Keeping your BMW aluminum alloy wheels clean is a dirty but necessary job. This is especially true during the winter months when many places in the country use salt treatment on the roads to deal with the snow and ice. The most common grime thrown on your BMW wheels, however, is the brake dust from your own car. This brake dust, if left on too long, can damage the clear coat on the wheels.
A drive-through carwash may be the easiest option to clean your car and wheels. Unfortunately, these do not do a very thorough job on the wheels. If you are someone who doesn’t mind washing your own car by hand, I recommend a specific wheel cleaner to help loosen, remove the grime and protect your wheels. There are many choices of wheel cleaners, but below are some of the ones we have used to keep our BMWs clean.
How To Apply The Cleaning Solution
Though their instructions on the bottle may differ slightly, the overall philosophy for their application is the same. First and foremost, wheels should be cool to the touch, and not in direct sunlight. Shake the bottle of wheel cleaner before use, and apply liberally from a short distance. Let the wheel cleaner soak in for 3-4 minutes.
Next, wash off the wheel cleaner. Many wheel cleaners imply you can simply spray water on it to remove it. While you can do this, I find a dedicated wheel sponge or brush will do a much better job, especially if you have a really dirty wheel. If you’re seriously OCD, let your wheels dry and then apply Wheel Wax to coat the wheel’s surface so the dust is less likely to stick to the wheels. I try to use Wheel Wax at least once a year for my wheels.
This wheel cleaner changes color after you spray it on, so it helps knowing how long to let it work before using a brush or sponge to help finish the job and spray it off. It usually runs $10-12 for a 16oz bottle. The telltale change in color during the cleaning makes me believe that this OEM Wheel Cleaner is provided by Sonax.
Sonax is a German company that makes a whole host of detailing products for your BMW from exterior to interior, and even wheels. The telltale feature is that it changes color as it activates. You can’t go wrong with Sonax and it is made in Germany as well.
Meguiar’s advertises that they are the number one selling wheel cleaning brand. No idea if this is true, but these guys make great automotive detailing products. Meguiar’s is also super easy to find at your local auto parts store. They sell four different types of wheel cleaners. I suggest their all-wheel cleaner as it is safe on all types of wheels in case you are not sure what your particular wheels are made of. The iron deposits on the wheel will activate the cleaner and it also changes colors to a dark purple letting you know it’s ready to be rinsed off.
Chemical Guys makes some great detailing videos and they also sell some great detailing products. Their choices of products can be overwhelming and they tend to be mission specific. The Signature Series Wheel Cleaner is listed as safe for most types of wheels and runs $15 for 16oz (475ml).
Another readily available wheel cleaner is Armor All. They sell five different products for wheels. I recommend their Quicksilver Wheel and Tire Cleaner. Advertised as a spray-on hose off wheel cleaner, I find it does a good job and is not a particularly expensive product. It runs about $20 for 700 ml.
BMW installs cast aluminum wheels that have been polished and clear-coated. Also, they recently announced the transition to sustainably produced aluminum wheels in 2024. Using our tips above will help you keep your BMW wheels in great shape avoiding damaging pitting and staining from brake dust.
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