Rim Maintenance: 10 Must-Know Tips

Car wheel.

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Rim maintenance is one of the most meticulous tasks vehicle owners need to complete. Dirt, brake dust and scratches can build up quickly and the cleaning process requires special products and a steady hand. 

Rims can make or break your entire vehicle’s visual appeal, so you need to take good care of them. Here are 10 must-know tips for taking care of your rims.

1. Clean Your Rims in the Shade

As with other exterior maintenance tasks, you should clean your rims in the shade. Cars can reach dangerous temperatures under direct sunlight and cause painful burns with just a quick touch. Another reason to clean in the shade is to prevent chemical cleaners from quickly drying on the wheel and causing discoloration.

2. Know Your Wheels’ Material

Not all rims are made of the same material. The three predominant metals are steel, aluminum and chrome. Steel ones are the most durable and aluminum ones are the most lightweight. Chrome is a soft metal with a fantastic shine, but it’s more sensitive than the other two metals. If you have chrome rims, you need to clean them on a more regular basis.

3. Use a Variety of Cleaning Tools

Maintenance for rims involves a lot of scrubbing in tight corners. You can’t reach every crack and crevice with the same cleaning tool. Use sponges, towels, wash mitts and other cleaning supplies of different shapes and sizes to clean those hard-to-reach places.

However, you must choose your tools carefully. Something too abrasive can scratch your rims even further. Bigger tools like wash wands and handled brushes won’t be useful either. You need small, flexible devices to reach every corner.

4. Check the Tire Pressure

Underinflated tires can lead to many other problems if left unchecked. The rolling resistance of tires increases by five percent for every eight pounds of underinflation, putting your life and other drivers at risk. On a less morbid note, your rims benefit from proper tire inflation because they’re less susceptible to wear and tear.

5. Rinse Before Cleaning

Always rinse off the rims before you start cleaning. It’s essential to clear out the loose dirt and remove the top layer of debris before applying a chemical cleaning solution. A thorough rinse helps prevent you from rubbing dirt into the rims. The grime on rims can be pretty thick and stubborn, so you might want to use a pressure washer.

6. Perform a Spot Test

You should also perform a spot test with any chemical cleaner you use. Scrub a tiny spot on the rims and wait a few minutes. If you notice any discoloration, switch to something less intense, like simple hand soap. The scrubbing motion is the key to effective maintenance for rims, not the cleaning solution.

7. Wear Gloves While Scrubbing

Rims are some of the dirtiest parts of the whole vehicle, so you should wear disposable gloves while cleaning them. Gloves will also give you some much-needed grip and help you put more elbow grease into the scrubbing motion. Make sure you don’t touch any other part of your car with the gloves on because wheel dirt can be extremely abrasive.

8. Dry With a Microfiber Towel

After you clean the first rim, dry it with a microfiber towel before moving on to the next one. Letting water and cleaners air-dry on freshly polished wheels can cause fading and discoloration — especially on ones with custom finishes. Take each rim one at a time and make sure they’re dry.

9. End With a Wax Polish

End the cleaning process with a wax and polish for a fresh new shine and long-term protection. Putting an extra coating on your rims will guard them against road debris and keep them looking new for years. Everyone loves a crisp shine on their rims, but you must go the extra mile to maintain it.

10. Consider Using Seasonal Rims

If you put a lot of miles on your vehicle and have a flexible budget, you should consider different materials through the seasons. Use flashy chrome rims during the pleasant summer months and switch to more element-resistant ones in the winter. Road salt can quickly deteriorate the finish, so you should avoid using your best rims in wintery road conditions if possible.

Keep Your Rims Healthy

Rim maintenance is a neverending task that requires frequent and thorough cleanings, but the results are worth it. You can keep your rims healthy and your car happy by applying these 10 tips. Your wheels will look sharp year-round, adding more visual appeal and improving the car’s performance.

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