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Thorough Alloy Wheel Cleansing & Protection


I recently bought a set of “new” alloys for my E30 Touring. A “nice” set of 20 year old 325i Sport alloys! and didn’t they show it:

They showed about 20 years worth of grime and a tiny bit of laquer peel but for £120 they are original solid wheels, which with seriously thorough cleansing they could be a really nice presentable set.

Now for the process and guide for those who also wish to achieve fantastic results for old wheels or even refining new ones.

These wheels were done off the vehicle, however, the same process can be applied to a wheel on a vehicle.

Products & Tools

The products are my personal favourites and I would recommend them, however, products are transferable – i.e. Migliore Wheel sealant, could be replaced by a product like Poorboys Wheel Sealant or Chemical Guys Wheel Guard.

Meguiars Wheel Brightener, alongside Valet PRO Bilberry:

1inch Detailing Brush, EZ Detail Brush, Vikan Multi-Brush Rim Cleaner, Autobrite Tyre Cleaner & Meguiars Interior Brush

Autobrite Tar & Glue Remover, Autobrite ‘FAB’ APC & water as Bilt Hamber Auto Clay lube:

Dodo Juice Lime Prime, Migliore Wheel Sealant, Migliore Bella Lustra Tyre Glaze, amongst a German Applicator for the Lime Prime as it has some bite to improve the finish of your alloys further – and an Autobrite Even Coat Applicator for the wheel sealant and an Autobrite tyre dressing sponge.

I will elaborate on these products and tools, and how to use them during this guide.

The Process

Begin first by rinsing the faces of the alloys, preferably with a pressure washer to remove any non-bonded contaminants to prevent damage to the alloy paint.

Once done, apply your wheel brightener of choice. I personally have an acidic and a non-acidic wheel brightener. This is because some wheels with special finishes (i.e. VW & Mercedes Shadow Chrome Alloys) can have a reaction with acidic wheel brightener – you should ALWAYS use non-acidic wheel brightener, such as Valet PRO’s Bilberry on specialist finishes, plus on protected wheels, which need a maintenance clean non-acid wheel brighteners are generally wax safe if used at high dilution ratios (or an APC at 20:1 can be recommended).

These BMW alloys are fine to use acid on due to there normal metallic finish. I used Meguiars Wheel Brightener in this case because it has that extra cutting power that Bilberry doesn’t quite have on 20 years of soiling build up – it is still a very good product with great cleaning properties.

Once applied to all 4 alloys, leave to dwell for a few minutes, then apply an extra bit more of your wheel brightener to the alloy you wish to clean.

I use various brushes in order to cleanse every aspect of the alloy thoroughly.

Vikan Multi-Brush Rim Cleaner on the face:

1inch Detailing Brush for in the wheel nut holes (this can still be applied to wheels on a vehicle):

EZ Detail Brush for in between the spokes and inner rim (this can maintain the thorough wheels off cleansing of the inner rim shown later in this guide):

Now rinse the wheel, which in most cases will remove all of the road grime leaving a perfectly clean alloy.

However, sometimes as demonstrated with inner rims of these, heavier soiling may require extra cleansing in order to rejuvenate them.

Here are the inner rims, a “lovely” looking bunch Smile

Closer look

Wheel brightener applied as with the faces; inner rim being treated here with the Vikan:

In this case the wheel brightener didn’t quite cut through all the grime leaving some large tar spots.

This is why a dedicated tar remover is so handy, after a few minutes of application, the tar is emulsifying:

Agitate the tar spots with a Vikan brush or similar to help remove the spot, and then rinse the alloys.

Further cleansing may be required! As in this case, Bilt Hamber Auto Clay was required (in warm water here as it was cold today!), alongside some ‘FAB’ APC at 10:1 to be used as lubricant for the clay.

Spray your lubricant on the inner rim and place the clay rubbing in backward and forward motions until there is no resistance, leaving a perfectly smooth surface, ensuring that the surface is kept lubricated at all times!

Some serious grime was lifted here on this 20 year old alloy by the clean even after the previous cleansing steps.

The inner rims were left in much better condition after these processes – unfortunately being 20 years of wear and tear as well as soiling, some pitted into the inner rims.

This is why it is important to thoroughly cleanse and protect your alloys – they are often overlooked and should not be.

Inner Rims After

Tyres are often a forgotten step to clean, they get dirty too! Plus a fully cleansed tyre provides a perfect surface to optimise tyre dressing aesthetics and performance.

Apply an APC – in this case ‘FAB’ APC at 10:1, to the tyre liberally:

Then agitate with a tyre cleaning brush:

and then rinse…

One last cleansing and wheel sealant preparation step can be recommended to give your alloys that extra WOW factor! Plus giving a perfect bonding surface.

Any pre-wax cleanser is like Duragloss 652 Pre-Wax Cleanser or Dodo Juice Lime Prime. I used Lime Prime with a German applicator pad as it has a bit of bite to make use of the products micro-abrasive polishing qualities.

Apply a smartie sized blob to the applicator, this should do at least half a wheel, buff after the residue after completing each wheel:

Being applied to all of the front face of the rim (as well as the inner rim was done, wheels off only)

Now the alloys & tyres are fully cleansed, looking much more composed… now the key is to locking in that finish with some high quality protection – like Migliore Wheel Sealant, as well as adding those finishing touches like tyre dressing.

Migliore Wheel Sealant is best left to cure for 15-20 minutes before buffing off to ensure the best protection – other products may vary but curing is essential.

Whilst the sealant is curing, dressing the tyres is one of those last and important steps at really setting your alloy wheels off – some dressings provide protection and nourish your tyres so they last longer – I used Migliores Wheel Sealant in this case, as I love its new matt look finish and protection capabilities.

Apply the tyre dressing directly to the tyre or apply using a tyre dressing sponge, as demonstrated here, 2 quick sprays should do at least half a tyre with Migliore Bella Lustra Tyre Glaze.

The Results

After all the above cleansing and protection processes, the 20 year old 325i Sport alloys were rejuvenated to the best of the situation.

Thanks for looking, and I hope this guide has been helpful.