How to clean aluminum wheels with clear coat?

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

Let’s imagine you have bought aluminum wheels for your car. It’s a rather great purchase that is worth a good amount of money. But like everything in this world, we need to care about them. We need to maintain them in a good state, so they can serve us as long as it is possible. And here, wheels’ cleaning plays a vital role. So, in this article, we will speak about how to clean aluminum wheels and keep them in a great state.

What do you need?

Let’s start with the things that we need. So, we need a garden nose (or pressure washer), buckets with water, brush with a soft bristle, small narrow brush and the hard one with a long handle, special cleaner, clay for wheel detailing, polishing paste with applicator, microfiber towels, mirror and tire shine liquids. When having all of this, we can start cleaning our aluminum wheels.

How do you start?

Let’s see how to clean aluminum wheels with a clear coat.


Firstly, let’s start washing our wheels. Take a garden nose or pressure washer and clean the wheel wells. You should do it carefully to get rid of all dirt, dust, and other contaminants. After that, take a cleaner and wash the wheels out and inside.

Here, a hard brush with a long handle and a narrow brush will be very helpful to clean all parts, especially those that are hard to reach. In the end, take the microfiber towels and thoroughly dry the wheels off.

There is one important note about the wheel cleaners. If you have wheels with no clear coat protection (or have a peeling clear coat), you should know that they will have a bad reaction on acid cleaners. That is why before using any cleaner, we recommend ensuring whether it is suitable for your wheel surface.

Clay clear wheels

Now, let’s do some magic to make our wheels shine. We will start removing the oxidation. So, take clay for wheel detailing and spread it overall surface of the inner part of the wheel.

When done, wipe off all particles on the towels. Speed up your movements till you get a perfect result. Then, finish this job by using microfiber towels again. You should wash off all clay with soap water.

This step is very important because if there are too many contaminants on any part of your wheels, polishing won’t be effective enough. After that, take mirror and tire shine liquids (for example Armor All Tire Shine) and apply them carefully on the needed areas of your car tires to give them a long-lasting look.

And here we are at the end! Your aluminum wheels are clean now so don’t forget to drive safely!

How to get rid of any contaminants on the old or wax clear coating? For this purpose, you need car soap, a bucket of water, and a microfiber towel. If you do not have car soap, you can take the usual dish soap. Soak a towel in the bucket, then squeeze it out.

Now, repeat the above steps from washing off the wheel to drying it up. But do not forget to wet a face part of a microfiber towel with car soap and rub it all over the wheels. It will help you to remove any hard contaminants or wax coating from your aluminum wheels.

Wash it off

You can do it in warm water. After that, thoroughly dry off your wheels. Now, wipe them with polishing paste with an applicator. It will help to restore the shine of the old clear coat and make it look new again.

After that, you need to dry them out thoroughly until no drop of water appears on their surface or anywhere around the rims. But before doing this step make sure they are completely clean inside and outside plus finished with applying some kind of wax product - otherwise what you do next won't work perfectly!

After completing these steps, let us focus on polishing our wheels so they shine again as new ones.


Now, when our aluminum wheels are clean, we can start polishing them. But before buying any polishing paste, you should know what surface your wheels have (bare or with a clear coat) and choose the corresponding product. You should use only delicate polishing paste for wheels with a clear coat because they are not oxidized.

If there is any oxidation on your wheels, you should use polishing paste with a strong polishing power. Take the applicator and apply it evenly all over the wheel surface. After that, carefully work it into the surface using circular motions.

And if you want to get the shine out of this level of polish, take some special liquid for tires or mirrors (for example, Mr. Color Tire Dressing Applicator), pour it onto a microfiber cloth, and wipe away from yourself towards the center of the wheel until you have covered all areas. Then do the same in reverse order – from the outside to inside across each tire until they are dry again.

In addition to those actions, we can also clean the chrome parts of a car. Cleaning aluminum wheels is not that difficult as it seems at first sight, so you can do it yourself and save money. But if still have any questions regarding cleaning your aluminum wheels, we recommend contacting your local car shop or manufacturer to get more detailed information about this process.

After polishing, take a microfiber towel and dry the wheels. In the end, they will have a mirror surface that resembles the chrome.


And the last thing you need to do is to protect your wheels. For this purpose, you need to use sealant or wax. It will help protect your wheels from various contaminations, plus the surface will become easier to clean and more hydrophobic. How to apply wax is pretty clear, so we will not do it in this article.

How often should you wash your wheels?

If your car wheels are always dirty, then every 2-3 weeks. On the other hand, if they are clean most of the time, you need to clean them once in 3 months. But no matter how often you decide to wash your aluminum wheels with a clear coat, be careful and attentive while doing it.

Use protective gloves and smocks for clothes because when using cleaners or polishing paste, your hands can become fly against harsh chemicals. Finally, this is all that matters about caring for aluminum wheel surfaces with a clear coat. So follow the guidelines from this article and keep your wheels well maintained!

Aluminum wheel maintenance

It is not that difficult as it may seem. You can do all the work yourself or ask for professional help. But in any case, you should know what to use and how to clean, wash and wax your wheels with a clear coat using products available on the market.

And remember – if you are not sure about whether you need some product, take a small portion of it before applying it all over your wheels!

Aluminum wheel cleaning is actually very simple once you figure out what type of cleaner is necessary for your kind of surface - bare metal clear coat finish. There are basically four types of cleaners that are sold at the big box stores.

  1.  APC - clean, polish, protect: This is probably the most common cleaner you will see on all store shelves. It works great but only if your wheel has no clear coat. If there is a clear coat it will strip off any wax protection and make the wheel look dull until you reapply some kind of sealant or wax to protect them again.
  2. Clear coat safe cleaner: These cleaners are formulated specifically not to remove any type of clear coat finish from aluminum wheels. They come in liquid or paste formula and work very well if used correctly according to manufacturers' label instructions. You can't go wrong with this type of product just be sure to read the directions.
  3. Aluminum wheel cleaners: These are chemicals that are formulated to remove brake dust, mud, road tar, and other heavy contaminants from aluminum wheels. They do a very good job on normal everyday grime but you will need another cleaner or polish if you want the deeper shine of your clear coat surface to show through.
  4. Aluminum wheel waxes & sealants: This is probably the best bang for the buck because all you have to do is wash your wheels with some type of regular soap or water then apply this product using an applicator kit, let it dry then buff them out with a microfiber towel. This gives you better than new-looking shiny aluminum wheels on your vehicle within 10 minutes' time!


As compared to other vehicle parts, wheels are more loaded, which means that the sealant or wax can quickly wear off. That’s why you will have to repeat the wax (or sealant)-using procedure every week or several times a month. But it also depends on the product you use.