If you’re just skimming and want a quick answer, I chose Meguiar’s Ultimate as the best wheel cleaner. It easily removes brake dust and grime. Plus I trust the Meguiar’s brand.
I have always found it interesting that when my car is clean and shiny, it seems to run better.
Of course, that idea is all in my head! The truth is that I simply can’t stand driving a dirty car! The wheels and tires especially need to be clean and shine as much as possible.
One of my other problems is time. While a trip to the car wash is great, I don’t like spending $27 bucks or more for something I can do myself.
So how do I manage to save time and get those shiny clean wheels?
Besides having my car waxed regularly (which goes a long way towards keeping the paint job clean), I also cheat by using a spray wheel cleaner in a bottle.
Are Wheel Cleaners Safe?
That depends on the cleaning agent in the cleaner. Some cleaners offer a ph neutral and acid-free formula that is safe for all types of wheels. Others have different cleaning agents that are specific for chrome or aluminum wheels.
Look for cleaning products that match your type of wheel and are ph balanced.
You might be thinking that those wheel cleaners you see in the car wash aisle are a big waste of money. Aren’t they just soap and water in a spray bottle?
Well, that might be partially true, but let’s see what’s really in those bottles.
What Is The Best Aluminum Rim Cleaner?
First, determine if your aluminum rims are clear coated or not. Some have a coating to help prevent rust and pitting from forming.
If you do have a clear coat, I recommend Sonax Full Effect.
If you don’t have a clear coat, I suggest using an aluminum polish.
Be extra cautious about grime and brake dust. It will build up on your wheel surfaces and cause rust. Brake dust oxidizes quickly. If you’re in that situation, How To Clean Stuff has a great article on How To Clean Oxidized Wheels.
Why Should I Use A Wheel Cleaner?
Your wheels, especially the front ones (if you have front disc brakes) take a real beating. Even more than the paint on the hood and front bumper do!
The wheels get soaked in road salt and winter grime. Sand, gravel, dirt, road grime, dust from the road and from the brake pads accumulate over time. When you consider the constant extreme temperature changes, it’s a wonder that painted wheels on our cars look as good as they do!
All the things I mentioned are always eating away at the wheels of your ride. Rust, brake dust, and salt will very quickly start leaving pits on your alloy wheels, even if they are coated.
Oh yes, and that same corrosive brake dust that is eating at your wheels? It gets thrown off the wheels with time and it lands on your paint, to continue its eating habits. Yikes!
This is where wheel cleaners come in handy and help to tackle these corrosive elements.
Remember to always wash the wheels when they are cool and use a wheel cleaner that says it is safe for clear coats.
Have you have ever tried to wash the wheels with soap, water, a wheel brush, and they’re still dirty? It’s because the brake dust, and dirt and grime has been baked into them. Wheel cleaners contain special compounds that loosen the brake dust so it can be removed.
An In-Depth Wheel Cleaning Tutorial
What is the Best Wheel and Tire Cleaner?
There are most likely more tire cleaners in the car care products section of your automotive store than there are car wash products. How do you pick the best one? Here’s a buying guide of the best wheel cleaners available:
Sonax Full Effect Wheel Cleaner
This wheel tire cleaner comes in a little 16.9-ounce bottle packs a whole lot of wheel cleaning punch. Safe for all wheel finishes, Sonax has a pH neutral cleaning solution that won’t damage your car wheels, no matter what you have.
I like this wheel cleaner because the color changes when it meets brake dust or other harmful compounds. It’s like your own personal light show, showing you in brilliant colors that it’s working.
This has an advanced formula that is designed to emulsify even baked-on brake pad dust. Many users state that they didn’t even scrub, they only used a pressure washer nozzle to wash off the dirt and grime deposits. The cleaning process is very easy. You need little elbow grease and it’s easy to use.
It’s a good idea to wear gloves while applying. Some people say that it irritated their skin when they got a splash of it on their hands.
- The color changing formula lets you know it’s working.
- One bottle goes a long way.
- Most say that no scrubbing was necessary.
- It works on all wheel types.
- It might irritate the skin so wear gloves.
- The spray smells bad but isn’t permanent.
- It might interact with some plastics.
Carfidant Ultimate Wheel Cleaner
The great thing about Carfidant wheel cleaner is that it’s not only safe for all types of wheels, but it is safe for tire and rubber as well! This means you can also spray your tires to make them look as good as the wheels.
Carfidant is so confident that you will love this spray, they offer a 100 percent money-back guarantee.
This wheel cleaner won’t make the tires and wheels shiny. But it does remove all the grime and dirt so you can add whatever shine product you like.
Most people who used this product said they were shocked that they didn’t have to scrub. Some were disappointed that the wheels didn’t shine afterward, and a few said it didn’t work any better than dish soap!
- This cleaner allows you to clean rubber, such as tires or wheel wells.
- You need little or no scrubbing.
- It even works on greasy bicycle or motorcycle chains.
- Some car owners complained that it just didn’t work.
- A few users stated that it left hazy streaks on their wheels.
AtoZ All Wheel and Tire Cleaner
You will first notice that this wheel cleaner is different since it comes in a big 64-ounce size, with a hose sprayer, rather than a spray bottle.
As the name implies, this wheel cleaner can also be used on the tires to help make them look black again. Eagle One says this product is safe for all factory coated wheels, so if you aren’t sure if yours are coated, try a small spot test.
I’ve never seen anyone complain that Eagle One damaged their wheels.
There is no need to apply an extra shine product since this is an all-in-one. I like the foam part since this means the product tends to stick to the wheels longer than a liquid spray.
The spray hose attachments let you really get into all the nooks and crannies.
Most people say that they didn’t need to scrub. A few say that vigorous scrubbing was required, but the product worked.
A few people complained that the foam left a hazy streak on their wheels, but these were in the minority.
- It’s economically priced.
- No need to buy or use additional shine products.
- The hose attachment is a big plus.
- A few people found the hose and nozzle attachment awkward.
- Some users found it left streaks on their wheels.
Adam’s Wheel Cleaner
You’ve probably seen Adam’s car wash and waxes in the cleaning aisle of your automotive shop. This is a popular brand, well-known for getting the job done with no fuss, no fancy labels.
Adam’s Wheel Cleaner is no different.
The manufacturer states that this is safe for all wheels, except for polished aluminum wheels and some bare metallic wheels.
The advanced formula turns purple to let you know that it is working on loosening brake dust and more. When the product falls off, simply wash off with a hose and nozzle, no scrubbing.
No matter which Adam’s product you buy, they guarantee your satisfaction. While they don’t necessarily say that you’ll get your money back, they do say that they will “make it right.”
You can take that to mean whatever you like. Another product, an exchange, a gift certificate? Ask them and see.
Adam’s does suggest washing the wheels first. But they don’t say with what or how.
Most users say that this is the best wheel cleaner they have ever used. Others say that all it does is change colors and smell bad.
- Adam’s products have a solid reputation to back them up.
- Most users thought the product was the best they had ever used.
- You must wash the wheels first, meaning extra work is involved.
- It smells bad.
- Some users complained of skin irritation, so use gloves.
Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner
Meguiar’s products have been around forever, it seems. My father swore by Meguiar’s and refused to use anything else. Like father like daughter it seems. I’ve used this product for the past few years myself.
This wheel cleaner is safe to use on all wheels. But you should read the instructions to prevent water spots or hazing.
I like that you don’t have to wash the wheels first or even get them wet! Spray, let them sit for a few minutes, then rinse them off.
This cleaning formula is no scrub. But personally, I’ve only had to do minor scrubbing on a few problem areas such as the time I picked up some road tar and dust grime.
It works on tires too but won’t leave them shiny. Meguiar’s says that this is so safe that you could use it on the paint if you wanted to. But that would be quite expensive unless you are only removing small areas of contamination.
Nearly everyone thought that this product worked great when used as directed. A few people complained that this left a gooey, sticky mess on their wheels. Others thought that it was too expensive.
- Meguiar’s has a long history of making trustworthy products.
- It works without scrubbing nearly every single time.
- No pre-rinsing or washing required with this spray cleaner.
- It’s more expensive than most other wheel cleaners.
- The instructions must be followed to avoid water spots or haze.
I can’t imagine ever washing my car and NOT using a wheel cleaner. That is too much back-breaking work. Especially when there are great products like the ones listed above.
For me, the clear winner is Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner. I’ve used other brands, and nothing seems to do the trick like Meguiar’s.
Yes, it might cost just a bit more ounce per ounce. But not so much that it will break the bank and you will be so happy with the results. You’ll quickly forget that you paid a few dollars more.
If you can’t bring yourself to pay for a quality wheel cleaner, my second choice would be the Eagle One AtoZ Cleaning Foam.
That comes in a big 64 ounce bottle and it will still do the job you want for a price you can live with.