If you take great pride in keeping your car clean, you know how important it is to pay attention to cleaning wheels – both inside and out. For me, the inside of my wheels are probably the tricky part of my truck to clean due to the fact that they much of the wheel is hidden from view with so many crevices and places for brake dust to hide.
But there are a few tricks I’ve found for cleaning wheels thoroughly. In this blog post, I’ll break down 3 simple tips for cleaning the inside your wheel rim as a car owner or auto detailer.
Why you should clean the inside of your rim
Let me start by saying that for general maintenance washing (that is pretty much every time you wash your vehicle) removing the tires is not necessary to clean the inside of your rim.
If you do have the equipment then by all means, but there are a few ways to clean the inside of the rim more effectively than you currently are. For some vehicles this is a lot more difficult to achieve than others, but it really depends on the tools that you use.
One of my favorite devices for cleaning the surface of any wheel is to use a variety of soft wheel cleaning brushes.
1. Use a variety of wheel cleaning brushes
Soft detailing brushes (that look like paintbrushes) are great for cleaning around lug nuts and in crevices that are difficult to reach with a standard tire brush. You may want several brushes for different parts of the wheel (as shown above), in order to clean the flat part of the wheel on the inside (using a wider brush) followed by a smaller brush for hard to reach areas.
Brake dust tends to hide in these crevices at the back of the wheel just our of reach, which is where these longer skinny brushes come in handy.
You can even use an old wash mitt you don’t intend to use on paint. Since many tire brushes are rather wide, it’s good to mix in a few thin auto detailing brushes whenever you are cleaning rims to simply reach areas that you would be unable to clean with your standard tire brush.
The easy detail brush many is a tool that some prefer because of its ability to really reach behind brake calipers and other components of your vehicles rim yu may want to check out.
2. Consider a wheel cleaning stand or chock
For general maintenance washing, it’s perfectly okay to use a few brushes and an iron-remover or degreaser, but the most effective way to completely clean dirty stuck-on tar or brake dust from the inside of your rim is to take the wheels off.
I’d also grab a stuffer tire brush while you’re at it if you plan to remove your wheels, since the sidewall normally facing your vehicle usually gets pretty filthy. By thoroughly cleaning your wheels or tires, it just helps protect your investment in case you want to resell anything.
If you are an auto detailer or have a shop, you may want to pick up a wheel cleaning stand, which is going to be the most effective way to properly remove some of the stains you just can’t reach by hand. You can also just pick up somple basic wheel chocks, just anything to get the rim off the ground.
Especially if you are a detailer, this is a much more effective way to clean really dirty wheels for reselling on marketplaces like eBay, or just for clients who need a complete exterior detail.
3. Use an iron remover for baked-on brake dust
When it comes to brake dust specifically look for an iron remover spray-on product with foaming action. One that I have heard works well for the money is the Eagle One Black and Plasti-Coat Wheel Cleaner as pictured above. This helps to chemically remove stuck-on iron deposits and can be more effective than some simple degreasers and more expensive iron removers that can cost upwards of $40.
Another option is to use a device like a pressurized cleaning gun that uses steam. This type of device can help remove stuck-on grime rather easily sometimes without even using chemicals. However for most people, degreasers will do the trick with a normal tire brush unless you have an extreme case.
Other cleaners like the Wheel Cleaner product by Trinova on Amazon costs a bit more but is one of the better all-in-one types of products for removing dirt, iron, and residue from all surfaces of your wheel.
Idea: consider swapping out wheels and tires between seasons
One trick that some car enthusiasts prefer is to actually use a separate set of wheels depending on the season. Some will use a chrome set of wheels in the summer, followed by a more resistant type of wheel in the winter. Many people will choose to swap out their shiny chrome or aluminum wheels and tires with a blacked-out winter set simply because they show less dirt and they don’t want to worry about their nicer set pitting due to salt.
I would recommend a dedicated jack if you plan to take wheels off of your vehicle from time to time and not use the one that your car comes with. Cleaning the inside of your wheel is important so it’s helpful to take the wheel off from time to time just to clean it thoroughly. Most people don’t do this but if you do have an exotic or a luxury vehicle it’s worth it to protect your resale value.
Should you even clean the inside of your rim?
While most people don’t bother doing this the answer is yes due to potential pitting that can occur if contaminants stay on your wheels for a long period of time. If you’ve ever seen pitting on wheels this is what can happen in the inside of your rim a lot faster than on the outside and is irreversible.
If you’re concerned with potentially selling your stock or factory wheels or even your aftermarket wheels at some point you need to clean the inside from time to time.
In conclusion, cleaning the entire wheel (both the inside and outside) is really important if you want to avoid pitting. While it may not be a huge deal for some people, anyone looking to potentially re-sell their used wheels on a trading app or marketplace will need to clean everything – beyond the outside that everyone sees.
There are tools to make wheel cleaning a little easier (like a tire stand and certain wheel brushes), and overall it’s worth doing every now and then.
What have you found to be the best way to clean dirty wheels inside and out?