Wheel cleaning is perhaps one of the least favorite detailing activities by most people…they’re dirty, nasty, and you end up with brake dust residue all of your arms and your clothes by the time you’re done. And when you have to deal with exceptionally dirty wheels or ones that are notorious for producing a tremendous amount of hard-to-remove brake dust (think Audi, BMW, Mercedes…), then the task can become even more daunting. For many, they simply choose not to go through the effort, and the neglected wheels just end up becoming even worse. And over time, this neglect can do permanent damage to the wheels as the corrosive brake dust starts to etch the finish.
While there are a lot of wheel cleaning products on the market, some quite frankly aren’t very effective, or they’re highly acidic and therefore present a level of danger to the finish of the wheels. Used improperly, these acidic cleaners can cause a lot of expensive damage.
When Sonax developed their Full Effect Wheel Cleaner, they did it so that they could bring a product to market that would easily cut through even the most stubborn brake dust, while remaining pH balanced and therefore safe on all wheel surfaces.
What makes Sonax Full Effect different than other wheel cleaning products is that it is designed to chemically react with the sintered iron particles (brake dust) that are on or embedded into the surface of the wheels. By dissolving these corrosive iron particles, Sonax provides a much cleaner surface than traditional wheel cleaners can do.
For my first trials, I waited until I had some neglected wheels to work on to test the effectiveness of the Sonax Full Effect Wheel Cleaner. I had a BMW 3 series that hadn’t been washed all winter long, and the wheels were black inside and out from brake dust! I also had a Dodge Viper (below), and a Mercedes SL550 with plenty of caked-on brake dust. I knew that wheels like these would require a tremendous amount of elbow grease to get them clean, and therefore they would make perfect test vehicles.
I get to test more products than you can imagine, and usually I just find relatively small differences from one to the other. Rarely do I find products that provide serious “wow-factor”. I have to admit that during these tests, the Sonax Full Effect Wheel Cleaner most definitely provided the wow-factor!
Once the Sonax Wheel Cleaner has had a chance to work and break down the iron particles, the residue and grime build-up almost melts away from the surface. Sure you will still need some light agitation (see my wheel cleaning tutorial), but there’s a big difference between light agitation and heavy scrubbing. For me, wheel cleaning is probably my least favorite aspect of detailing, so I’m thrilled to find a product or process that can significantly reduce the amount of time I have to spend doing this task.
For detailers that work on a lot of really bad wheels, I would highly recommend having this product available to cut down on wheel cleaning time. Or for enthusiasts with cars that don’t get cleaned that often, this would be a great wheel cleaner to have in your arsenal.
If your car gets detailed regularly however, and you don’t have many issues with heavy brake dust build-up, then this may be a bit overkill for your needs. When only light cleaning is required, typically your normal car wash soap and water with light agitation will suffice.
How to Use Sonax Wheel Cleaner Full Effect
First, the obligatory cautions: Do not use in the hot sun or apply to warm wheels. Do not allow to dry on the surface.
Start with a dirty wheel!
Spray the Sonax Wheel Cleaner on the surface of the rims, the inner barrels, and on the brake calipers. You will notice that when it comes out of the bottle, it is bright green.
After it has had time to dwell, you will notice that the liquid will start to turn dark red. This indicates that it is dissolving the iron particles. This is what it looks like after a few minutes.
This is after even more time on one of the other wheels on the car
Do some light agitation as necessary, and rinse off!
I purposely did only a very light agitation just to see how much of the caked-on brake dust could be removed. As you can see, with the exception of a few small areas on the brake caliper that still requires some attention, these wheels are extremely clean (including the inner barrels) with very little effort!
A fully detailed car without properly detailed wheels is like wearing a suit with ratty old shoes. With the help of Sonax, this Viper looked fantastic…
If your detailing needs include heavy wheel cleaning, then I can’t recommend the Sonax Wheel Cleaner enough. It’s truly a fantastic product!