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How to treat surface corrosion on aluminum alloy wheels

Updated November 21, 2016

Alloy wheels, or rims, incorporate an aluminium or magnesium compound offering a lighter weight and better heat conduction than steel. Lighter wheels improve handling and fuel consumption, and better heat conduction reduces the risk of brake failures resulting from overheating. The manufacturing process allows for alloy wheels to have intricate design work that make them more aesthetically pleasing then steel. Though the bare metal finish has a sealant coating to protect the alloy, weather, road conditions and salt all contribute to wheel corrosion. Left untreated, the finish can tarnish and fade, and the wheel itself can become damaged to the point that the tire can lose air pressure.

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  1. Hose off the tire and wheel to remove any salt, dirt or other surface road debris.

  2. Coat the tire walls in a specifically designed foaming tire cleaner. Allow the foam to set up to five minutes, depending on the amount of cleaning required.

  3. Scrub the tire walls with a coarse-bristle nylon brush. Rinse both the tires and wheels.

  4. Apply a nonabrasive alloy wheel cleaner to the entire wheel, and allow it to set for up to five minutes.

  5. Scrub the wheel with your course-bristle nylon brush again. Clean around lug nuts and other hard-to-reach areas with a firm-bristle toothbrush.

  6. Pour a cola soft drink over crinkled aluminium foil, and use it to scrub away any rust spots that remain after cleaning.

  7. Rinse the tires and wheels again, removing any trace amounts of cleaning solution.

  8. Dry the wheels completely with a chamois cloth.

  9. Wait at least 30, minutes then apply an alloy wheel wax. Do not allow the wax to dry completely to the wheel.

  10. Buff off the wax using either a dry chamois cloth or an 18-volt cordless drill with a buffer attachment.

  11. Tip

    To help prevent against corrosion, rinse road salt off tires and wheels as soon as possible.


    Do not use steel wool or brushes to clean alloy wheels. These materials can scratch and damage the finish, leaving the wheel vulnerable to corrosion.

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Things You'll Need

  • Water hose
  • Foaming tire cleaner
  • Course-bristle nylon brush
  • Nonabrasive alloy wheel cleaner
  • Firm-bristle toothbrush
  • Aluminium foil
  • Cola
  • Chamois cloth
  • Alloy wheel wax
  • 18-volt cordless drill
  • Buffer drill attachment

About the Author

Katrina Arthurs

Katrina Arthurs began her writing career in 1999. She served as a columnist for the "Edgewood News Herald" then as a reporter and production manager for the "KC Conservative." Arthurs is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in criminal justice at the University of Central Missouri.

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