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Summary
  • You need a pressure washer, soft brushes, aluminum wheel cleaner, wheel detailing clay, and a microfiber cloth, among other things, to clean your aluminum wheels.
  • The process of cleaning aluminum wheels involves rinsing the wheel with water, applying aluminum wheel cleaner, scrubbing all the wheel’s nooks and crannies, rinsing the wheel, and drying it off.
  • To polish your aluminum wheels, apply the polish to the wheel using a microfiber towel. With the towel, use a back-and-forth motion to work the polish into the wheel. While the polish is still wet, use a clean microfiber towel to remove any excess product.

Aluminum wheels accentuate the appearance of your vehicle. However, they need more upkeep than their steel counterparts. Keeping the wheels clean will not only ensure they continue to look good, but will also extend their service lives. Read on to learn how to clean aluminum wheels.

Things Needed For Cleaning Aluminum Wheels

  • Pressure washer or garden hose
  • Buckets for holding cleaning solutions
  • Wheel brush with soft bristles that won’t scratch the wheel
  • Small narrow brush
  • Hard brush with long handle
  • Aluminum wheel cleaner. Use non-acidic cleaners to avoid damaging the clear coat.
  • Wheel detailing clay to remove deposits and grime
  • Polish compound and application
  • Mirror shine
  • Microfiber cloth
aluminum wheels
Aluminum wheels accentuate the appearance of your vehicle, but they need more upkeep than their steel counterparts.

How to Clean Aluminum Wheels

  1. Rinse the Wheels with Water. Hose down your wheels with water, ideally with a nozzle. This will create a powerful stream of water that can remove deep-seated dirt and dust. Make sure to do a thorough rinse to save you time and effort later on as you’re scrubbing it down. 
  1. Apply Aluminum Wheel Cleaner. When choosing an aluminum wheel cleaner, opt for something that won’t damage your clear coating. Also, you’ll want to have something that’s non-acidic to prevent spots from forming on your wheel. Most aluminum wheel cleaners are easy to apply. Usually, you just spray the cleaner on the wheel, then let the product sit for a few minutes.  
  1. Scrub Gently. Before scrubbing your wheels, make sure they’re wet to avoid scratching the surface. Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge to loosen up dirt without damaging the wheel surface itself.
  1. Cover All Nooks and Crannies. Make sure to clean all surfaces—this includes hard-to-reach areas, such as between the spokes and around the lug nuts. Brake dust can settle anywhere on the wheel or inside the wheel well itself, which can cause damage in the long run. 
  1. Rinse and Dry Off. Spray the wheel off with water. Then, use a microfiber cloth to dry the wheels. This is an important step to avoid getting water spots all over your aluminum wheel. If you’re cleaning your wheels along with the rest of your vehicle, you should use a different drying cloth for the wheels and the vehicle respectively. This is to prevent any brake dust from settling on and damaging the paint.
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wheel cleaner
Opt for an aluminum wheel cleaner that won’t damage your clear coating, and that’s non-acidic to prevent spots from forming on your wheel.

How to Polish Aluminum Wheels 

After cleaning, you should polish your aluminum wheels to make them look their best. While you should always follow the directions on the particular polish you’re using, these steps will give you an idea of what’s usually involved: 

  1. Apply the polish to the wheel using a microfiber towel. 
  1. With the towel, use a back and forth motion to work the polish into the wheel.
  1. While the polish is still wet, use a clean microfiber towel to remove any excess product. 

Note: You’ll want to apply these steps to each wheel, one at a time. Here’s a great video to help walk you through the polishing process:

About Aluminum Wheels

Many modern vehicles are equipped with aluminum alloy wheels, generally made from a combination of nickel and aluminum. These wheels are known for being lighter than steel, and they can be cast or forged in a wide variety of designs.

Wheels made of aluminum alloy are becoming more popular than steel wheels because they improve gas mileage, which reduces unsprung weight. These wheels are so lightweight that they also cause less wear on the braking system. 

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Aluminum wheels are also well-known for their aesthetically appealing shine. These wheels will keep their luster as long as they’re well-maintained with regular cleaning, polishing, claying, and wax-sealing.

Why You Should Clean and Maintain Your Aluminum Wheels

Dirt, grime, and other road debris can wear down your aluminum wheel’s protective coat. However, you should be particularly careful of brake dust. 

Brake dust is a mixture of the adhesive and carbon fibers of your vehicle’s brake pad and some metal shavings from the rotor. Brake dust is a highly corrosive material that can gradually break down your aluminum wheels without you knowing. Every time you drive, brake dust is made so you can’t really avoid it altogether. 

Instead of spending so much on aluminum wheel repair, what you can do is make sure that your wheels are well-cleaned and maintained regularly.

cleaning aluminum wheels
You should clean your wheels twice a month, or as often as you wash your car, while deep cleaning and the application of protective wax can be done around 4-6 times a year.

Cleaning your aluminum wheels requires the most basic materials and skills. However, what will really make a difference is how much you pay attention to cleaning the nooks and crannies. Not only should you be on the lookout for dirt or caked mud on your wheels, but you should also make sure to watch out for any brake dust

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Ideally, you should clean your wheels twice a month, or as often as you wash your car. On the other hand, deep cleaning and the application of protective wax can be done around 4-6 times a year.

Where to Get High-Quality Aluminum Wheels for Your Vehicle

If you spot irreparable damage on your wheels after cleaning them, don’t put off replacing them. Driving with compromised wheels increases the risk of accidents. For high-quality aluminum wheels that are equal to or a step up your current set, shop online here at CarParts.com.

With our vehicle selector and search filters, you can find the perfect aluminum wheel replacements for your ride in just a few clicks.  Place your order, and we’ll have your new wheels delivered to your doorstep immediately.

Because we ship from strategically located warehouses across the country, you can expect your order to arrive in as fast as two business days. You also don’t have to worry about going over budget when you shop at CarParts.com. All our products are available at competitive prices.

Check out our selection of high-quality aluminum wheels today!

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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