Tips for Tire and Wheel Detailing

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Here are step-by-step procedure to clean and dress your tires and wheels:

  • Remove and clean one wheel at a time. Slightly loosen the lug nuts on one wheel, and jack one end of your car off the ground (preferably the end with the wheel you want to remove). Before fully loosening the lug nuts and removing the wheel, place a jack stand under an appropriate point of the chassis or suspension.
  • Mix a bucket of soapy water with your favorite car shampoo. Mix double the recommended strength.
  • Clean the back side of the wheel first. Spray the back side of the wheel and tire with a generous coat of wheel cleaner. Allow it to soak for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Using your tire and wheel brush, scrub the back side of the tire and wheel with soapy water. The resulting grunge will be very gritty, so use plenty of soapy water and keep your brush rinsed.
  • Rinse thoroughly and repeat. If your wheels have small crevices, you may need to use an old toothbrush. A soft parts cleaning brush also works well on the back side of the wheel.
  • When the wheel’s back side is as clean as you can get it, repeat on the front. Make sure you rinse both sides really well when you’re done.
  • While the wheel is dripping dry, spray the wheel well, brake caliper and suspension components with cleaner. Allow it to soak for 5 minutes. Take this time to dry your wheel with a microfiber towel.
  • Use the remaining soapy water and your wheel brush to scrub the wheel well, brake caliper and suspension parts. You don’t need to make it perfect unless you really do plan to show your car. Make it clean enough to inspect. Let these parts air dry.

Once everything is clean, you can turn your attention to protection and beautification:

  • Spray the underside of your wheel well and any plastic parts with a generous coating of vinyl tire and rubber dressing. Allow it to soak in. If you live in an area where it snows, this will prevent the snow from accumulating in your wheel wells (no more snow bunnies!). It also makes future cleanings much easier. Wipe off the excess dressing with a towel, and buff to a nice luster.
  • Wipe your tire down with a generous coating of tire dressing and allow it to penetrate. While the dressing soaks in, inspect the wheel for tar spots. Quite often, large tar spots will accumulate on the back side of the wheel. Use tar remover and a rag to remove the tar. If your wheel has a lot of spots, wipe down the whole wheel.
  • Inspect your wheel for surface scratches. If you find any, now is the time to buff them out with a light polishing compound.
  • Wax your wheel front and back. Detailer’s Pro Series Wheel Glaze is made just for this purpose.
  • Finally, buff the tire and apply a second coat of tire dressing. When satisfied with the finish, put the wheel back on the car.

There is a significant amount of work involved in achieving concours tires and wheels. If you plan to show your car, removing the wheels to detail the wheel wells, tires and wheels is a must. If you don’t plan to show your car, creating concours tires and wheels is a great way to show off your car. For really dark, rich looking tires, I recommend a gel dressing like Optimum Opti-Bond Tire Gel.

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