If you let brake dust settle on your wheels for long periods, the dust can eat on the coating of your tires and cause pits to form in the metal. Brake dust is composed of carbon fibers and adhesive that comes from the brake pad and small metal shavings that come from the rotor. The friction and heat that comes from the wheels makes the mixture corrosive and can ruin your tires. Since you likely drive every day, you’re constantly creating more brake dust. Cleaning your tires frequently is the best way to keep your wheels safe. Here are some steps you can take to successfully detail your tires.
When you wash your car, make sure you clean the tires and wheels first to prevent grime or overspray from splashing into panels that are already clean. If you use soap and water to clean your tires, use a separate solution and rinse bucket and brush with soft bristles.
Select a cleaner that is designed for the type of wheels on your vehicle. Chrome and roughcast aluminum will tolerate stronger cleansers than wheels that are painted, coated or anodized. The cleaner will state the materials it is designed for on the label, so check for this when shopping. If you’re not sure what material your wheels are made of, choose an all-purpose cleaner that is safe for all types of wheels.
It’s best to use a cleaner that also works on tires, especially if you’re pressed for time. A gel formula that clings to both the wheel and tire surface and cleans below the surface is ideal. These types of cleaners loosens brake dust that has seeped its way into small holes in the metal and into the rubber’s pores. If you use a brush to agitate the dust the cleaner will be even more effective.
If your wheels have brake dust that is caked on and you haven’t cleaned the wheels in months or even years, think about purchasing a more powerful cleaner for the wheels. A concentrated cleaner that is professional grade will forego butyl ethers caustic acids and other abrasive detergents that can damage your wheels. Concentrated cleaners will change colors when it dissolves the brake dust and can be diluted up to 1:3 with water so you can use it as a maintenance cleaner.
Brown tires on vehicles are also common; this happens when caustic degreasers are used for cleaning the wheels or when the wheels have been coated with tire gel. A tire and rubber rejuvenator is ideal for removing grease and browning from tires and gives your tires a rich, black finish. Tires contain rubber conditions, UV absorbers and antiozonants which keep the tires flexible. If you use the wrong cleaner will make these substances leach out of the tires, and this could result in discoloration, browning and cracking. Choose a cleaner that doesn’t contain acid and is non-caustic to prevent further harm to your tires.
Be sure to clean your wheels and tires one set at a time to keep the cleaner from drying on the surface, Wash and rinse with strong water jets before moving to the next tire.