Alloy rims: Foam cannon, clay bar cleaning and ceramic treatment


After writing a quick article on car cleaning, I focus on the cleaning of aluminium rims. Let’s take a closer look at this activity of car detailing.

If there’s one step I was apprehensive about, it’s this one:

  • You rarely have all four wheels taken apart at the same time, unless you’re swapping between summer and winter games;
  • Allowing yourself to remove the wheels and take hours / days to clean them is the guarantee to immobilize your vehicle;
  • The steps are sometimes (often?…) laborious because the rims are very dirty and exotic shapes, full of nooks and crannies;
  • We must find a good position to work, otherwise our back will quickly remind us how delicate it is.

Are you still here? Then everything’s fine. Below is the result I obtained on rims of almost 5 years and 100’000 km.

Details of the process

Disassembly (and at the end, reassembly)

As obvious as it sounds, you have to take the wheels off. In principle, it’s very simple, but I recommend you to buy the 2 tools below:

  • Torque wrench: To tighten the bolts without overtightening them, the wrench is adjustable so you don’t overtighten the bolts and lock them for the next disassembly;
  • Rupture bar / Socket wrench handle: First advantage, this tool includes 17-19-21 mm sockets and a 12.5 cm extension. Second advantage, by using a very long handle, you have much more strength to loosen your bolts;
  • 2 ton hydraulic crack: Simply because the original vehicle cracks are just really zero … This is indispensable;
  • Stands: To safely install the vehicle if you are working with a pair of wheels.


The first cleaning consists of removing most of the dirt and other contaminants: brake dust, bitumen, road film and other splashes.

Since we’re going to do a second cleaning, I went to the barber with a Kärcher K5, a foam cannon and Meguiar’s foam gun shampoo.

The big advantage of Meguair’s shampoo is its neutral pH, which will not attack protective layers such as wax or ceramic.

Nothing could be simpler:

  • Dilute the shampoo in the cannon tank 1:5 with warm water;
  • Connect the foam cannon to the Kärcher lance;
  • Set the foam to maximum and spray the rims, making sure they are well seated.


This step will obviously not be enough to clean everything thoroughly, but for regular maintenance it will be more than enough. Note how the powerful Kärcher jet could only slightly clean the interior. This is a sign of a thorough cleaning to come. Be patient!

Cleaning “thoroughly”

For this step, I used directly rim cleaner with brush and clay bar. Remember to wear nitrile gloves to protect your hands.

  1. Spray the rims with the rim cleaner: respect the application time, from 30 seconds to a few minutes!
  2. Scrub again and again with the brush to loosen the larger parts;
  3. To remove the smallest residues / contaminants, form a disc with the clay bar and spray the rims again with the rim cleaner before rubbing again and again (and yes… no big secret);
  4. If necessary, rinse with clean water and spray again.

To clean “old” rims like mine, I used a generic Chinese clay bar instead of a Meguiar’s: And I regretted: it sticks, is difficult to shape and so on.

Beyond the fact that this cleaning is very dirty, I highly recommend the use of nitrile gloves despite limited availability in this period of COVID-19.

Ceramic treatment

After so much effort and patience, you will be able to work on a perfectly clean and smooth surface.

Never carry out a ceramic treatment, whether on rims or bodywork, if the surface is not perfectly clean and smooth!

While a wax simply creates a film on top of the varnish, the ceramic will react with the varnish and harden. Again, working on a dirty surface will at best not stick or at worst trap the dirt underneath for a while.

Scrupulously follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, usually this is done by applying a few drops on a small wipe, rubbing the surface and wipe off after 30-60 seconds. Nothing could be simpler, when the work has been prepared thoroughly.

Caution: the microfibre used to wipe off a ceramic treatment should be discarded afterwards as it will become a danger to your bodywork.


It’s the first time I’ve ever spent so much time pampering my rims, as much as I’ve always taken care of my vehicles, I’ve often overlooked the rims.

It’s obvious that waiting almost 5 years to make them has left wear marks, dents or very tough contaminants. To do it again, I would do all this process as soon as I buy new rims or a new vehicle.

The “low cost” ceramic treatment chosen does not seem to give a transcendental result, probably because it’s low cost but also because these are genuine Audi wheels that are already well protected. I’ll have to see if the Kärcher cleaning will be easier.

Post Author: Shut

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