how to clean wheels and tires featured image

The Ultimate Wheel and Tire Cleaning Guide

Wheels and tires are the only part of our cars that actually make contact with the road. This in turn causes dirt and grime build-up over time. In addition, brake dust and fine shavings from the brake rotors end up on your wheels as well. What is brake dust? Brake dust is a residue which is a combination of iron particles, carbon, and fraction material that makes your wheels look filthy. What’s worse than dirty wheels and tires?

Regardless of if your car is using aftermarket wheels or factory OE wheels, cleaning your wheels (and tires) is one of the most important, and first, steps when washing your car. Generally, you’ll want to be cleaning your wheels and tires every time you wash your car. The good news is that cleaning your wheels and tires is simple, especially with the help of 3D Car Care.

Why Wheel and Tire Cleaning and Maintenance Matter

Cleaning, protecting, and maintaining your wheels is as much about safety as it is aesthetics. If dirt and grime sits on the wheels surface long enough, heavy contaminants can damage the aluminum over time. Similar logic can be applied to tires, as these same contaminants can accelerate wear and become a safety concern. As mentioned above, wheels and tires are the only part of our cars that make contact with the road. This means they are subject to brake dust, dirt, grime, metal shavings from brake rotors, and even extreme temperature fluctuations.

If you didn’t know, OEM and aftermarket wheels are painted with a clearcoat, the same way the metal and plastic of a car is clearcoated. This is done to prevent oxidation caused from normal wear and tear and the elements. Having said that, these preventative measures work only up to a certain degree, meaning proper maintenance is required to keep them in great condition and safe. Improper care or neglect can cause premature wear and damage to not only the clearcoat, but the aluminum itself. Again, this same logic can be applied to tires, as neglected tires can also prematurely fail and speed up degradation.

By using high-quality wheel and tire cleaning supplies, you can keep your wheels and tires looking brand new and maintain high safety standards.

three aftermarket wheels after being cleaned

How To Clean Wheels and Tires

First thing’s first, you'll need to gather some supplies:

Step 1: Preparation

Fill up your car wash bucket with 3D Pink Car Wash Soap. Use an ounce of product per gallon of water. Place your cleaning brushes into the soapy solution and let them soak.

Step 2: Wheel Decontamination

The first thing you want to do is spray the wheel with 3D BDX Wheel Cleaner and allow it to sit and soak on the wheel. You’ll know it’s working when the wheel starts to turn a deep purple color, also known as “bleeding”. This step will decontaminate the wheel by removing brake dust, build-up and iron deposits.

Pro Tip: Work on only one wheel and tire at a time to avoid water and products drying.

Step 3: Tire Cleaning

Next, spray 3D Yellow Degreaser on the tire you’re working on. Yellow Degreaser is a non-acidic 2-in-1 wheel and tire cleaner that does a great job of breaking down previously applied dressing and contaminants on the tires.

Step 4: Brushing

Using the proper brushes, gently scrub the tires and wheels to agitate the products for maximum effectiveness. This process loosens dirt and dust which will make cleaning the wheels easier. Be sure to be thorough, especially on multi-spoke wheels and around the valve stem.

Step 5: Rinse & Dry

Using either a hose or a pressure washer, spray the wheel and tire with water to rinse off all the loose dirt, brake dust, and remaining product. Once the wheel and tire is fully rinsed off, use a premium microfiber towel to thoroughly dry the wheel and tire. Make sure the wheel is fully dry before moving on to avoid staining from hard water.

Step 6: Protection

For the tires, use 3D Speed Tire Shine with an applicator pad to give your tire a deep wet and black shine. 3D Speed Tire Shine is great because it protects from harmful UV rays that can deteriorate tires, and uses a non-greasy formula that’s dry to the touch and doesn't sling into your fenders.

For the wheels, finish up with 3D Bead It Up to give them a hydrophobic ceramic coating that does a fantastic job of keeping brake dust off, and enables easier cleaning and maintenance in the future.

silver aftermarket wheels being cleaned and decontaminated

How To Polish Aluminum Wheels

Some wheel finishes require a little more care and maintenance. These types of wheels include genuine chrome wheels and wheels that are fully polished or that have a polished lip. These features are commonly found on forged 2-piece or 3-piece wheels, and even some older cars use un-coated alloy wheels. Here’s what you’ll need to polish aluminum wheels:

Step 1

Apply 3D Metal Polish directly onto an applicator pad. Using your fingers, work the polish into the pad so the surface of the pad is dampened with the product. Then, add a few more drops of the polish onto the pad.

Step 2

Divide the wheel into four visual sections, for example top left, right, etc. Using the applicator pad, polish each section thoroughly before moving to the next. Gently rub the polish for 30 to 45 seconds. As the polish gets worked in, you’ll notice polish residue turn black or gray. This means that the oxidation on the metal is being successfully removed. Continue this step as needed on all four sections of the wheel.

Step 3

Using a clean microfiber towel, wipe each section of the wheel to remove all the polish residue.

Step 4

Again, using a fresh microfiber towel, wipe down the entire wheel again to remove any traces of residue that might have been missed.

process of polishing aluminum wheels before and after

Wrapping Up

Dedicating some time to clean your wheels and tires or polishing your alloy wheels can give your vehicle the look it deserves. Not only that, but these cleaning and maintenance tips will help keep your wheels and tires safe. Trust 3D Car Care to take your car to the next level with our high-quality car detailing supplies.

Back to blog