If you love your truck as much as we love ours, chances are you take pride in it looking it’s best. After spending a small fortune on wheels and rims, it’s important to properly care for them so they’re able to look brand new for as long as possible. To help you get started, we’ve outlined 10 tips below on how to detail your truck wheels like an expert:
1. Start with the Basics and Understand the Material You’re Cleaning: Chrome, Steel or Aluminum
First, it helps to know what you’re cleaning and polishing.
- Chrome is a very soft metal. It’s used to coat other metals because of its beautiful finish… but it just (doesn’t) hold up well. Because chrome is relatively soft, it responds very well to polishing. Your elbow grease will be rewarded with incredibly shiny, reflective chrome wheels (or exhaust tips, trim, and any other chrome surface).
- Steel rims are the most basic form of rim available. They are typically coated black, covered by a hubcap, strong and cheap compared to other alternatives.
- The most popular rim used today is Aluminum Alloy due to its versatility. It’s much lighter than steel, aesthetically pleasing and better performing.
2. Next, Understand the Finish on Your Wheels
If you’re a truck enthusiast, there are a slew of finishes you may have chosen from for your wheels, to achieve the exact look you want for your truck. Understanding what finish is on your wheel, and how they were made can play a part in how you maintain them. For example, SOTA Offroad wheels come in several options, including:
- A semi-gloss black painted wheel that’s clear coated in a semi-gloss clear automotive paint to lock in the machining and prevent the aluminum from oxidizing
- A gloss-black finish that’s clear coated in high-gloss clear automotive paint to lock in the machining and prevent the aluminum from oxidizing or
- A chrome-like finish wheel, created through “Physical Vapor Deposition.”
3. Recognize the Grime You’re Cleaning Off Your Wheels
What Is Brake Dust?
Brake dust is a pain for anyone who drives and wants to keep their wheels clean and shiny. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil of being able to stop your car. Luckily there are things we can do to get rid of it and help minimize its effects on our wheels.
Brake dust is the result of the brake pads squeezing against the rotor while the car is stopping. When the pad wears down under heat and pressure applied to the rotor small metal filings and other components of the brake pad fly off and stick to your wheel. Overtime these particles rust and corrode potentially damaging your wheels if left on the surface too long. A common result of brake dust corrosion is surface pitting specially on chrome plated rims.
4. Always Clean the Tire Before the Wheel
Before scrubbing the wheel, I like to start by cleaning the tire. Spray your tire cleaning solution on the wheel and let it dwell for a minute. Then scrub the tire down with your tire brush. You want to make sure to get all the dirt and grim off along with any old tire dressing. Tire dressing bonds better and lasts longer on a clean tire.
5. Use the Right Products on Your Wheels and Save Yourself Some Serious Time
Once your wheels are clean and dry, apply a quality wheel protectant to seal the wheel surface. These products work just like car wax. Apply them with an applicator pad and then buff the wheel. They keep your wheels looking shiny, and they prevent brake dust adhesion. Your wheels look cleaner longer. You have to reapply these products weekly, but it’s better than scrubbing your wheels every two days. The good news is, if you use a wheel wax as recommended, water is the only thing you need to clean your wheels between waxings.
6. Add Auto Detailing Clay to Your Cleaning Routine
Using a clay bar will remove embedded surface contamination that still remains after a maintenance wash. Sometimes the contamination removed is not always visible on the paint to the naked eye… Not only can you clay your vehicles paint, but glass, wheels, lights and more. Detailing clay is safe on most non-porous surfaces such as auto paint, glass, mirrors, plastics and most metals. Once the contamination is removed your wheels will feel as smooth as glass.
FYI, A common misconception about using a clay bar is that it has an impact on removing swirls and scratches, it does not.
7. It’s Okay to Play It Safe with the Products You Use
If you just spent a small fortune on new wheels for your truck, chances are you may be hesitant about using a bunch of harsh chemicals on them. If this is the case, keep it simple and play it safe. According to Fuel Off-road, “keeping your wheels clean will extend the life of your finish. Never clean the wheels when they are hot, and only use mild automotive soap and clean water.”
8. Choose your tire dressing carefully
Old-fashioned tire dressings contain silicone, which produces a glossy shine but they turn brown over time. In fact, shiny silicone tire dressings can attract dirt. These dressings deplete the rubber’s plasticizers faster, causing it to age prematurely. Newer formulas, like Pinnacle Black Onyx Tire Gel or Optimum Opti-Bond Tire Gel, are water-based and less shiny, but less shiny is the concours look you want. These dressings create the look of new tires with a semi-gloss sheen that doesn’t turn brown. Pinnacle Black Onyx Tire Gel also nourishes the rubber to recreate the look of new tires. You can often layer water-based dressings to get a glossier shine. Follow the directions on the label carefully. Always apply thin coats and allow drying time before you drive your vehicle. Even the best dressing will sling off if it’s on too thick or it doesn’t have time to dry. Avoid pooling of the dressing around raised letters and white walls.
9. Take Care of the Tools You’re Using
Soak your brushes and wash tools in your wash bucket for several minutes to soften and saturate the bristles. Dry your wheels by hand with a clean microfiber towel. This process will show you the spots you missed when scrubbing and allow you to perfect your technique next time you clean your wheels.
10. When in Doubt, Leave it to the Experts
There’s no sense in investing in the wheels and tires you’ve wanted for a while, and then seriously damaging them with the wrong cleaning products. If you’re not totally sure how to properly clean your wheels, then leave it to the experts. Depending on the type of wheel you have, you run the risk of turning them cloudy or even brown by using the wrong cleaning products, so it may be worth it to simply make am appointment with an experienced company instead.
Looking for more info on maintaining and detailing your new truck wheels? Check out these videos: