A new set of wheels is without question one of the best things you can do to improve the look of your vehicle. However, of all the exterior components on your vehicle, wheels are probably the most abused. Brake dust, road grime, stones, and tar are in contact with them on a daily basis. They are also subjected to a significant amount of heat that gets transmitted from the braking system. In winter, road salt and other chemicals used to de-ice road surfaces make for an even more hostile environment! Damage caused by prolonged exposure to these elements may cause the wheel finish to deteriorate faster than usual.
So, how can you protect your wheels and keep them looking great for a long time? The first line of defence should be a coat of high quality automotive wax. Just like the body of your vehicle you can safely wax just about any type of wheel finish to protect it in the same way. It's best to apply the first coat when you purchase your wheels and make it a regular habit to re-apply when you wax your vehicle.
The most important step however is regular cleaning! All finishes are best cleaned with a soap and water solution. A soap specifically formulated for washing automotive paint is best as it will not remove protective wax like dish detergent and other household cleaners. Before washing your wheels, be sure to rinse them to remove dirt, dust and other abrasive materials. Use a clean mitt or sponge for washing so you do not scratch the wheel finish. Then, rinse again thoroughly to remove soap so it does not create any spotting. When stubborn stains or tar is encountered, then use an automotive bug or tar remover, but be sure to re-apply the wax afterwards.
Do not use abrasive cleaners, steel wool pads or polishing compounds, and beware of automatic car washes! Some use acid based cleaners to remove dirt and grime. Others use stiff brushes to clean the wheels and tires. Both of these processes can harm your wheel’s finish.
Lastly, if you are not a fanatic about washing your wheels regularly, then selecting a wheel finish that is more resistant to the elements may be a better choice for you. Painted wheels tend to be the most durable. Wheels with machining or chrome look great, but they do require more wheel maintenance and may not be the best choice for you. As a result, machined or chrome wheels are not recommended for winter use as they are less resistant to extreme cold and road salt. It’s best to select a wheel finish that best suits your needs so your wheels last you a long time.