How To Clean Alloys Like A Pro

Posted on: 23/01/2014

When you decide to step up and get a set of mags you're going to need to know how to look after them. To be fair, most people who do go out of their way to get alloys tend to be car conscious and take care of their vehicle more than most, but it doesn’t hurt to get the lowdown, especially if you’re new to the arena.


What many people don’t realise is that just because alloys look good, are amazingly shiny and employ superior technology in their construction, it doesn’t mean they won’t corrode if they're not looked after. If anything, it’s even more important than with standard steels.

The main cause and culprit for alloy corrosion is actually coming from the car itself, in the shape of brake dust. This can have an even more corrosive effect than road salt because of its chemical make up, the temperature with which it hits the wheel and the fact that it can stick much harder to the wheel surface.


As we apply the brakes, the dust coming off the superheated pads is made up of carbon fibres, metal filings and the adhesive residues binding the pads together. Because it hits the wheels at high temps, it can actually burn straight through any protective coating that has been applied to the alloy surface. The reheated adhesive then does its job of re-attaching itself to your wheel

This is bad for two reasons, one because it’s acidic and therefore corrosive in its own right, but two because it will also attach the metallic elements to the alloy too, setting up a chemical reaction that oxidises the wheel, creating corrosion. Not only is this unsightly, but corrosion will also begin to affect the seal between tyre and wheel.


It is possible to combat this situation, by choosing low-dust brake pads, fitting (ugly) shields and by regular cleaning of the wheels, not just outside, but inside too.

As we're getting your mags gleaming ‘Like A Pro’, I need to deal in ‘Best Practice’, this means we're going to need to remove the wheels to tackle both sides of the problem

This is essential if you don’t want to have corrosion really get under the protective coating and get a hold. If it does, it can be like trying to treat rust... impossible. Ideally, you should be cleaning the wheels regularly, and here's the bad news, particularly in the winter months. You'll also need to be applying a new application of sealant at least three times a year.


If you’ve managed to curb your wheel at all -easily done, especially with the bigger rims- it might be possible to get them skimmed by a professional outfit. This will not only rid you of the unsightly dents and dings, but also do away with any muck and surface corrosion in one go and you can then get them resealed at the same time.

Be sure to use soft brushes, then mitts and non-corrosive cleaning fluids when doing your wheels and make sure you don’t dislodge any lead balancing weights that may be clamped to the rims. You'll also want to make sure that the car has cooled down, so you aren’t splashing cold water on hot brake discs


Using safe procedures, the correct tools, etc., remove a wheel (using axle stands) and take the opportunity to jet-wash the wheel arches too, if you have use of one. This will greatly reduce the muck and humidity surrounding your wheels.

Use plenty of water and regularly rinse your cleaning mitt to prevent grit transfer creating deeper scratches. If your wheels haven’t been attacked with a brush for a while, the dirt may be really ingrained. This can be tackled either with a clay bar, or with a chemical paint cleaner designed to clean surfaces and lay down a layer of either sealant or wax protection in one go. Try to avoid harsh chemicals that will also remove the protective sealant.

Once the wheel is rinsed free of detergents, dry (microfibre towels are good), or leave to dry and then you can reapply a sealant to the wheel. Buy a proper one. And, if you want to be thorough, get a water-based tyre dressing and apply it to both sides of the tyre before refitting the wheel and starting the process all over again on the next corner.

And you thought weekends were for watching the telly.