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Video l How-To Clean Your Wheels


This video is all about proper wheel cleaning procedures. On this BMW 1M we take a look at some of the tools that help us get great results in an efficient manner. Below is a step by step guide on how to tackle wheel cleaning from start to finish. Thanks for watching!

Wheel Cleaning Steps:

  1. Inspect (ensure wheels are cool)
  2. Prepare your wheel cleaning bucket my adding a few drops of shampoo and filling w/ water (Add all tools into the bucket)
  3. Rinse wheels, tires, & wheel wells, knocking off any loose dirt
  4. Spray wheel cleaner on all 4 wheels (spray on exhaust tips as well)
  5. Return to the first wheel you started with and spray APC on tires/fender wells
  6. Agitate the wheel barrel with the EZ detail brush
  7. Agitate the wheel face and caliper with the boars hair brush
  8. Clean out the lug nut area with a foam detailing swab
  9. Wipe behind the spokes and interact areas with a wash mitt.
  10. Agitate tire with APC and tire brush
  11. Knock down any dirt and grime from the fender wells with a wheel woolie
  12. Rise wheels, tires & wheel wells
  13. Inspect (ensure all cleaners have been rinsed away)

Products / Tools:

Click here for more wheeling cleaning videos



Hey guys, James here, I wanted to go over, wheel cleaning today. It’s kind of right. It’s the foundation to any detail. It’s like the first thing we do. So I thought it’d be great to kind of go over some basic techniques and in kind of the progression of how to approach, we have cleaning instill something. Obviously we do every day, right? So how do we start, what I like to do is I first like to rinse off the rim, the tire, the wheel well and just blast off everything that we possibly can with the pressure washer at that point. Once kind of everything is blasted off, that is, you know, anything loose is gone, then we can kind of go into our wheel cleaner. Something to, to note. We always, always, always, always want to make sure that the, the, the rim is cool to the touch.


We, we don’t like super hot rotors or anything like that. Be careful of carbon ceramic brakes. We, you know, cleaners and stuff like that are, are not going to be compatible with that kind of break. So you just always want to look and make sure that you’re approaching it in the safest way possible. So after it’s rinsed, all the stuff is off as, as much as as it can be. Then we go into our real cleaner. And for example, in this example we have Sonax full effect plus, which is one of my absolute favorite wheel cleaners. And you don’t have to go crazy with it, right? What I typically like to do is I like to soak the, the caliper, the inner barrel, the rotor and the face. Sometimes the lug nuts lug nut area needs special attention.
01:39 And what you want to do is let this wheel cleaner sit for a little bit. What I typically like to do is rinse all four wheels, spray the wheel cleaner, and by the time I get back after spraying all four wheels, and even sometimes I spray the the exhaust tips, the chemical reaction has already started, right? This particular wheel cleaner, the iron particles are going to start kind of like bleeding red. It’s the, it’s the color changing a type of wheel cleaner. So when you come back to this point, after doing all four, it should be ready to agitate. And agitation is the key to proper wheel cleaning, right? I wish we just had one chemical that we could just spray on, rinse off and everything be gone. But it’s, it’s one of those things where agitating with our brushes are microfiber towels is going to lift that dirt off.


So at the same time, we have other surfaces to think about, right? So we have our room that we’re trying to get clean. We have the tire that we want to prep up and we have the fender liner. So at the, at the same time, I want to kind of get some other cleaners working and kind of starting to pull the dirt out of these areas. Why will, why we’re doing the rim. So it’s kind of like your, you’re letting sit right before you then start to agitate them. You, you want to let the cleaners do the work. So what we’re gonna do is we’re, we’re gonna spray our all purpose cleaner. In this example, we got Sonax multi-star. We’re going to basically start spraying the fender liner the tire itself, and we want to let that cleaner do its work.


While that’s happening, why that’s kind of loosening up some of the dirt in the inside. We’re going to go into our wheel cleaning tools. First up is our barrel brush, the easy detail brush, one of our absolute favorites, right? And what I’d like to do, again, this is super straightforward. I’m sure you’ve seen this a ton. Start from the top and just working, kind of like move the brush side to side over and over. And what you want to do is, especially with the multi spoke wheel like this, you want to just make sure you’re getting kind of behind each spoke. Now this brush is an absolutely awesome brush. It’s designed to clean barrels really, really effectively. It’s designed to get behind big brake kits, which is again, this is it, you know, this brush comes in handy. Another brush that you could use in this instance is something like a wheel whoolie.
04:14 I love this brush as well. You can get deep inside the barrel, but it has its limitations when it comes to large breaks. So again, keep working it side to side. And what my rule of thumb is, I like to do it twice. So I start at the top, I work counter-clockwise and I do two rotations of it kind of back and forth and back and forth just to make sure I didn’t miss anything after this. After that point I’ll start my, grabbed my tire brush, which is this one right here and I’ll start agitating. I’ll grab a little bit more cleaner and I’ll start agitating the tire.


And with this you don’t have to go crazy. Granted later on we’re going to treat the tire with harmony during pole. Any of the remaining Browning out, you just want to kind of just get the initial dirt layer off here. You don’t absolutely have to get every last bit of Browning out. That can come later. Then we go into, let’s get in it. We’re going through our wheel bucket here are kind of our lug nut, wheel face brush. And let’s, you know, grab a little bit of cleaner, put it into the brush and then that is where we kind of do the face. We do kind of in between the spokes and we kind of go in through here. Obviously this is the perfect time to hit the face of the caliber tried to get in behind there. And then again, this is, you don’t have to be super intricate.


The nice thing about all these tools is they overlap each other. So where this one couldn’t reach, maybe the easy detailed brush can wear these to can’t meet. That’s where our wash Mitt comes into play. And this is probably the most simple but effective wheel tool. And what this allows you to do is get behind the spokes, get in all these little small nooks and crannies that typically, you know, a larger brush is just not going to be able to conform to. So don’t discredit the $2 wash mitt because it comes, we use these a ton in the shop and it’s just something that’s so simple and so easy. But I can do and get areas that I typically couldn’t get with a sturdier brush. And then the last little, I’m trying to think where it is now. Okay. Here it is. He is a foam detailing swab, which we talked a little bit about in other videos.


We are, I absolutely, absolutely love these. And what this allows me to do is get in between the lug nuts and get all the dirt and grime that’s kind of in between all these little zones here on, on some other different wheels. You can even use them to kind of get in, you know, around where the, where the air valve is, all that kind of stuff. And then the less, once this is kind of done, your last thing is going to be, and you can use again the wheel woolie. You can use the easy detail brush. On larger vehicles you might have to use a dedicated kind of like fender liner scrub brush. But what this is going to do is you’re going to come in here and you’re going to knock down all of the dirt that’s in that fender well


And again, this is just to kind of get the majority of the dirt off. You don’t this, you know, this is kind of the wash process. This is the start of our detail. We can go back here and treat any, any tar spots later. We’re, our goal here is to get it clean so that we can start assessing it and figuring, figuring it out from there. Okay, what do we need to do? Right? How do we want to detail the this area further? So that’s in a nutshell after obviously at this point, once all the dirt is suspended, we’re going to then go through it and pressure wash everything. Super, super thoroughly. You never want to let cleaners just kind of sit on the caliper, on the rotors and all that kind of stuff. You want to make sure it’s a fully removed and, and nice and clean and ready to go for that. The next step, which is going to be the traditional wash. Hope you guys enjoyed it. We’d love to get some feedback from you guys. See you guys next time. Bye.

James Melfi
Holliston, MA
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5 comments on Video l How-To Clean Your Wheels

  1. Vince Corsello says:

    Terrific videos, Thanks!!

    You mentioned Carbon Ceramic brake components briefly in your video.

    Can you elaborate as to how best to handle these expensive, elite brake components?

    Products and techniques you would recommend for these situations.

    Thank you in advance!!


    • james melfi says:


      If you detect carbon-ceramic brakes always approach them with caution. I typically use a mild shampoo and water during the wheel cleaning process.

  2. Phillip says:

    Obviously it would depend on the type of wheel, but are you ever concerned with cleaning the other wheels with the contaminated wash bucket after scrubbing dirty fender wells & wheels? Are you rinsing your tools before placing them back into the bucket, or are you emptying after each wheel?

    • james melfi says:

      Hey Phillip,

      Great question- If the wheels you are working on have a sensitive finish, say gloss black, then I would recommend rinsing your tools & bucket heavily after each wheel. In many cases using a microfiber towel instead of brushes might be the best solution on easily scratched wheel finishes. Now on more durable wheels, using the same bucket during the whole process will be absolutely fine.

  3. JIM PHELPS says:

    I like to clean the wheels thoroughly at the end of the year. I take the wheels off and spray them with Sonax Wheel Cleaner.
    Then I like to protect the wheels and rims inside against the brake dust further ruining the rims. What do you recommend? Any input would be appreciated.

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