man showing how to clean car wheels

How To Clean Car Wheels Like a Pro (In 8 Simple Steps)

Have you ever taken a closer look at your car just to realize how dirty its wheels really are? If you have, then I’ve got great news for you. You can clean your car wheels like a pro, and all you need to learn how to do the job right is right here in this blog.

Wheels and rims are often the dirtiest part of your car. Constantly bombarded by salt from the road and brake dust from other cars, they also get dirty from the brake pads rubbing against them.  

If you drive a lot, then you'll notice that these particles can really build up. This can make it difficult to maintain a clean exterior and cause problems for brakes and tires. 

If you want to learn how to do a good job when cleaning wheels, you need a bit of knowledge, a few tools, and some high-quality car supplies.  

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you get started!

First, Take a Deep Breath

Whether you're looking for a quick fix, or want to do it properly, knowing how to clean your car wheels is an important part of maintenance. Dirty, oxidized wheels can be unsightly and can cause damage to the protective coating that’s applied when the wheels are manufactured.

The best way to get ready for the process of cleaning your car wheels is to take a deep breath and get ready to get down and dirty. You may have to get down on the ground or in your car to get at the wheels and hard-to-reach areas, but if you do it right and take your time, you'll be able to clean your car's wheels without much trouble.

What Type Of Wheel Do You Have?

A wheel is made up of the tire, the rim, and/or the hubcap. Obviously, wheels are a crucial part of cars, trucks, and other transportation means as they allow vehicles to move at ease. This is why performing a regular check-up on them is an absolute must for your safety.

Moreover, your wheel type can affect how your vehicle performs and its maintenance costs. Not all wheels require the same care and upkeep, so you need to know which type your car has. 

There are six main types of wheels. The first four are used on cars, while the last two are used for trucks:

Steel Wheels

Steel rims with a hard, chromed surface.

Aluminum Wheels

Aluminum car rims with a hard-anodized surface. These wheels can be painted in a variety of colors to match your car's exterior color.

Magnesium Wheels

Magnesium alloy and gray anodized color.

Chrome Wheels

Chromed steel rims with chrome plating can chip or peel off over time due to corrosion from salt and moisture.

Three-spoke Wire Wheel

Wire hub, spokes, and rim are all made from wire mesh.

Cast Aluminum Wheel

These feature an aluminum rim around a thick center hub. They can be molded into any shape desired but cannot be painted.

How To Clean Different Types Of Wheels

Once you find out your car's wheel type, it will be easier to decide the best cleaning method for them.

Steel wheels are tough but can also be cleaned using brake cleaner or mineral spirits. They are often better suited for heavier vehicles or those that routinely go off-road as they tend to be stronger and more durable. Pieced steel wheels can also hold up against potholes better than aluminum or cast iron wheels but may require frequent maintenance.

Aluminum wheels typically cost less than steel wheels and are easier to maintain as they require less polishing. You can clean them with an aluminum wheel cleaner or dish soap and water. 

Not all wheel cleaners are created equal. Some can even damage your vehicle. If you are interested in a product that can give you peace of mind, Nexgen Wheel and Engine Cleaner is a strong, but non-caustic cleaner, safe to use on most wheel types — and around other areas near them. It cuts through brake dust without any risk of etching or staining other car parts! The result? Shiny wheel finishes and beautiful cars for years to come.


*Note: Nexgen Wheel & Engine Cleaner is not recommended for non-factory, aluminum, or painted wheels*



showing how to clean car wheels

The first step in learning how to clean your car wheels is to prepare. You’ll want to gather the necessary tools and supplies before you begin. 

The three main products you need are a bucket of clean water, a soft microfiber cloth, and an old toothbrush or a wheel brush. Make sure that your bucket has plenty of water in it to give yourself enough elbow room when cleaning all the wheels. If you really want to get down and dirty, try using an old sponge or cloth instead of a brush.

To make this process even easier, keep any other necessary tools handy — like a garden hose. For example, if you have particularly resistant spots on your wheels, use a cleaning product that can help break up the wheel dirt.

The Process

Here are eight steps to complete the process:

Step 1 - Get Your Car Ready

Before you do anything, turn off the engine and ensure the wheels are cool and ready to be worked on. Safety is also an important feature in learning how to clean the car like a pro.

Step 2 - Remove Dirt 

Start by removing any dirt on the outside of your car by hand or with a power washer. A power washer will scrub the wheels more effectively but may not be safe to use on all wheel types. 

Step 3 - Spray Wheel Cleaner

Next, spray them with a good wheel cleaner, like our Wheel & Engine Cleaner. For the cleaner to work effectively, it must get into every nook and cranny of the wheel. You can spray the cleaner directly onto the wheel, or onto a rag and then wipe it around the wheel. You want to make sure that you're getting into all of those cracks and crevices that are hard to reach. This is where all of the dirt is hiding! Using a detailing brush may help you to reach all these tight spots.

Step 4 - Rinse The Wheels (Starting From The Rear)

Once you've sprayed on the cleaner and wiped away all of the road grime, be sure to rinse off your wheels thoroughly with water. When you let them dry, they should look a lot better than they did before!

A great tip for cleaning your car wheels is to start with the rear wheel. Wiping dirt off the rear wheels will allow you to see what you are doing when wiping the front ones. 

Step 5 - Scrub Every Corner

Use a sponge and soapy water and scrub in every corner of the wheels well, including the axle and brakes. This is to make sure you get any last remaining bits of grime and Wheel & Engine Cleaner. 

Step 6 - Rinse

Rinse off any soap residue with water from the hose or bucket.

Step 7 - Dry With a Rag Or Towel

Dry off each wheel. Use a rag or towel — previously dipped in diluted white vinegar — to prevent water spots from forming on your wheels and ruining all your hard work.

Step 8 - Apply Tire Dressing

After cleaning your wheels, it is important to apply a dressing to the tires to protect the surface and add a bit of shine. 

Nexgen Tire Dressing is a great last step to restore the tire's surface back to its original luster. Our Tire Dressing nourishes and moisturizes tires, extending their lifespan by preventing drying and cracking. This product dries down to a stunning, medium-level shine that is completely sling-free.



Now that you've learned how to clean your car wheels, it's time to get started! By applying the steps above and using high-quality products, you will be able to enjoy your clean wheels for a long time.

Visit our website for a full roundup of Nexgen's products. Our products for car interiors and exteriors are created with the highest standards, offering professional quality — on a DIY budget. Browse our top-sellers and detailing kits, and join the lines of car enthusiasts achieving great results!

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