Wheel detailing from ashy to classy


Do your wheels appear as though they were painted a dark gunmetal colour when they’re supposed to be bright silver or chrome? Then it might be time for some easy DIY detailing at home to get them nice and shiny again.

Before diving into the how-to portion, it’s pertinent to know why your alloys turn soiled. Some of it is due to natural dirt picked up off the ground by simply driving overtop, and the rest is likely brake dust.

Dreaded dust


Whenever we brake, a semi-metallic pad comes in contact with a cast iron rotor that results in a dispersion of fine metal shavings coming from both components. The shavings find themselves onto pretty much every part of the wheel front and back.

This may sound harmless enough, but if these particles are left alone for a long period, over time they rust and can potentially corrode and damage the material underneath, not to mention become next to impossible to remove. The corrosion often takes the unfortunate form of pitting.


Lets talk remedies. In most cases, the soap you use to wash your vehicle is fine for the wheels as well. Choosing an applicator is up to you, although be weary the aluminum is probably covered in a clear coat similar to painted areas on the vehicle. Both tire and wheel brushes are available on the market, the latter featuring supple, non-scratching bristles so choose appropriately. Otherwise, a cloth or sponge should do the trick.



Gather two buckets and fill one with soap and water (add enough soap to make plenty of suds, which will create a lubricating effect during cleaning) and the other with just water, to act as a rinsing station. A good practice is to pre-soak any brushes in the plain water bucket first to really soften them up.

To start, give the face a gentle scrubbing, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. Obviously, not all models are designed equally, some having the classic five spoke look and others possessing many thin spokes. Here’s a pro tip: an old toothbrush works great for those tight, hard-to-reach spots. Same goes for a small paintbrush.

Dunk the applicator into the rinse bucket following each pass to keep the wash water as clean as possible, cutting down on grit coming back in contact with the wheel. In the event you accidentally drop the cloth, sponge or brush onto the ground, give it a thorough spray-down to prevent the aforementioned.

Extra help

Has it been awhile since you’ve tended to your car’s rollers? You may notice that brake dust and grime continue to stubbornly cling on even after the initial wash. In this case, it might be necessary to move up to a more powerful cleaner.

Prior to choosing a product, ensure to read the label to see whether it’s designed to be used on your particular type of wheel. For example, Mothers has a lineup of various sprays like the Chrome Wheel Cleaner specifically formulated to work on chrome-plated surfaces.

If you’re unsure, the safest route is to pick one intended for all-purpose use, like Meguiar’s Hot Rims All Wheel & Tire Cleaner. The foam-based agent is described as being OK to use on all factory clear-coated and painted wheels, helping to break down road residue. As a bonus, you can apply it to dirty tire sidewalls as well.

To use, simply hose down the wheels and tires with cold water, and then coat them while holding the bottle about six inches away. Let sit for 15 seconds — if there’s heavy build-up, using a brush can quicken the process. Afterwards, rinse thoroughly with water and dry with a clean cloth or microfiber towel.