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When it comes to cleaning your vehicle’s wheels, finding the right products can feel complicated. Many may not even know what type of wheels or finish they have. Options could include original equipment manufacturer wheels (OEM), painted, polished aluminum, physical vapor deposition (PVD coating), anodized, clear coated, powder coated, chrome plated and so much more. When the time comes to browse the endless shelves of wheel cleaners, it’s hard to even know where to begin. So, how do you get your wheels and tires cleaned the right way, without causing damage to them? Well, here are some tips from Meguiar’s!

Know What You’re Working With

Start by researching the type of wheel you have and how they are coated. If you have OEM wheels that are made by the original equipment manufacturer and are exact replicas of the wheel that came with your car, that may mean looking through the owner’s manual, reaching out to the dealership where you purchased the car, or even contacting the manufacturer directly.

You can also join an online forum that has a community of people who have the same car and wheels as you do. If they are aftermarket, look online or contact the manufacturer directly to find out the exact surface you are working with and what their care recommendations are. Meguiar’s is also available through their Solutions Hub (via Live Chat at meguiars.com) to help customers identify as needed.

Selecting the Right Cleaner:

Once you’ve determined what your wheels are made of and how they should be treated, it’s time to start looking for a wheel cleaner. It’s also a good idea to consider how much cleaning you need to do and to go with the least aggressive means if possible to get your wheels cleaned. For example, if your wheels aren’t that dirty, you may be able to get them clean with a pH-balanced car wash soap.

  • For uncoated or polished aluminum, anodized, and powder coated wheels, Meguiar’s suggests using Meguiar’s Hot Rims Aluminum Wheel Cleaner. This is the least aggressive wheel cleaner Meguiar’s makes and is one of the best selections if you have aftermarket or high-performance suspension or brake components. On the other end of the spectrum, Meguiar’s offers Hot Rims™ Chrome Wheel CleanerThis is Meguiar’s most aggressive wheel cleaner and should only be used on wheels that are truly chrome-plated. For factory clear coated OEM wheels Meguiar’s recommends Hot Rims All Wheel and Tire Cleaner. This is the perfect cleaner for stock wheels that have clear coat protection and you get the added bonus of it being a great tire cleaner.
  • When in doubt, go with a universal wheel cleaner that is safe for every type of wheel finish out there. Meguiar’s® Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner provides a fantastic, yet safe one-step solution to use on any type of wheel.
  • Need a quick fix or touch-up? The Meguiar’s® Ultimate Waterless Wheel & Tire wipes away brake dust & dirt with one easy step and no water needed.
  • Additionally, as a finishing touch, the brand-new Meguiar’s Ultimate Insane Shine Foam has the ability to power through tough road grime and leaves behind a glossy finish on tires. This convenient and easy-to-use foam allows you to simply spray and walk away.

Technique & Tips

  • Keep it Cool – Always make sure that the wheels are cool to the touch and that you are working in the shade. The hotter the wheels are the more likely it will bake and etch into the surface creating unwanted damage. If your wheels are hot from driving, you may want to spray them with water first so it will help to cool them down quicker.
  • Importance of Accessories – Consider investing the money in premium accessories. Inexpensive accessories can be of a lower quality and be more abrasive on surfaces and less effective. It’s a good idea to have a microfiber wash mitt for the wheel face, a soft bristle wheel brush to gently agitate between the spokes and in the barrel of the wheel, and a quality microfiber drying towel to gently remove all water upon completion.
  • Knock it Off – Have a good nozzle for your hose or use a pressure washer to knock off as much of the dirt and debris as possible. This will not only allow the wheel cleaner to work its best, but it will also help to reduce the risk of creating swirls.
  • One at a Time – Unless the wheel cleaner specifies otherwise, spray one wheel at a time and hose off with water. This will help to ensure that the wheel cleaner doesn’t sit on the surface of your wheels too long.
  • Dry it Down – After you have gotten your wheels clean, hose off with a strong stream of water and dry wheels with a premium microfiber drying towel. This will help to keep nasty water spots from drying on your wheels and etching into the surface, especially if you have impurities in your water source.

Cleaning your wheels doesn’t have to be some complicated chore thanks to these tips from Meguair’s!