We field many phone calls each week with questions ranging from the best way to clean/polish rims to removing the brake dust and rust from their wheels. We will try to cover all of the possible questions that might arise as you try to keep your wheels looking as new as they did when they rolled off of the showroom floor.
As for steel wheels that are usually covered completely by the wheel covers, it is not necessary to polish or clean. The only remote concern would be a little rust that may develop on older, classic steel wheels that would need removing with an abrasive wire brush and steel wool followed by some good quality paint to prevent further rusting. This situation is very rare, and usually limited to antique or classic automobiles.
Chrome wheels on the other hand, are not covered or hidden by a wheel cover and do need regular attention so that they will not deteriorate or rust over time. When the chrome wheels are new, it is as simple as regular cleaning with soap and water followed by some spray or hard wax as a protectant to keep them looking new. Over time, if they do become a little tarnished, rusted, or have brake dust build-up that has possibly baked on from the heat of the road, you will need to do one of the following:
1) Use “Mothers Polish” with a terry cloth towel and a minor amount of muscle to clean off all of the build up on the wheels. Use only Mothers Polish in the tub or can, not the tube of paste. Always follow this with a spray or hard wax on a regular basis as described above so that you can prevent any further build up of any type on your rims. Do not use spray acid type cleaners nor steel wool on these aluminum alloy factory original wheels or rims.
2) An easier method is to do step one with a fine steel wool, (#0000) in place of the terry cloth not forgetting to protect and preserve with wax. This step takes even less work and muscle using the proper steel wool.
3) If the rust on your chrome rims is to the point that it is taking too much time and effort, you may want to visit your local auto supply store and look for a wheel cleaner with an acid base to spray on your chrome wheels to help brake down the rust to a point that you can easily do step one or two. Always do this step following the product directions in a well ventilated area. Another option is to pay your local car wash to do this step as they will have a professional grade of wheel cleaner to spray on your chrome rims. Please remember that this step is only for chrome wheels and not for aluminum wheel finishes. Now do step one or two and you are finished with your chrome rims.
Aluminum Alloy Rims are usually the original wheels, stock wheels or OEM rims that came from the factory like Ford, Nissan or Toyota. These rims need the most specific care if you want them to stay looking nice and fresh. These alloy factory original wheels have a brushed finish that looks great but not a chrome finish that is like a mirror. The following is the only one proven way to clean and polish these wheels making sure not to leave stains that are almost impossible to remove.
Enjoy the ride