Welcome to a new BMWBLOG series, this time on BMW Accessories, essentially stuff other than cars that BMW sells through the dealer to make ownership experience more rewarding. Seems innocuous enough, but we’re out to see if what BMW to sells works as advertised and whether it’s worth it.
BMW Wheel Cleaner Gel is part of Original BMW Care Products and one of those product that we didn’t know BMW is selling. Wheel cleaner makes cleaning wheels much quicker and tends to get the wheels intricate areas better. Sometimes, I use a car wash soap after washing my BMW. and while it works it is less effective, and you can spend a lot of effort just smearing the brake dust around.
In order to get a really clean wheel, the best way is to take off the wheel first. I only do this a few times a year, but when I am done, they look like new and time is well spent. A big caveat is that you apply this cleaner to a cooled off wheel. So you can forget using these stuff to get the brake dust of your M3 wheels when you come off a 25 minute hot lap session.
BMW recommends spraying the Wheel Cleaner directly on the wheel and letting sit for up to 5 minutes then you just rinse it off with water. Given that you cannot wash a car with water in some parts of California, this product might not be for you. We found that simply adding a little effort with a wheel cleaning brush yielded a much cleaner wheel and used far less cleaner gel in the process.
I figured the best way to test this was on an older BMW wheel, so I chose our 2005 330i ZHP as the experimental car. The front wheels had maximal brake dust exposure over the years with lots of difficult areas to clean. I liberally sprayed the BMW wheel cleaner gel on the wheels. As I prefer to scrub them off with a wheel cleaning brush, I didn’t give it the prescribed 5 minutes. This brush really helps with the narrow slots on my 18” ZHP wheels which can be a PITA to clean. I have tried the spray it on and off route but it leaves stubborn stuff behind, and seems to require a lot more wheel cleaner product. When scrubbing with the brush the wheel cleaner gets incredibly foamy, saponifying the caked on brake dust so it can be simply rinsed off.
However, we tried following the exact directions for the BMW Wheel Cleaner Gel. We made a video of it, hoping that perhaps it came out green and turned red as does Sonax Wheel Cleaner Gel. But there was no color show.
Waiting the prescribed 5 minutes seems like an eternity when one wants to get going on cleaning the car. Hosing the product off unleashed a torrent of foam off the wheels, a rather surprising effect. The foaming action seemed to lift away brake dust. When the wheel dried, it looked really good, though on close inspection it did reveal some areas where stubborn brake dust remained.
Comparing BMW’s current wheel cleaner to the last generation BMW Wheel Cleaner, there is a 446ml less volume and it’s gone from an old school spray bottle to one that fits much better in your hand and has a nice balance. We found that even though there was much less volume, the newer generation wheel cleaner took less to clean the wheel. An interesting change in the new wheel cleaner is that the directions went from being clearly labeled on the bottle to hidden on the inside of a peel back label. The new stuff really is gel-like and adheres to the wheel more than the previous wheel cleaner. Though BMW Wheel Cleaner Gel label says it’s spray on rinse off, we have found that for at least with BMW’s copious brake dust generating pads, some extra elbow grease is beneficial. We like to use a simple wheel cleaning brush which is about $5 at your local auto parts store.
When going to the trouble to remove the set of wheels, I like to throw some Wheel Wax on. I realize it’s not a BMW product but they don’t sell anything like it. Wheel Wax is advertised as keeping the brake dust from sticking as much, in addition it “cleans restores and protects” the wheel’s finish. It sells for $13-15 in an 8 ounces jar. It applies just like car wax and I find a jar to last about 12 sets of wheels. Apply a light coat on, let it dry to a haze and then buff off. In the interest of finding out Wheel Wax’s efficacy , I waxed the driver’s front wheel but left it off of the passenger front. A freshly waxed wheel beads water incredibly well compared to a non wheel waxed wheel. Look for an update in about a month to see how well the two sides compare.
BMWBLOG reached out to BMW North America to find out who makes the BMW Wheel Cleaner Gel, but they would not comment. Researching the web, however, most believe that it’s a relabeled bottle of Sonax Wheel Cleaner. Sonax is a Deutsch company located about 100 km from Munich. Sonax is also a major sponsor of BMW’s DTM race cars.
Looking at bottles, they look identical in shape and volume at 500ml. Beyond that appearance though, they do work differently. Sonax sprays on as green foam and turns red as dirt and grime are penetrated. The BMW Wheel Cleaner, however, has no such green and red color indicators but works equally as well. A big bonus is that BMW Wheel Cleaner is less than half the $15.99 Sonax’s cost.
BMWBLOG found the BMW Wheel Cleaner Gel to be a very effective wheel cleaner. It was in fact, among, the best we’ve had experience with. Given it’s reasonably priced at $6.95 for 500ml, and have a strong suspicion that it’s a Sonax product, we highly recommend it.