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How to Clean Aluminum Wheels

How to Clean Aluminum Wheels

At Rent A Wheel, we love a set of shiny, beautiful aluminum wheels. We want those bad boys to sparkle when we look into them. 

If you have aluminum wheels, we assume that you love that shimmer, too. We also bet you know that those wheels aren’t going to stay shiny forever. Not by themselves, at least.

The importance of cleaning every part of your car inside and out is something we take very seriously. Maybe you just bought a set of sick new Cali Summit rims, and you want to make sure you’re taking the best care of them. 

Fear not, Rent A Wheel is here to help. It’s easy to take care of aluminum wheels, but there are a few key components to remember. 

Put on your favorite pair of work clothes because you’re going to get a little dirty. Here’s how to clean your aluminum wheels. 

Get What You Need

First things first, and do not skip this step: Get the right products. You might think, “Well, I’ve got some Dawn dish soap, and that gets other stuff clean. There’s even a new sponge, perfect.” 

No, not perfect. Trust us—you’re going to want the right tools. You don’t need to break the bank buying fancy drill attachments or luxury vehicle polish, but you should spring for the good stuff. 

Your wheels take care of you when you’re driving around, and it’s time to return the favor. Get some microfiber towels, but don’t grab anything too harsh because you could scratch up the finish. Then, we’re off into the world of polishing, which will take a lot more time and effort (and money). 

Pick up your aluminum cleaner and microfiber towels. And, actually…keep the sponge nearby; it could be useful. 

Take Your Wheels Off and Apart

The next two steps are only necessary if you want to deep clean your wheels. Which you do because you care about making sure every nook and cranny is shiny and new. Plus, your back is going to thank us for this step. 

Go ahead and pop your wheels off the car. Don’t worry! It isn’t as bad as it sounds once you get the proper jack. 

Once you have detached your wheels, make sure all removable parts of your wheel are pulled off and organized. Keep everything organized in one place so that you don’t lose anything. 

Doing this gets the wheels into an easier position to clean, and it ensures that you’re able to get your cleaner and towel into the entire surface of the wheel. 

Remove Surface Level Dirt

Now that you can get a good look at your wheels, you might see a good amount of dirt or road dust. 

The first step in the cleaning process is easy. Just take a hose and rinse off any gunk sitting on top of your wheels. This will help the actual cleaning product get to the hard-to-remove grime and do the heavy lifting instead of wasting its time on easy-to-remove dirt. 

Get Out Your Aluminum Cleaner and Follow the Instructions

Alright, now your wheels are wet but a little cleaner. Now, it’s time to bring in the big guns. 

Make sure to properly read the instructions on your aluminum cleaner because sometimes they require different procedures.

Do you have to leave it on for a few minutes? Scrub-a-dub with that sponge you have? Wash it off immediately or face the wrath of an overly acidic product? 

(Pro tip: Avoid acidic cleaning products; they agitate the aluminum and cause spots that don’t look very nice.)

It won’t be complicated, but reading the instructions is always important before using a new product. Make sure to use the product as suggested to achieve your most sparkling clean. 

You’ll probably apply the cleaning product, leave it on for a little, scrub it down with a sponge or towel, and then rinse it off. 

Dry Your Wheels

You don’t want water spots on your aluminum tires. If you let them dry out in the sun, you’re probably going to see them appear before your eyes. 

So, take one of those microfiber towels you bought, and make sure to really dry every inch of your tires. Really get in there. It’s going to be worth it once you stand up and see your beautiful, shimmery rims looking back at you. 

This is especially true if we’re talking about a set of American Racing AR172 Bajas. When those things shine, they look so, so good. 

Polishing Aluminum Wheels

If you take the time to wash your wheels regularly, they’re going to thank you big time.

If you take the time to polish your wheels from time to time, they’re going to leave gift bags and roses on your doorstep. 

Just in case you were interested in polishing your recently cleaned aluminum wheels, we thought we would break it down for you. 

Normally, we would say the first step is to make sure that your wheels are off your vehicle and properly cleaned, but you’re already there! Have some brownie points. 

Again, Get the Right Tools

Like we stated before, it’s important to buy the right tools. This is even more important for polishing. You’re going to be doing some heavy-duty stuff to your wheels, so it’s best to have the proper equipment.

You’re going to be looking for polishing attachments and polishing creams. We like Mothers brand, but there are others if you want to explore. 

You don’t need to buy the most expensive products, but try not to skimp on this stuff. 

Sand Down the Curb Rash and Take Your Time

If the perimeter of your wheels has some hardcore scratches on it, that’s curb rash. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes when you’re parallel parking, you hear that sad, sad sound of rim vs. sidewalk action. 

We aren’t judging you, but you’re going to want to take care of that with a bit of sanding. 

You’ll want three different types of automotive sandpaper: heavy, medium, and light grit. 

Start with the heavy grit and gently work around your wheel. Behold, your wheels will look worse than they did when you started—but don’t panic. 

Work around the wheel with the heavy, then the medium, and then the light grit sandpaper. Working down like this slowly blends and balances the scratches to a point where they can evenly take the polish and look nice when you finish. 

Get the Right Polish and Follow the Instructions

While many of these products do the same thing, they differ in exactly how you use them. Reading the directions will make or break just how wickedly shiny your wheels are going to look in the end.

More than likely, you’ll apply your polish and then work it in with a drill attachment (or by hand if you have a whole afternoon to fill up). 

Follow the product instructions, and watch as your wheels go from looking a little scratched up to looking like they just rolled off the lot. 


Cleaning and polishing your aluminum wheels ensures that they look amazing for years to come. Proper maintenance will do that. 

Always make sure you have reliable products and follow proper preparation procedures and product directions. Those aluminum wheels are going to be spinning wheels of beauty rolling down the street in no time. 

Make sure to throw your sponge away when you’re done and do not return it to the kitchen. You really, really don’t want to use it for anything else after you finish here. 

In case you’ve been reading this article to learn more about aluminum wheels because you’re interested in picking up a set of your own, Rent A Wheel has all of the best aluminum wheels on the market for the best prices. 

With our team of professional tire experts standing by Rent A Wheel to help you find the perfect size, style, and fit for your ride, it’s never been easier to get the shiny aluminum rims of your dreams. 

Our flexible payment plan options make it easy to find the right wheels. In fact, it’s more affordable than ever. 



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