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DIY Car Wash Techniques for Clean Aluminum Wheels

  • Car Wash
  • Renee Martin
  • 6 minutes

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Your car’s wheels are one of those often-overlooked places during the car wash process. People tend to work on the body and windows of the vehicle while washing their vehicle. This, unfortunately, also forces some parts of the vehicle to be ignored. That’s why we’re breaking down everything you need to know about cleaning your aluminum wheels – just like it’s done at your local car wash! Read on to know more.

This blog has been updated on May 24, 2021.

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Clean alloy wheels can make all the difference when it comes to the pristine look of your car, and you might even feel like you have a new car all over again by washing and maintaining them regularly. The DIY step-by-step methods featured in this post have been inspired by tried and tested car wash methods that are sure to leave your wheels looking new in no time at all!

Why Should I Clean the Wheels of My Car?

Let’s get down to the basics – here are a few reasons why efficient and regular cleaning of your car’s aluminum wheels is a necessary aspect of auto maintenance.

Typically, the way to deal with the notable problem of brake dust accumulation is to scrub the car’s wheels. This dust is created by the release of a combination of adhesive and carbon fibers from the brake pad and the grounding of metal shavings from the rotor. This dust can be highly corrosive and can contribute to pitting and corrosion on your wheel surfaces, particularly due to the high temperatures the brakes and wheels are subjected to. Keep in mind that brake dust is produced every single time you drive your car, so it’s a constant issue that needs regular cleaning methods.


Even if you’re the type of person that makes the washing of your vehicle a habitual process, brushing your car’s wheels first is a great idea. Doing it the other way around may end up splattering brake dust and polluted water back onto the car’s surface and wheel wells, undoing all of the hard work you already put into your DIY car wash.

And that’s not to mention the fact that after they have been washed and polished, the aluminum wheels look amazing. Because aluminum is reasonably soft (as metals go), it can actually look a lot like chrome after it has been polished.

What are the differences between steel wheels and aluminum ones?

Typically, a car’s wheels are made of alloys (a unique blend of metals), with aluminum and steel being the two most common materials used. Aluminum wheels are made up of an alloy of aluminum and nickel, commonly known as alloy wheels. They tend to look better than regular steel wheels and are reasonably lightweight which helps with fuel efficiency. Aluminum wheels often come chrome-plated and bare coated, appear to be susceptible to scratches and the harmful effects of oxidation. Steel wheels, on the other, although heavier in nature, tend to be less prone to scratches and oxidation effects.


Cleaning Your Car’s Aluminum Wheels

Rinsing the wheels

As a first step, rinse off the wheels to remove as much grime and dust as possible. Use high-pressure water as you make sure to get into all those nooks and crannies you can find. Later on, this move will save you time and money, so it’s worth being incredibly meticulous.

Wheel cleaner application

Spray your wheel cleaner or product to your vehicle’s wheels one at a time.

Get in there with some elbow grease

Use a soft brush to scrub away and remove any stuck-on grime. When you do this, make sure that the whole area is water-coated so that the wheel avoids getting scratched. Ensure that no traces of the wheel cleaner remain as these could leave behind a few unattractive spots and residue. Don’t hold back from getting in between the brush spokes to clean the barrel, along with the lug nut holes.


Thoroughly clean the wheel wells

To clean the wheel wells, use an all-purpose cleaner or solution along with a stiff brush that has a long handle.

Repeat the rinse process and dry

Rinse everything you’ve washed so far while using a soft cloth such as a microfiber towel to avoid ending up with dried water spots.

Use Detailing Clay (if needed)

Detailing clay is a good product that can help clean your wheels thoroughly, although it’s not a prerequisite.


Apply wheel polish

Apply aluminum polish in small parts with a clean rag (as this will prevent the polish from drying out before until you can rub it in). Rub along the grain of the wheel and work your way over to the nuts of the lug. Clean everything off with a dry microfiber towel when you are done.

Apply a wax seal

Place the wax on a clean cloth and rub it onto the wheel’s surface. Instead of a regular wax, you could also opt to use a metal sealant, which serves the same purpose. Ensure you give the way 10-15 minutes to dry off before wiping it clean, leaving you with shiny wheels the gleam like they came right out of a dealership!

Final Word

So, if you’re looking to ensure that your car’s wheels are kept looking as tidy and stylish as ever, make sure to apply the car wash-inspired cleaning techniques listed here regularly. Regular and efficient maintenance of your vehicle’s wheel wells can save you a lot of money in the long run. To get instant access to some of the country’s best car care and maintenance services, look no further than Way.com and the Way app! From car washes near you to instant auto insurance quotes, great deals on parking, and more, Way.com is your car’s best friend.

Websites and apps like Way.com offer professional and top-rated car wash services at great prices. What’s more, the whole family can get in on the sudsy action thanks to Way.com’s Carwash Voucher and Family Car Wash Pass that can be used on multiple (that’s right, multiple) vehicles!

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Read our blogs for information on the best airport parking and hourly parking spots near you and the most affordable insurance for your car. 

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