Let’s talk dirty…
Not that kind of dirty, but the dirtiest part of the car – wheels and tires! This is hands down the most filthy part when it comes to washing the exterior. Combine metallic dust with the typical dirt and grime that’s found on an exterior surface, plus hard to reach areas such as the barrel of the wheel or in between spokes, and you’ve got yourself one of the most difficult things to clean. With tires and wheel wells in the mix, it can be hard to figure out where to even start! That being said, this area – generally speaking – is exactly where a good detail should begin.
The reason we start with this area is that it’s the dirtiest. If we were to start with the paint and glass, overspray and debris from the wheel and tire would get all over everything we had worked so hard to clean. By starting here first, we ensure that the heaviest debris is removed first so that we can “work clean” throughout the rest of our detailing process. You’ll want to begin by getting the hose out and rinsing off as much loose debris as possible from the wheels, tires, and wheel wells. Assuming that’s done, here’s what you’ll need to do the rest of the work:
- Dedicated wheel bucket (soap and water)
- Wheel brush
- Wash mitt or detail brush (personal preference)
- Wheel cleaner
- All-purpose cleaner
- Ceramic detail spray
- Tire shine
- Tire shine applicator
Let’s start with a little common sense warning: begin cleaning wheels only when they feel cool to the touch. If you’ve just come back from a drive, give the car some time to cool down. Brakes and wheels generate a ton of heat when driving, especially under braking. Hot car parts and your skin aren’t exactly the best of friends (you don’t want to learn that the hard way). Additionally, if you start spraying cold water on hot metal parts, you run the risk of warping and damaging them. So, with a cool wheel and most of the loose debris rinsed away, grab the wheel cleaner and spray liberally over the entire wheel. Don’t forget to spray deep into the barrel and completely cover everything. While that sits and dwells, spray the inner wheel well with the all-purpose cleaner, and if the tires have any stubborn mess left on them, hit that too. The idea is to give the wheel cleaner time to dwell so it can start to break down the metal contaminants left behind by brake dust while we clean the wheel well and tire. Grab the wheel brush, stick it into the wheel well, and begin to clean the plastic fender liner. PRO TIP: if your fender liners have carpets, the brush won’t do much. You’ll want to get a pressure washer since that seems to be the only surefire way to remove dirt and debris from the fibers. Nonetheless, agitate any dirt that may be there, and use one of your detail brushes if there’s anything on the tires. When you’re done with this, plenty of time should have passed for the wheel cleaner to go to work. The purple you’ll see throughout the wheel represents the oxidation of any ferrous metals that are on the surface. Now that they’re all broken down, they’re easy to rinse away (along with the tires and wheel wells). After that rinse, grab your detail brush or wash mitt from your bucket of soapy water (along with the wheel brush) and give the face and barrel of the wheel a quick agitation to get anything that may have been left behind. Finish with a final rinse, and repeat for the other tires. For all you Jeep people out there, give that fifth wheel on your tailgate some love too!
After washing all of the wheels, tires, and wheel wells, plus the entire vehicle, your cleaning phase is complete. For drying, towels are traditionally the go-to for paint and glass, but nothing beats the power of forced air for wheels and tires. If you have an air compressor or hand-held Master Blaster (https://metrovac.com/collections/auto/products/air-force-blaster-sidekick-car-and-motorcycle-dryer?variant=18877238214729), blast away until the wheels and tires are free of any standing water. If you don’t have either of those, towels will still do the trick. Be sure to use designated towels that are only used on your wheels, since you don’t want to combine those with the towels you use for your paint and risk scratching the finish. With everything dry, and the detail just about complete, it’s time to dress your tires. The SiO2-infused tire shine from Synergy Worx is one of the all-time greats, known for its easy application, natural, deep black finish, and durability. How much you use depends on the type of finish you like, so for those who prefer the “satin black” finish, all you need is one line completely across the applicator before rubbing it into the tire. If you like a higher gloss finish, apply a more generous amount to the applicator, or apply it in multiple coats. For trucks and SUV’s, bigger tires are going to need more product for even coverage. The product has a no-sling formula, so feel free to get in and drive as soon as you’ve cleaned up. However, if you’re going for that high gloss look, it would be wise to give it some time to set in since you’re using more product.
At this point, you could absolutely call it a day, but you’re here, reading this, which means there’s some part of you that’s car crazy. Car crazy people protect their wheels just the same as they protect their paint, and that’s where Synergy Worx Ceramic Detail Spray comes in. One light mist on the wheel and another spray on a clean towel are all it takes to keep your wheels looking great after a wash, and protect them so they’re easy to clean for the next one. Apply it by rubbing it into the spokes, the face of the wheel, and as many nooks and crannies as possible. Finish by buffing everything to a nice shine and ensure there aren’t any streaks. Don’t forget to wipe away any excess tire shine that may have ended up on the wheel.
Now, your ride is truly looking neat from its head down to its feet. After a bit of repetition, this should only take 1-2 minutes per wheel, so doing this properly won’t add a tremendous amount of time to the car washing process. Being crouched down or on your knees can definitely be strenuous at first, but I promise it’s all worth the effort when you stand back at the end and see that everything is dialed in. And, as with anything else, it gets easier in time.