What do you need to clean your wheels, or indeed do you actually specifically need a specialist wheel cleaner car care product?
In a lot of cases the requirement for a specialist wheel acid or alkaline is not actually necessary. If you are a valetor or a vehicle detailer then you will probably not agree with that statement. However if you just clean your car, it’s wheels and you want to do it the most economical way then there are other options.
So how do you know what is the best chemical you require to clean your wheels?
Before you buy a alloy wheel cleaner there are certain factors that have to take into account. Firstly, how old are your wheels? If your wheels are not old and haven’t done many miles, you will be able to use a caustic traffic film remover (TFR) to remove brake dust/dirt. Cyclone http://www.autosgleaming.com/cyclone-10-litres-tfr-p-217.html would do this and the powerful Triple Wash diluted down 1:4 parts would also do the job http://www.autosgleaming.com/triple-wash-5-litres-p-216.html. The Porsche wheels above were cleaned with Triple Wash. Sprayed with 1.5 litre pump spray (diluted 1:4 parts) and blasted with a pressure washer. Then where necessary sponged with a little more Triple wash.
I have noticed that on ebay certain cleaners have been advertised as wheel cleaners, such as Clover chemicals Viro-sol. This being a non caustic multi purpose cleaner which it is not a wheel cleaner. It is true that they will clean wheels, as will Multi-G http://www.autosgleaming.com/multi-g-multi-purpose-cleaner-p-276.html or outrageous orange. But these will take longer to clean your wheels and will run out off puff on serious dirt and brake dust. There are plenty of people selling well known branded professional wheel cleaners on ebay, but I would question are you getting what is advertised as it is not labeled and could be watered down.
So if your wheels don’t have heavy brake dust, then traffic film remover in low dilution is the product for you. The added bonuses of this is that you can also use this excellent car care product for fly/bug removal, engine cleans, wheel arch cleaning, chassis cleaning and general washing. This being diluted at the ratio that you require. Making this highly efficient car care valeting chemical.
However if you have heavy brake dust and have nasty little black specks seemingly welding onto your wheel, then you will need a specialist alloy wheel cleaner. A decent wheel acid will remove rust specs and oxidisation .
Click on each image for full page view.
To prove this is the same wheel note the little tar speck on every photo. This was removed with tar and glue remover. You could use petrol or white spirit as a substitute
Both wheels were rusty! One treated on Alibrite alloy wheel cleaner, the other not. Alibrite applied to this steel wheel, left to soak for a five of minutes before brushing the rust away. The rust will slowly re-appear in time as this strong alloy wheel cleaner just cuts the top rust off the wheels. So in the past I have treated wheels with Alibrite wheel cleaner to remove top rust, rubbed the wheels down with 800/1200 grit wet and when dry, painted (and lacquered when required). Usually this process is carried out on steel wheels on vans, trailers and similar vehicles. Some times it’s difficult to mask tyres up. So to get around this I dressed the tyres heavily in silicone tyre dressing and then painted the wheels. The paint will not then adhere to the tyre when the dressing is around the tyre and when paint has finally dried on the wheel you can still will wipe off any over spray on the tyre relatively easily. Or as I usually did, fit a wire brush to a drill and brush off in seconds.
Japanese wheels are always difficult. Toyota, Mitsubishi’s and others always cause problems as they either have wafer thin lacquer or none at all. With the thin lacquer they chip easily making them really vulnerable to the elements and especially to road salt. Thus causing pitting and oxidisation. Once again Alibrite will remove the black marks but will not prevent them re-appearing especially if the wheels are not regularly cleaned.
Will you damage your wheels with wheel acid? It is very unlikely that you will damage any wheels with wheel acid, however any polished metal or chrome will not like any aggressive acid or akaline. Wheel trims may also be tarnished by wheels acids. It’s not a good idea to use acids on motor bike as they have many surfaces including wheels that are not only effected by acids, akalies and even caustic cleaners. If in any doubt test a small area first.
As a detailer I would personally use a non acidic wheel cleaner such as Malco Brake Off to spray around the inner and outer rims, then blast the wheels to see what is left over to clean off. That will then give an indication of wether you need to use a specialist acid for the tiny last bits of brake and indeed is the best chemical for cleaning the inner rims. This will considerable cut down on labour. See the video below for a good example.
So that is the low down on the cheapest and best way to clean alloy wheels, and as ever if you require any further advice or questions please do contact.