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Cleaning Your Wheels for Ceramic Coating

Everything you need to know about washing and preparing wheels for a ceramic coating. 

Dirty Wheels Look Bad

Wheels touch the ground. Every time you drive, that dirt gets up onto the wheel. And every time you hit the brakes, the wheels are showered in a fine metallic dust.

If you've ever seen a car on the street with wheels that have never been washed – completely coated black with grime and brake dust – you know that dirty wheels have a devastating effect on the look of a vehicle.

Keep Wheels Clean Longer

When wheels are clean – when the wheels, tires, and brakes are all fresh and sharp – it totally makes the look of the car or truck. Clean wheels are a great reason to look back and admire your car in a parking lot.

We love them when they’re clean, but they get dirty so quickly – especially on European cars and cars with performance brakes. How do we get them clean, and how do we keep them clean for longer?

The answer is: ceramic coating.

Ceramic Coatings Keep Wheels Clean Longer

Ceramic coatings create a semi-permanent hydrophobic layer that repels dirt and water. And when that layer is present on the wheel surface, it makes it so brake dust doesn’t readily stick on the wheel, and it makes it so the wheel washes clean much easier and much faster.

Doing a thorough clean – preparing the wheel so that it’s a perfectly clean surface – and applying a ceramic coating to the wheels – that’s the best way to keep wheels clean.

Watch the Complete Video Guide

The video shows what a ceramic coating is, how it works, how to prepare the surface for it, and gives tips to ensure you get the best, longest-lasting results from the ceramic coating you put on your wheels.

Preparing Wheel Surfaces Before Coating

The preparation and coating process is much easier with the wheels off the car.

Wheel cleaning before applying ceramic coating

  1. Fill a wash bucket with water and shampoo. Get your brushes and wash mitt ready on hand.
  2. Spray wheel cleaner onto the dry wheel.
  3. While the wheel cleaner chemicals are working on the dirt and grime, spray an all-purpose cleaner onto the rubber tire and scrub the sidewall clean.
  4. Agitate the wheel cleaner with brushes from your wash bucket. Completely wash the inner barrel and inner surfaces of the spokes, then rinse.
  5. Now that the superficial dirt has been washed away, spray an iron-removing wheel cleaner onto the wheel. Let it dwell for four or five minutes – long enough for the cleaner to dissolve the embedded iron contaminants. We prefer CarPro Iron X for this iron-removal stage. After the cleaner has done its work, agitate again with your brushes and shampoo solution, then rinse clean.
  6. Use a tar-removal like CarPro Tar X to dissolve and soften stuck-on specks of tar. For large globs of tar, you may need a plastic razor blade to scrape the tar off of the wheel. When the tar has been removed, brush the wheel with your soapy water again and rinse clean.
  7. Use detailing clay and clay lubricant to pick up lingering embedded contaminants from the surface of the wheel.
  8. If the wheels are showing discoloration or minor scratches in the clear coat, do a polishing stage on the wheel surfaces. Hand polishing will remove contaminants, and machine polishing will enhance the shine of the wheel's finish.
  9. CRITICAL STEP. Wipe all of the painted surfaces with a final prep solution. We used CarPro Eraser for this stage. The final prep wipe will remove old wax, chemical residues, and make the surface perfectly clean for the ceramic coating.

Applying the Ceramic Coating onto the Wheel

Start with the inner barrel of the wheel, then do the outer face of the wheel.

In the video above, we used CarPro CQuartz DLUX ceramic coating. This ceramic coating product is highly resistant to extreme temperatures, so it performs well on wheels even if they're hot from braking.

Application of ceramic coating onto wheels

To apply your ceramic coating onto the wheels: 

  1. Apply a few drops of the ceramic coating onto a sueded microfiber applicator. 
  2. Apply to all the painted surfaces of the wheel and rim. Use an overlapping criss-cross back-and-forth pattern to give even coverage across the surface.
  3. Once all areas are coated, then let sit for at a couple of minutes then lightly remove with a microfiber towel. Don’t apply too much pressure – just a gentle wiping motion is enough to remove excess coating, level out the high spots, and clear up any smears or streaks. 
  4. Before the coating has time to cure, closely inspect the surface with a bright light to ensure that you haven’t missed any areas.
  5. Allow the coating to cure, then flip the wheel over and repeat the application on the outer face of the wheel.

Tips for Best Ceramic Coating Application

Finished wheels cleaned and coated with ceramic coating

  1. Proper preparation is everything. PREP PREP PREP! We cannot emphasize that enough. Invest effort in getting the wheels perfectly clean before coating. This is the only way to get the best, longest-lasting results.
  2. Patience is a virtue. You should budget about one hour per wheel (if they are in decent condition) The wheels in the video above required multiple cleaning stages, including polishing, and took around two hours each to completely prepare and coat.
  3. Using a couple of different applicators for complete coverage. You can use an applicator on your fingertip for narrow spaces. You do not need to use a foam block all the time. This will help you get into hard-to-reach areas like lug bolt holes and around narrow spokes.
  4. Do not use strong wheels cleaners or acidic cleaners after the wheels have been coated. Harsh cleaners and chemicals will degrade the coating. Plus, you won’t need a strong wheel cleaner as long as you are doing regular maintenance washings.
  5. During a maintenance wash, just rinsing the wheels is not enough to clean them. Even with a ceramic coating, you'll need to hand wash with a mild wheel cleaner.
  6. Enjoy the look of your perfectly clean wheels!

Recommended Products for Wheels

Auto Obsessed is Canada's largest detailing supplier. We have selected this group of wheel cleaning products to make it easy for other detailing enthusiasts and professionals to get the best tools.

Browse these recommended detailing products for your wheel cleaning and ceramic coating projects:

Wheel Cleaning Products

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