How To Make Your Car & Truck Rims Shine Like Never Before

car rims

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When you drive, one of the most noticeable features on your car or truck are the rims; and with regular driving, our rims encounters ongoing brake dust and dirt that can lessen their condition considerably without effective cleaning and polishing.

To keep those truck rims shining, the brake dust and road debris that your rims encounter must be regularly cleaned and polished. Without regular cleaning corrosive chemicals and compounds can eat away at the coating of your rims if they have one, or can cause pitting and stains that reduce their appearance. The only sure-fire way to keep your truck rims glistening is to clean and polish them regularly properly. Read on for a guide on how to clean and polish your truck rims, whether aluminum or alloy, and to learn how to keep your wheels spinning in style.

Products and Supplies You’ll Need

Wheel cleaner is the most central ingredient you’ll need in the process, and one without acid is best to ensure that your wheels don’t spot. Cleaning brushes are also necessary, beginning with a soft-bristled wheel brush. Soft, synthetic bristles are useful to loosen grime and brake dust without scratching the finish on your wheels. To address the grime that can compound in the lug nuts, use a lug nut brush to clean around the lug nuts and inside the lug nut holes. It may go without saying, but water is essential, and you’ll need a hose to first wash the wheels, then to apply water throughout the process to maximize our cleaning efforts.

When cleaning the rims we’ll also clean the wheels themselves and the wheel wells. For this, we require a long-handled brush with stiff bristles, in addition to an all-purpose cleaning to spray generously upon the tires.

Microfiber towels are necessary to finish off the rims. Look for microfiber towels made specifically for wheels. If none are available, a multi-purpose microfiber towel will suffice. Check Keeping Cars Clean to learn how to clean microfiber towels.

Cleaning and Polishing Aluminum Wheels

When they are effectively cleaned and polished, aluminum wheels have the potential to shine like glimmering chrome, with the techniques to achieve it following below. It is important to know that aluminum is a somewhat soft metal, which means that it responds well to polishing; however, it can also be prone to scratching if we don’t use the right materials or level of pressure when doing so. To keep your aluminum rims looking like new, ongoing cleaning and polishing is essential to maintain their condition.

Pro Tip:

Whether your rims are aluminum or alloy, it is recommended that you wash the rims before the rest of the car to prevent the spreading of brake dust and road debris onto the paint.

Bare Aluminum Versus Coated

Before beginning on your aluminum wheels, it is important to first identify the kind of aluminum rims they are. Bare aluminum rims are prone to oxidization, and can handle stronger aluminum polishes. Coated aluminum rims conversely have a coating over the aluminum to prevent oxidization, and this requires that you select an aluminum polish that is safe for the coating. Upon selecting a polish that is appropriate for your rims, get to work on the following steps.

Step 1

Rinse the aluminum wheels to loosen dirt, debris and break dust. Using a fireman’s nozzle, use a strong stream of water to clean out between spokes, brake calipers, and behind the wheels.

Step 2

Spray each wheel one-by-one with aluminum wheel cleaner, making sure to use one that is appropriate for your coated or uncoated rims. Use a non-acidic cleaner to prevent spotting on the wheel.

Step 3

Using a soft-bristled wheel brush, agitate and scrub the wheel, taking care not to scratch the wheel. Keep the wheel wet with water to allow it to combine with the cleaner to maximize the outcome of your efforts.

Step 4

With the lug nut brush we’ve got prepared with our products and supplies, we’ll thoroughly clean out the area around the lug nuts and the lug nut holes. Again, keep the wheel wet to prevent scratching on the surface. Allowing the wheel cleaner to dry on the wheel can spot the finish.

Step 5

While the rims will be shining, we also want our tires to match up in terms of cleanliness. The wheel wells or fender wells will improve upon the appearance of your vehicle when they are fresh and scrubbed. Throughout operation, the wheel wells of our vehicles can become caked in layers or debris, dust, and dirt. An all-purpose cleaner is sufficient for the wheels, which should be sprayed on generously. Then, use a long-handled brush with sturdy bristles to scrub the wheel.

Step 6

The rinsing is the next to last step. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the wheel and wheel well, the lug nut holes and between the spokes. This step is important as leaving any dirt and grime behind will advance the build-up between the next cleaning.

Step 7

The last and final step is the drying of the wheels. Use a wheel microfiber towel if you have one available; if not, multi-purpose microfiber towel will work just fine as well. These kinds of towels are particularly soft and gentle, and their design makes them cling to dust, dirt, and grime exceptionally well. The microfiber towels you use on the wheels should be kept and washed separately from the other towels, as they contain brake dust which can be corrosive to the rims and paint.

Cleaning and Polishing Alloy Wheels

The most common type of car wheels are alloy wheels. The majority of vehicles in non-luxury categories come off of the assembly line with clear-coated alloy wheels. Drivers can opt to upgrade their wheels with polished alloy wheels, although both are made of aluminum alloy. Choose a wheel cleaner that matches the material used on your particular rims to ensure an effective outcome that does not damage the finish.

Step 1

Thoroughly rinse the wheels to ensure that all brake dust is removed and washed away, taking care not to spread it onto the paint of the car. Periodic rinsing between cleaning and polishing will reduce corrosion and save you time and effort when it comes to the deep-clean.

Step 2

Spray each wheel individually with an alloy wheel cleaner. Whether the alloys are clear-coated or polished, it is suggested that non-acidic cleaners be used.

Step 3

The soft-bristled brush is employed on the alloys to scrub the wheels without scratching the coating. Getting in between the spokes, and reaching behind the tire to clean from the back-end out is a fine method to get at all the deep-seated dust that might otherwise escape the brush.

Step 4

As with the aluminum procedure described above, clean the lug nuts or your truck rims with a lug nut brush, taking care to keep the wheel wet during the process to prevent splotching.

Step 5

Follow the wheel well cleaning instructions outlined above, using the hard-bristled long-handle brush and all-purpose cleaner for your wheel wells.

Step 6

The second thorough rinsing.

Step 7

Using the wheel or all-purpose microfiber towel, proceed to dry your wheel. Again, to avoid cross-contamination of your microfiber towels that could lead to paint or truck rim finish damage, keep your wheel microfiber towels separate.

Once you’ve washed and dried your rims, it may be time to move on to the polishing of your body. Should the body be polished, a wax on the paint can also help to add shine to your vehicle, improving upon the freshness of its overall appearance. Showroom status requires shining truck rims, and a polished body, and tips and techniques on how to achieve all of this can be found here on Keeping Cars Clean.


The rims on your truck are particularly important given their size, as your wheels are large and we ride high above the traffic in our trucks. To keep your truck rims shining and clean, the above steps should be followed. The tips and techniques presented here will help you keep your wheels glimmering beneath the polished and waxed body. On an especially sunny day, you will see the fruits of your labor as you turn heads at every turn.

When it comes to the rims on your car, brake dust is the main culprit behind the degradation of their appearance through corrosion and pitting. Brake dust is unavoidable as you drive, and thus ongoing cleaning and polishing of your rims maintains their appearance. Sometimes, we simply don’t have time for the full and extensive process. When time is hard to find but you begin to notice the graying of your rims due to brake dust, take a moment to spray them out from time-to-time. Reducing the buildup of brake dust through ongoing washes will make your cleaning and polishing of your rims all the easier.

For more tips and techniques on how to keep your vehicle in showroom condition, check back to Keeping Cars Clean for more valuable tips.

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