A lot of vehicles on New Zealand roads these days have alloy wheels, especially newer passenger cars. Whether it be a Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Suzuki or any other manufacturer, vehicles are driving off the assembly line with clear coated alloy wheels. Many of you are customising your vehicle with aftermarket alloy wheels that are polished, and this has a lot to do with how you maintain them. Be forewarned: due to the corrosive nature of the brake dust you are producing every time you drive, it is imperative to keep your alloy wheels clean.

Remember that the professional staff at Dodson’s Japanese Partsworld can help you with sourcing the right set of wheels for your car as well as the process of keeping your alloy wheels clean and shining. For those who wish to do it themselves, let’s break the process down into a couple of considerations. One is the types of cleaners and frequency of cleaning. Next — the precise steps to follow.

Alloy Wheel Products and Cleaning Do’s and Dont’s

  • The basics: If you consult your owner’s manual, most manufacturers recommend that you go no further than using basic soap and water to clean alloy wheels. This is fine if you are diligent in doing so three or four times a week. Make sure you have a strong spray washer.


  • Over the counter cleaners: If you consult with your accessory or used car parts store you’ll find there are many cleaners suitable for cleaning alloy wheels. A few of the most recommended are manufactured by Meguiars, Tesco and Castrol.


  • Alternative cleaners: Some people like to make use of products found around the home to clean their alloy wheels. Some of the most common products are lemon juice for wheels already in good shape, and Coca-Cola applied to aluminium foil to gently sand rust areas. Vinegar is good for removing build ups of grease.


  • Cleaning accessories: Mother’s Power Ball makes an attachment for your drill that is excellent for polishing your alloy wheels, as is the Fitz Power Ball.


  • Be careful with abrasives: Avoid using polishing compound or any cleaner with abrasive properties. If you want to use a brush stay away from steel wool.


  •  At the car wash: As easy and convenient as they may be, automatic car washes often use cleaners that are acid-based and their brushes are not always gentle — both not good for alloy wheels.


  • Wheels first: As a general rule make sure your vehicle has cooled down before cleaning and then wash the wheels first.


  • Don’t forget to wax: Every three months or so place a good coat of wax on your alloy wheels to make sure all your diligence in cleaning them is protected.


Steps for Cleaning Your Alloy Wheels

Following as precise a method for cleaning alloy wheels as is possible pays dividends in the long run. Try and follow these proven steps to keep your alloy wheels shining like they’re brand new:


  • One wheel at a time: With a spray nozzle and a good, non-acidic cleaner, begin cleaning one wheel at a time. This step will work on both clear coated or polished alloy.


  • Gentle brushing: It’s important that you only use a wheel brush that has soft bristles so as to avoid scratching the alloy surface. Choose one that is able to reach into small spaces. Be sure to extend the brush through the spokes so you can clean both the front and back of the wheels.


  • Wheel nuts need attention, too:  Because they are prone to accumulate excessive brake dust, you’ll want to use a wheel nut brush in order to thoroughly clean them. Keep adding water to help loosen the accumulated brake dust.


  • Don’t forget the wells: You know how much accumulation of mud and dirt is found under the wheel and panel wells. For this reason, you’re probably going to need to shift from an alloy cleaner to a strong, all-purpose one. Mckee’s 37 is a good one for this job. You’re also going to need a long handled brush with bristles that are more sturdy.


  • Rinse, rinse and rinse again: Be sure to rinse the wheels and wells often so as to avoid any spotting from the cleaner that is allowed to dry. And don’t forget to rinse between the spokes and in the wheel nut holes as well.


  • Hand dry only: Use a microfiber towel to hand dry your alloy wheels. You’re aiming to eliminate the possibility of leaving water spots, so do a thorough job. Don’t use this towel for any other purpose other than drying your wheels. The last thing you want to do is spread brake dust onto your vehicle’s exterior finish.


  • Choosing your polish: Here you need to know whether or not your alloy wheels have a clear coat or a polished finish. For clear coat, you’re going to need to use a polish that is suitable for coated metal finishes. Fitz makes a safe metal polish. For polished alloy, you’re going to need something a bit stronger due to the lack of a top coating. 3M and Wolfgang both make excellent polishes.


  • Applying the polish: First, apply the polish all over the wheel with a cloth. Next, you want to utilise accessories like the Mother’s Power Ball. Attach it to your powered drill and gently spread the polish. Gradually increase speed until the polish starts drying. With a clean microfiber towel wipe all surfaces until clean.


  • Waxing time: It’s time to apply the wax. Do so just as you would for any other surfaces on your vehicle by using an applicator and then buffing out the surfaces. As mentioned above, apply wax at least every three months. If you do, you’ll only need to spray rinse your alloy wheels several times a week during the months in-between waxings.

As you can see, cleaning and maintaining alloy wheels require a substantial investment in time, proper cleaning products and a few indispensable accessories. If this process seems daunting in any way be sure and consult with the staff at Dodson’s Japanese Partsworld. We’re the first choice in New Zealand for used auto parts — especially used Japanese auto parts — and our service facility is highly rated to perform any work you need on your vehicle. Contact us — we can help you with all your automotive needs.