning challenge. Heated dust particles from brake pads constantly bombard the wheel and bake into the finish. If left on the wheel, a phenomenon known as “galvanic corrosion” sets in which will eventually destroy the wheel’s appearance.

Unfortunately, car wash soaps and household cleaners are not strong enough to break the bond between brake dust and the wheel. To properly clean wheels, the car care industry has developed two groups of wheel cleaners:

1. The first group are acid-based cleaners. These are widely used by detailers, car dealers and car washes desiring to clean wheels in the shortest possible time or with the least amount of effort. Acid-based cleaners are typically a 2-3% solution of oxylic, phosphoric and/or hydrochloric acid. Most spray-on/hose-off wheel cleaners fall into this group. While these cleaners pack the greatest cleaning punch they can etch the surface if allowed to dry on the wheel. Care should also be taken not to use acid cleaners on wheels with pitted or chipped surfaces. The acid will migrate into any fissures and accentuate flaking and peeling of surface coatings.

2. The second group of cleaners are commonly called non-acid or acid-free wheel cleaners. These are mild solutions of an alkaline solvent, usually ethylene glycol, with a wetting agent. These solutions creep under the dirt and brake dust, loosening and lifting surface grime. Non-acid cleaners usually require some surface agitation (brush or sponge) but are safer to the wheel’s finish. P21S Wheel Cleaners (from Germany), Menzerna Tire & Wheel Cleaner, Amazing Roll Off, and Eimann Fabrik Hi-Intensity Cleaner are all 100% acid-free wheel cleaners. They range in strength from mild (P21S and Menzerna), to moderate (High Intensity Cleaner), to professional strength (Amazing Roll Off).

Once you’ve selected the proper wheel cleaner, here are some tips to make cleaning easier:

1. Clean the wheels first before washing the rest of the car. This prevents you from splattering cleaners, dirt and brake dust on already cleaned panels.

2. Do not clean wheels that are still hot from driving.

3. Clean one wheel at a time following the instructions on the cleaner. For extra tough grime and brake dust, agitate the surface with a soft, scrub brush. Do not allow any wheel cleaner to dry on the wheel.

4. Wax painted and clearcoated wheels for added surface protection and to facilitate future cleaning. Simply spray it on a dry wheel and wipe with a soft towel.


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