Meguiar’s has been cleaning and caring for the wheels and tires on airplanes, trains and automobiles around the world since 1901. He says the following is what he has learned in those more than 120 years:
Wheels must be cool to the touch for cleaning. If they are hot or even lukewarm, you risk damaging your finish.
First wash the wheels; otherwise, the dirt from cleaning the wheels and tires will most likely splatter all over the freshly washed paint.
Clean your wheels regularly. Brake dust left too long will etch into the wheel surfaces, at which point it will be nearly impossible to get them looking like new again.
Avoid highly acidic wheel cleaners, when used incorrectly they have the potential to ruin your wheel’s finish. If in doubt, test a small, inconspicuous area.
If your wheels are really dirty, you’ll need a powerful wheel cleaner, like Meguiar’s factory equipped wheel and tire cleaner. Even then, Meguiar’s only recommends it for clear coated or chrome OEM wheels.
For regular wheel cleaning as well as polished/billed wheels, Meguiar’s says Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner is the safest and most gentle wheel cleaner. It also has a color activated formula to help with the cleaning process. *Note: Cleaning rims only removes contamination, therefore billet and/or bare rims will need to be buffed periodically to keep them bright.
Wheel and tire cleaning is always more effective with agitation. Meguiar’s says its Wheel Brush and Universal Wheel Brush are great for getting into all surfaces and all those fine detail areas.
Use an old chamois or drying towel to dry the wheels. This is especially important with polished/billed/uncoated wheels as they are quite prone to water spots. Compressed air or an electric leaf blower is also great for drying wheels.
After scrubbing the rims, apply a tire dressing to improve the appearance. A premium dressing will also protect against UV attack, cracking, darkening, and premature aging. Beware of cheap bandages, they wash off at the first sight of water and have a terrible tendency to throw residue over the side of your car.
Meguiar’s has three different dressings for different looks. Endurance Tire Gel will give your tires a ‘new’ to moderately shiny look. While Insane Shine (spray) and Hot Shine (pump pack) deliver a deep, dark, ultra-moist look that Meguiar’s says lasts for weeks.