Aaron Widmar

The Best Way to Wash Car Wheels

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wash car wheels scrub clean tires tips proper way wrong

Photo: The News Wheel

Cleaning your car every season is essential to protecting its paint coat and the rust-prone metal underneath. But, you shouldn’t stop at scrubbing the fenders and rocker panel; the wheels require particular attention when cleaning the entire vehicle.

Here’s why you need to wash car wheels and the best way.

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Why is it important to wash car wheels?

There’s a lot riding on those tires — literally — because they’re a car’s contact with the road, so they need to perform dependably. Yet, the constant dirt and gravel they kick up when spinning can damage their performance. Gunk and grime collect over time, forming clogs and rust on the components that impede their spinning, braking, and stability. That also means faster deterioration for those wheels.

Plus, dirty tires can spray that grime and debris onto the rest of your car, thereby wasting all the work you did buffing and waxing it.

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How to effectively clean car tires: 4 important tips

wash car wheels scrub clean tires tips proper way water

Photo: The News Wheel

Tip 1: Use separate water

It may be tempting to save time by using the same soapy water that you used on the tires to clean the rest of your car, but think twice — get a fresh bucket of water instead. Using separate, clean water for the wheels and for the body will prevent damaging cross-contamination.

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Photo: The News Wheel

Tip 2: Use a tire-cleaning spray

Did you know that the soapy solution you use to scrub the rest of your car isn’t made for tires? You should use a dedicated spray made for cleaning tires. Tire cleaners are specifically designed to eliminate the grime found on tires — normal car soap won’t cut into that gunk like a wheel spray does. Tire sprays also remove brake dust, which can damage the wheels over time.

Spray it on and let it sit for the recommended time. Immediately rinsing it off after spraying it won’t give the solution enough time to break down the grime.

wash car wheels scrub clean tires tips proper way brush

Photo: The News Wheel

Tip 3: Use a special tire-cleaning brush

A simple hose won’t be enough to scrub the wheels clean, nor will a sponge (and you especially shouldn’t use the same sponge to clean the tires that you do the rest of the car). Instead, use a soft-bristled brush to cut through the buildup your tire has accrued since its last cleaning. This helps you reach the crevices with enough force to scrape off the gunk. Just don’t use a metal bristle brush: It will scratch the glossy metal rims!

You can also buy a brush specifically shaped for reaching the crevice surrounding the lug nuts. It’s very useful and helps prevent the bolts from permanently locking over time.

wash car wheels scrub clean tires tips polish wax protect

Photo: The News Wheel

Tip 4: Use a protectant

Instead of stopping after you clean the wheels, give them protection from getting dirty and damaged again. Use a rubber moisturizer on the tires and a wax on the metal rims. You can apply the wax to an applicator pad and rub onto the surface much like you would to the car’s paint.  Wax provides a nice shine and can protect your tires from harmful contaminants and deterioration.