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Cleaning alloy wheelsÖ


If your vehicle has alloy wheels, itís a good idea to hose the wheels down with high-pressure water twice a week when the wheels are cold to clean the brake dust off of the wheels that comes from the disc brake pads.  By cultivating this habit, you can keep the wheels perpetually clean.  Itís a very time-consuming and messy job to have to clean alloy wheels properly by hand to remove all traces of brake dust, which is continually being produced by the friction of the disc brake pads with the brake discs when the vehicle is driven.  This dark brake dust sticks to the wheels, especially after theyíve become hot as a result of the heat generated by the disc brakes, and it permanently mars the appearance of the wheels if itís not cleaned off by permanently bonding with them as a result of the heat produced by the disc brakes.  As long as the vehicle is driven, brake dust will be produced and will be deposited on the wheels.  No sooner have the wheels been cleaned than they become contaminated again with brake dust.  Therefore, this is a continuous problem that requires a continuous solution.


Products which claim to repel brake dust from alloy wheels are not effective...

There are products on the market which claim to prevent brake dust from sticking to alloy wheels.  The objective of these products is to repel brake dust by means of these products being sprayed onto or painted onto the wheels.  I was initially very keen to use these products because they would result in even less work than hosing the wheels twice a week.  However, when I went to my local automotive parts shop to ask for this kind of product that would provide strong protection and also last a long time (eg. three to six months), I was told by my friend at the shop that none of these products work.  He told me that they protect the wheels for a few days and after that time the brake dust sticks to the wheels again.  Given that the wheels are heated to relatively high temperatures as a result of the operation of the disc brakes, it isnít surprising that these products are not effective.  So I gave up on that idea and came up with the alternative idea of hosing the wheels twice a week with high-pressure water when the wheels are cold so that brake dust and other road-grime doesnít have a chance to accumulate on the wheels.


Only hose wheels when theyíre cold to avoid cracking or warping the wheels...

Itís important to only hose the wheels when the vehicle hasnít been driven during the last two to three hours (depending on whether the prevailing outside temperature is cold or hot) so that the wheels are therefore cold.  A good time to hose the wheels is in the morning when the vehicle hasnít been driven since the previous day and when youíre waiting for the engine to warm up by letting it idle.  Disc brakes produce a lot of heat while the vehicle is driven which causes the wheels to become hot also.  The risk of hosing wheels that are hot or even warm is that the cold water could cause sections of the wheel being hosed to contract more rapidly than other sections (eg. the surface of the wheels as opposed to the metal underneath the surface), causing cracks to form in the wheels or causing the wheels to warp.  This also applies to the hot or even warm disc brake components (such as the brake disc and brake calliper) which are mounted behind the wheel and which will also become wet as a result of hosing the wheel.

In my opinion, itís simply not worth the risk of cracking or warping the alloy wheels or disc brake components to hose the wheels when theyíre hot or even warm.  While the risk is probably not acute, itís a risk that Iím in no way prepared to take.  Hot metal and cold water are a very dangerous combination in motor vehicles.  I never want to crack or warp a metal component with water from a garden hose.  Because hosing a hot engine with cold water from a garden hose is a mechanical death-wish, I treat all other components on the vehicle with the same degree of caution.


Clean the wheels just once properly and then maintain their pristine appearance by hosing them down twice a week...

Rather than getting caught up in an endless, tedious cycle of having to repeatedly clean the alloy wheels by hand to remove all traces of brake dust which would otherwise bond permanently with the wheels and mar their appearance, it makes much more sense to clean the wheels just once properly and then maintain their hard-won, pristine, clean appearance by hosing them down with high-pressure water twice a week.

The wheels can be cleaned using appropriate brushes together with a couple of cap-fulls of kerosene mixed in a bucket of warm water in order to effectively dislodge the brake dust and road-grime from the wheels.  Purpose-made, wheel-cleaning brushes are available from your local automotive parts shop and enable you to clean the sections of your alloy wheels that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Every three or four days, when the wheels are cold as a result of the vehicle not having been driven for several hours (or since the day before), hose the wheels down with high-pressure water to remove all brake dust and any other road-grime from the wheels.  By hosing the wheels regularly in this way, the pristine, Ďjust-been-cleanedí appearance of the wheels is preserved in perpetuity!  As long as you keep hosing the wheels every three or four days, youíll never have to clean the wheels again by hand with brushes.


You can save a significant amount of time and hassle by using this method...

I estimate that it takes a minimum of one hour to properly clean the alloy wheels by hand with brushes in order to remove all traces of brake dust that has stuck to them.  In order to stop the brake dust from sticking to the wheels permanently as a result of heat from the disc brakes and permanently marring their appearance, this would have to be done once per month.  This is a total of a minimum of 12 hours work per year just spent cleaning the wheels.  Note that the wheels only remain clean for about a week until they become contaminated once again by brake dust and road grime.

It takes about two minutes to hose all four wheels.  The best time to do this is in the morning when you havenít driven the vehicle since the previous day and when youíre waiting for the engine to warm up by letting it idle.  Itís certainly not difficult Ė itís even quite fun and therapeutic - and the reward at the end of that two minutes is always bright, shiny, sparkling, pristine wheels which are as clean as when you last cleaned them laboriously with brushes.  By keeping the garden hose close to where your car is parked at home, you can turn this simple habit of maintenance into quite an efficient, painless and enjoyable operation.

Hosing the wheels for two minutes, twice a week, equates to a total of about 3.5 hours work per year.  Although it might seem like an inconvenience to do this, the advantage is that the wheels are always clean.  You could have last cleaned the wheels properly by hand two years ago with brushes, but if you keep hosing them twice per week, theyíll remain perpetually clean, day-in, day-out.  By following this method, you can save yourself a minimum of 11 hours per year spent cleaning the wheels laboriously by hand with brushes.



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Copyright 2016 Andrew Mackinnon.  All rights reserved.