How to Clean Your Car Tires

When your car’s wheels are clean, it does more than just enhance your car’s looks. It also protects your tires from weathering and cracking and removes corrosion and protects your wheel’s finish from the elements.

Keeping your wheels clean is an important part of vehicle maintenance. You should clean your wheels at least every other time you wash your car, or every two weeks. Here's how to clean your car tires:

How to clean tires

  1. Gather the correct materials - To clean your car tires, you will need the following: Bucket, Dish soap, Pressure washer, Wash mitt, and a Water source.

  2. Rinse your wheels thoroughly with water - Your wheels are exposed to dirt, mud, brake dust, and many other things in the environment. Start with a normal wash to get the bulk of the mess off your wheels. Use a pressure washer to blast away the bulk of the dirt on your wheel’s surface. Rinse between your wheel spokes to remove the dirt that collects on the inner rim surface. Also be sure to rinse the rubber sidewall with a direct stream of water.

  3. Mix water with dish soap - Fill a bucket with water and add a tablespoon of dish soap per gallon. Dish soap will help remove grease and road oil from the wheel surface.

    person cleaning rim with soap mitt

  4. Scrub the tire and rim - Scrub the face of your rim and tire with the wash mitt. Remove as much of the dirt and road contaminants as possible. Be sure to wipe between the spokes as much as you can with the wash mitt.

  5. Rinse off the wheels - Rinse the soapy water off your wheels with the pressure washer. Make sure to rinse thoroughly, ensuring all the soap has been removed from the wheel and tire.

  6. Clean and protect your rims - There can be tough-to remove, stuck-on materials on your rims such as brake dust. Over time, the metallic content in brake dust can rust, discoloring the face of your wheel, perhaps permanently.

  7. Gather the correct materials - To clean and protect your rims, you will need the following: Applicator pads, Clean lint-free cloths, Water, Wheel brush, Wheel cleaner, and Wheel sealant.

    person spraying wheel face

  8. Coat wheel with cleaner - Spray wheel cleaner over the whole surface of one wheel. Work on one wheel at a time, ensuring a complete cleaning without the cleaner drying onto the wheel.

  9. Let the cleaner sit - Let the cleaner break up the build-up on the wheel for 30 seconds.

    person scrubbing between wheel spokes

  10. Scrub the wheel surface with a wheel brush - Get between the spokes and around the rim bead. The brush will loosen the brake dust and grime on the wheel. You’ll notice the dirt start to run off the wheel.

  11. Rinse off the wheel - Rinse the wheel thoroughly with clean water. A pressure washer will help blast away the last bits of dirt on the wheel.

  12. Dry the wheels - Dry the wheel completely with a clean, lint-free cloth. The surface of the wheel should now be completely clean and dry.

  13. Add wheel sealant to applicator pad - Dip an applicator pad in the wheel sealant. Wipe the wheel sealant onto the rim liberally, completely coating the face of the wheel.

  14. Let the wheel sealant dry fully - It will appear hazy or cloudy on your wheels surface.

    hazy white circles on wheel

  15. Remove the excess sealant - Wipe the dried sealant from the wheel with a clean cloth. The wheel will be shiny and clean, protected from the elements.

    shiny finished wheel

    Tip: For a higher gloss finish, apply a second coat of the wheel sealant.

  16. Repeat for your remaining wheels

  17. Condition your tires Your tires benefit from a good cleaning, conditioning them to prevent weather cracks in the rubber as it ages. Apply a tire dressing after every car wash for a deep black color and long-term protection.

  18. Gather the correct materials for conditioning - To condition your tires, you will need the following: Wheel applicator pad, Tire dressing or conditioner.

  19. Make sure the tire is completely dry - If there are beads of water on the rubber sidewall, wipe dry with a cloth.

    person applying tire dressing to applicator pad

  20. Add tire dressing to the applicator pad - You can apply the dressing or conditioner directly on the tire as well, though you risk spraying your dressing onto your clean rim.

  21. Apply dressing evenly on the tire - Spread the dressing evenly on the tire in a circle around the entire sidewall surface. Make several complete passes over the tire sidewall to get the best even coverage.

    Warning: All tire dressings are not created equal. Avoid dressings that contain silicone. While they will give your tires a high gloss shine, they tend to turn brown. They can also cause the rubber to degrade faster. Look for water-based dressings which are not as shiny but will not damage the tire.

    Tip: You’re just looking for a clean, black look, not an overly wet appearance.

Cleaning your wheels is a way to ensure not only that you are protecting them, but that your are keeping them pleasing to the eye as well. Wheels and tires are often overlooked as part of a car cleaning regimen, but regular cleanings are essential to maintaining the life and safety of your tires. Tires are a big part of overall car health, so if you are having issues with tire contact or grease be sure to have one of YourMechanic’s service professionals give your tires a thorough inspection.


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