How to Clean Your Tires & Polish Your Wheels
As with the rest of your vehicle, the tires, wheels, and trim require their own attention and products. We’re going to be breaking down the process of how to clean your tires, wheels and trim into a couple separate categories to help you keep them in tip-top shape.
Cleaning Your Tires & Wheels
The tires and wheels can be cleaned together, as they have will have a similar build-up of road grit, bake dust, and grime.
It is best to have a designated tire/wheel cleaner, as opposed to any degreaser or household cleaner. Wheel cleaners are specifically designed to clean up road filth, while keeping your rims free of harm.
You’ll also want a quality tire brush, along with a wheel brush based on the type of rims you have. Allow the brushes to soak in a bucket with wash solution, which will help to soften the bristles and lubricate the cleaning process.
Now that you are all set, let’s get those wheels cleaned:
Rinse off, and clean the wheel-wells first.
Next, spray the wheel and tire down with cleaner and let set for a few minutes.
Clean the tires first, using the tire brush.
Now clean the wheels, start at the top, using a mitt or brush to get all the nooks and crannies.
Repeat for the other three wheels.
Pro Tip: Use a paint brush to get the grime out from around the lug nuts.
Wondering How to Take Care of Flat Black Rims?
Tire Dressing an Protection
Once your tires are clean and dry, you want to ensure they last until the tread is gone . . . not until they dry-rot. This means you’ll be taking another step, which is to add a protective coating to your tires.
As with interior dressings and protectants, there are numerous choices. You want to ensure that the product apply meets your desired needs and results.
Water-Based Dressing: This is easily applied and will leave behind a clean, satin look. They are milky-white and contain natural oils, along with synthetic polymers which leave behind a UV coating and keep the tire moist. Expect them to last about a week or two, before they need to be reapplied. We recommend Super Dress It.
Solvent-Based Dressing: These dressings are going to be a bit thicker, and will give the tire a wet, glossy finish. Because of the silicone-based delivery system (as opposed to water), they will also last longer and stand up better in harsh weather conditions. Check out our XP Cool Blue.
Pro Tip: Don’t over-apply your tire dressing. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess to prevent the product from ‘slinging’ onto the surrounding fenders.
Polishing those Wheels
The primary contributor to messing up your wheel’s finish (aside from poor driving) is brake dust. Ensure you do a good job when washing your wheels, to get all this filth off. Once clean, you need to take things a step further to keep your rims in top notch shape. Here’s a few tips on how to properly polish and seal your wheels to keep them looking new for years to come.
Most rims today are made of aluminum, but the similarities end there. We’re going to be looking at the rim’s finish to determine the best way to polish and seal these bad boys.
Clear-Coated Alloy Wheels
With clear-coated aluminum wheels, you’ll want a light polish that cleans and polishes the clear-coat without leaving scratches. In reality, you are restoring the coat applied to the rim.
Use a light compound like Surface Magic.
Apply with a wax applicator.
Wipe off compound with a clean, microfiber towel.
Repeat three more times.
Pro Tip: If your rims feel rough after a wash, you may want to clay them to remove some of the adhered contaminants. Clay Magic works best on rims . . . and don’t forget a good clay lubricant like Xtreme Shine.
Polished Alloy Wheels
Polished aluminum wheels lack the protective clear-coating, and can tarnish and oxidize. With this in mind, you’ll want to use a polish that is a bit more aggressive.
Use a heavier grade abrasive polish like Xtreme Metal Polish.
Apply with a polishing pad like buffing ball attached to power drill.
Wipe off polish with a clean, microfiber towel.
Repeat three more times, unless you have a motorcycle.
Chrome wheels are a little bit different, as the chrome is a soft metal coating (chromium) that is adhered to the alloy wheel. Due to the soft nature of chromium, you’re polishing efforts will be rewarded.
Use a lightly abrasive polish like Xtreme Metal Polish.
Apply with a polishing like buffing ball or a wax applicator.
Wipe off polish with a clean, microfiber towel.
Repeat three more times.
Pro Tip: Plastic chrome trim is not metal and the above steps do not apply.
Wax Your Rims
Once you have thoroughly cleaned and polished your wheels, you’ll want to take the final step of protection and apply a wax or sealant. This will enhance the look of your rims and also add a layer of protection from the elements.
Apply a polymer sealant or carnauba wax with an applicator pad.
Buff the wheel to work in the sealant or wax.
Remove any excess with a clean microfiber towel.
Pro Tip: If done regularly, all you’ll need to clean your wheels is water.
Keeping Your Trim & Moldings Looking New
The trim and moldings of your vehicle should have been cleaned during the exterior wash. If any of these areas need extra attention, a little special cleaner and a brush will remove the last bit of stubborn grit and grime.
Now that all the trim and moldings are cleaned, it is time to protect them. This will enhance the look of the vehicle’s exterior and protect from environmental damage. There are several products that will get the job done, ranging from plastic dyes to dressings and detailers. Here’s what you need to know for each of these products.
When plastic trim becomes faded and oxidized, you want to be able to bring it back to like-new condition. This is where plastic restoration products come in handy. They come in two main categories, and can be applied safely with a wax applicator.
For any color trim that you are looking to restore, use a product like Vinyl Magic. Vinyl Magic restores faded door handles, wheel flairs, running boards, bumpers, and many other forms of plastic trims. Vinyl Magic is applied with a was applicator, and will bring new life to your plastic for another 4-6 months.
For all those Jeep owners with an ample amount of black trim and moldings on your vehicle, you can use a black dye and restorer called Black Vinyl Coat. Apply just as you would the above Vinyl Magic, and see for yourself how quickly your faded black trim can be restored.
These are prevalent, and super easy to use. They are usually a quick-detail type aerosol spray that will give a clean surface a nice shine. Easily applied to any hard surface, they are great for a quick touch-up of those dull areas.
Apply Xtreme Shine like any other spray formula, using a high-quality microfiber towel. Xtreme Shine can also be used on painted surfaces and glass, removing the worry of overspray. It will leave behind a micro-protective layer that is not wet or greasy, instead it gives surfaces a clean luster.
Water-based dressings work very well for protection your trim from UV damage. If the plastic is still in good condition, then these dressings will keep things clean and new-looking for years to come.
Pro Tip: You can cut water-based dressings with water to give the surfaces more of a satin finish, for a less slick feeling.
Here are few suggestions for some of the more common issues we face when cleaning tires, wheels, and trim.
Tires Have a Brownish Appearance
Understand that this brownish appearance is actually due to a chemical in the tire’s rubber, that helps to prevent the tire from drying out. It is designed to move towards the surface while the tire is spinning. Now that you know what it is, here’s how to get rid of that unsightly stuff.
Spray the tire with a Special Cleaner and scrub with a brush to remove any residual dressing.
Allow tire to fully dry, then re-clean with Special Cleaner if needed.
Once fully dry, apply dressing of choice.
How to Remove Blue Coating from Lettering of Tires
Mist the tire with a non-acidic wheel cleaner.
Allow to set for a couple minutes.
Scrub the tire with a nylon tire brush.
Rinse with high-pressure water.
Tar Deposits on Fender Trim, Rocker Panels, or Wheels
Hone your skills with Clay Magic to get rid of embedded particulates.
Make sure to use a quality lubricant to ensure the clay moves freely on the rims.
Rinse and repeat as necessary.