Chrome wheels are a way to change your car’s mundane appearance into a highly-attractive, sporty look. Some high-end or luxury cars have chrome wheels installed at the factory while many other car owners have chrome wheels installed after their purchase.
While chrome wheels are a beautiful addition to your vehicle, they require careful maintenance to keep their shine and sparkle. If they aren’t properly cared for, your chrome wheels can corrode at the bead and valve stem, causing air leaks, develop pitting from corrosion, lose their shine, and even peel from the metal structure underneath.
Every other week, when you wash your car, you should carefully clean and treat the face of your chrome wheels. Every two to three months, or at least semi-annually, remove your wheels and completely clean the inside and outside surfaces.
Method 1 of 2: Clean the face of your chrome wheel
- Chrome wheel cleaner
- Chrome wheel polish
- Dish soap
- Microfiber cloth
- Warm water
Step 1: Scrub your wheels with soap and water. Wash your wheels as a first step to help prepare them to be cleaned.
Put a gallon of warm water in a bucket with a tablespoon of dish soap. Wet your sponge in the soapy water, then scrub the face of your chrome wheels, one at a time. Get in between the wheel spokes with the sponge, getting any dirt off your wheels that you can.
Don’t worry about stains on the chrome or tough, stuck-on spots at this point.
Step 2: Rinse your wheels with clean water. You can use a garden hose or pressure washer, or simply a bucket of clean water splashed on the wheel.
Step 3: Let your wheels dry. It won’t take long for your wheels to dry on their own, or you can use a rag to wipe them dry.
Step 4: Apply chrome wheel cleaner to your wheel face. Spray the wheel cleaner directly onto your wheel, making sure not to get the cleaner onto your car’s paint.
Let the chrome wheel cleaner solution sit on the wheel surface for 30-60 seconds to break up tough dirt, then rinse off with clean water. Wipe the face of the wheel dry with a microfiber cloth.
Step 5: Apply chrome wheel polish to the clean chrome wheel. An easy wipe-on, wipe-off polish will do.
Pick up a small, coin-sized spot of chrome polish on a microfiber cloth with your finger. Wipe the chrome polish onto your wheel, spreading it evenly over the whole surface. You’ll need to get more polish from your container 3-4 times per wheel.
Let the chrome polish dry to a powder. Test it by swiping your finger across the polish. If it comes off as a powder, it’s ready to be wiped off. If it smears, let it dry another 5 minutes and test again.
Step 6: Wipe off the polish. Wipe the dried polish off your chrome wheel with a clean microfiber cloth to reveal a sparkling, clean finish.
Method 2 of 2: Perform a thorough wheel cleaning every 2-3 months
To thoroughly clean your chrome wheels, remove them from your vehicle so you can access the inner rim contour, the inner wheel bead, and the inside of the wheel spokes. Unless you have four axle stands, you’ll need to clean your wheels one at a time.
- Chrome wheel liquid polish
- Chrome polishing attachment
- Microfiber cloths
- Polishing cone attachment
- Power drill
Step 1: Clean your wheel as above. Clean and dry your wheel with soap and water, then dry the wheel.
Step 2: Polish the face of the wheel. Lay your wheel flat on the ground with the face of the wheel facing upwards.
You’re going to polish the face of the wheel first. Apply a 4-6 inch line of liquid chrome polish to the wheel. Spread the polish over the whole wheel quickly with a cloth.
Step 3: Assemble your drill with the polishing attachment. A medium-sized ball-style attachment is best as it can fit between the spokes of most wheels and is a manageable size.
Step 4: Polish the wheel. With your power drill equipped with the polishing ball, turn the drill on medium speed, then pass the polishing attachment over the wet polish.
Use light to moderate pressure, using the drill’s speed to do most of the work. Work the polisher over the whole wheel face including between the spokes. When all the polish has been removed from the wheel or is dry, stop polishing.
Step 5: Examine polish for unevenness. Check your polish to see if there are still inconsistencies or dull spots.
Repeat step 4 to polish your chrome wheels to an even more brilliant shine. You no longer need to repeat the polishing if there is no visible improvement after polishing again.
Step 6: Polish the lug nut holes with the cone polisher. Switch the attachment on your drill to the cone polish tool.
Apply a small spot of polish inside each lug nut hole. Turn the drill on medium speed, then ream the inside of each lug nut hole with the cone tool.
Continue until the polish is gone or dried, then repeat for each lug nut hole.
Step 7: Flip the wheel over. Flip the wheel over so the wheel face is now down.
Place a sheet of cardboard or a blanket underneath if the chrome wheel face could contact the ground.
Step 8: Apply polish to the inside of the wheel. Apply liquid chrome polish to the inside rim contour, the flat inner wheel tub, and the back of the spokes.
Spread the polish over the whole surface with a cloth.
Step 9: Insert the ball-style polishing attachment into the power drill. You can use the polishing ball for the whole inner wheel cleanup.
Step 10: Use the drill to polish. Turn the drill on medium speed and apply light to moderate pressure to the wet polish.
Work the polisher over the whole inner wheel surface until the polish is dried or has been removed. Polish the back of the wheel spokes as well.
The inner wheel areas may not be visible but the polishing procedure will completely remove corrosion that can cause the chrome to peel.
Step 11: Reinstall the wheels on your vehicle. Put your wheels back onto your vehicle.
Cleaning your chrome wheels is a vital part of preserving the longevity of the chrome and keeping it in top shape. If you notice any unusual noises coming from your wheels after you have finished the job, be sure to have one of YourMechanic’s certified technicians take a look and help keep your wheels in top condition.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Make Chrome Wheels Shine and was authored by Jason Unrau.