Wheel cleaning on the cheap

any house hold chemicals i may have on hand to clean the wheels on my jeep?
i am spent out right now but want to make the jeep look a bit nicer for my loved one.

i suppose a lot of the grime is brake dust IDK

i really don t want to spend the money on brake cleaner if i don t have to.

think the wheels are aluminium, part shiny, part rough. and why is my computer saying i spelled aluminium wrong?

i used brake cleaner on a couple wheels and it did an only fair job. i had a bit of chrome polish but it worked a bit less well.

i have wire brushes and i m not afraid to use them if you all know anything that might work well

thanks, wes

“why is my computer saying i spelled aluminium wrong?”

Because we are not in the UK!
In the US, it is spelled “aluminum”.

Anyway, I use whatever commercial car wash detergent is available in large jugs at Costco.
I honestly couldn’t tell you which brand I am using currently, but it works well–as have all of the brands that I have used.
I save old dish-washing sponges and I use them on my wheels, in conjunction with a lot of water and commercial car wash detergent. If the wheels are really dirty, it may be necessary to wash them twice

I REALLY hope that you wouldn’t use a wire brush on those alloy wheels.

Even though they’re aluminum, all the ones I’ve seen are painted and/or clear coated, so don’t use metal polish (like chrome polish), it could damage the finish. I’d try a plastic scrub brush and hot soapy water, I guess.

thanks. I have some of that wash detergent. and we still spelled it the old way when I was in school. I use to like to pronounce all the syllables for fun, so I remember well.

yeah I m gonna brush the heck out of em. I don t care if they are scratched as long as they are clean. its not like they are chromed steel and are gonna rust. she ain t abeauty queen any way.

I m good with 20/20 looks. at 20 mph and 20 ft away if it looks good I ll be happy

i have sponges and a scuff clothe, but if they won t work… it wire brush time!

No wire brush will mar the finish, scrubbing bubbles is my go to cleaner. Brake cleaner is just starting fluid unde a different name, post a pic so e can see what you are dealing with. Course you could always ask a summer helper to repaint the wheels my case no fun, now paint bleed on the tires and all 16 lugnuts for the rear wheels put on backwards.

ok, I ll try the plastic brush first. and the chrome polish seems deadly so I will not be using that anymore

Car wash is my first choice, laundry detergent would be my second for the wheels with a blue scotch brite pad or a white one, not green or red. Simple Green is another good product as are the orange cleaners.

Most aluminum wheels have some sort of clear coat, and that clear coat starts to look pretty cloudy and/or yellow/green over time.

I’ve removed the clear coat on several sets of aluminum wheels using acetone. A quick round afterwards with aluminum polish and they look better than new.

Be advised of several things if you chose to do this:

1.) you don’t want to get any of the acetone on the tire. Given how it softens the clear coat, it can’t do rubber any good.

2.) This is EXTREMELY labor intensive. Expect to spend 5 to 8 hours PER WHEEL removing the clear coat .

3.) Use protection for your skin. Acetone will dry the skin on your hands so badly your whole hand will chap and crack. Don’t ask how I know.

4.) do it in a VERY WELL ventilated place.

hey! that car wash is working great! thanks!

I tried for years to find a way to clean brake dust off of wheels. I tried everything, including wheel cleaner and a high pressure sprayer. Nothing gets brake dust off.

But I found a real solution. I removed each wheel, one at a time, cleaned it as best I could, then primed it well and painted it with “chrome” spray paint from WalMart. The “chrome” paint over light grey primer actually comes out like a polished aluminum. I cut round “plugs” out of card stock to keep the paint from the surfaces where the lug nuts contact the wheel (to prevent it from sticking and from screwing up the torque values) and simply masked off the tires. It came out fantastic.

The car’s nine years old. I’ll probably have to do the wheels again in another nine years. I can live with that.

thanks @JayWB. I built yachts for a couple years and used a lot of acetone for cleaning.i think I ll avoid future use of it. I don t even let my daughter use acetone nail polish or remover. its a thought, and I see the clear coat that you mean, its definitely compromised and coming off in spots. I think I ll be happy with halfway shiney and a coat of wax. maybe I ll just paint them black.

Just posted this to your other question. I had the same problem with really stubborn brake dust/grime on the wheels of my f150. Plain old Gasoline works excellent. Just make sure you haven’t driven it long and the brakes or wheels aren’t all hot!

I use acetone to take the lacquer off of outside brass before cleaning the tarnish and polishing it, but it is strong stuff. I use Bleech White for general tire and wheel cleaning and works for me. I agree with everyone else on being careful with scratches and damaging the clear coat, but Brillo pads will clean most anything up nicely if you just want to get the grunge off and they are cheap. Also when everything else fails, I use a solution of Simple Green, but it is expensive.

It’s too late now, but


Some of them will dissolve the clear coat and cause the wheels to leak THROUGH the metal.

Ya’ see, alloy wheels are porous, and clear coat not only slows up the oxidation process and makes them look better longer, it also seals up those pores.

What solvents are OK? As far as I can tell, alcohol, and gasoline are OK, but brake cleaner, acetone are not. But I would be very cautious in this area.

hey ya ll.

the wheels are clear coated. it is chipped and peeling in many places. it s pretty much discolored too. it s never gonna be pristine again unless I strip them, and that s not gonna happen. they were covered in what I think was brake dust, mostly. the front wheels were much worse than the rear. I m not too worried about damaging the clearcoat, it s already compromised. my realistic goal is too get them fairly shiny again, instead of mostly brown in front.

I ve used far too many harmful chemicals and materials during my work life. I try to avoid them now. I did test a spot with the gas, fender, and it worked ok too, but my son left a large bottle of concentrated car wash liquid here (heh, heh, he sure did abuse and lose my tools and materials when he was growing up), and that seemed to work as well as anything, and not be as harsh on my body or the enviro.

I used a scuffpad (kinda like the rough side of a dish washing sponge) to do the majority of the scrubbing, a used my very small wire brush to get some corners. they are fairly clean and shiny. I ll probably hit them once more today and wax them up afterwards.

thanks, all of the replies were helpful,

My alloys are about 15 years old, so the crud is really caked on. I had decent results with WD-40 and then wire-brushing the spokes, where most of the crud was (brass brush.) Clear coat was already half shot so I wasn’t too worried about scratching it. It was a lot of work, though. The car doesn’t look all that great anyway, so I haven’t been motivated to work that hard on the other three wheels yet. The remaining wheels still look pretty good from a distance, or at night. :smiley:

If you use gasoline for anything, please have a good fire extinguisher a few feet away. Trust me on this.

If you don’t have a suitable fire extinguisher, please get one ASAP.

I have long carried a 5 pounder in my car, but I thought it over. There are no fire departments here in rural Mexico, at least not that I have ever seen.

So, I went out last trip to McAllen and bought a ten pounder. I cannot say it will handle any fire I see (though so far I have never seen one) on the rural highways. But, it is an extra fighting chance.

Just so you understand, I was in Crash Rescue at Gray Air Base, Ft. Lewis, WA in the 60’s. My MOS was firefighter. It made me somewhat nervous about fire safety.

In addition to putting out fires, a dry powder extinguisher is also a deadly weapon. Please never spray anyone’s face with one. And, it is a horrid way to die. This is not a joke. Dry powder extinguishers are dangerous devices if not properly used.

@Irandes, You should know why there are no Fire Trucks in Mexico.

They have one, but this is the month that it gets used for garbage pickup.
It’s broke down in an ally somewhere in a little mountiain town.

There was a big story on the news all about it. The workers claimed that some guy came by with a scanner and read the codes. Now they’re just waiting for the guy to come back with some wrenches and parts. They’re pretty mad that the guy just let them stranded.
Now the UN is getting involved.

you’ve created an international incident!!!


Lets make a trade-one working fire truck for one Marine.