Cleaning Your Vehicle: Tires and Wheels – Part 4

Most people overlook their tires when cleaning their vehicle. It is easy to forget them as you detail every other part of your car. I have to admit, most of the time I tell myself, “Why clean the tires, they’ll just get dirty again.” However, that is true of every part of my car. So, using that logic, I should never clean any part of my car–ever. Hmm, maybe I’m on to something. Of course I’m just kidding. Tires can make a big difference when you really want the car or truck to look great. For instance, if you are selling your car or are going on a date, you will want the tires to look and perform their best. Here are just a few ways to do just that.

Check the Tread

First, there are probably dozens, if not hundreds of different products you can use to clean your tires and make them shine. But before we get to that, I think it is wise to inspect your tires. This is a great time to make sure there are no foreign objects (like screws, nails, rocks, etc.) lodged in the tires and the wheel. Inspect the tread carefully, all around each tire. Carefully remove any rocks that have gotten wedged between the treads. This may seem like a small factor, but believe me, it makes a difference.

In addition, look for sharp objects like nails and screws. Sometimes a small screw or nail will get lodged in the tread – enough to stick, but not penetrate the tire and cause it to lose air. Unless you are completely comfortable with tires (you are a mechanic), I strongly advise that you do not remove the screw or sharp metal yourself. Take it to a tire shop. This is a good idea in case the tire starts leaking after you remove the object.

Check the Wheel

Make sure there are no foreign objects in or around the wheel area. Many people use the terms “wheel” and “tire” interchangeably. They are not the same. The wheel is the metal hub in the center, and the tire is the rubber that gets filled with air around the wheel. Be sure to check each wheel for any chips, dents, warping, or missing weights. When I say weights, I mean the small, crescent-shaped pieces of metal that clip onto the wheel. These are used to balance your tire.  Sometimes these weights can come loose and throw the tire off balance.

Tire Pressure

Another thing to check is the proper tire pressure. You can find the proper tire pressure for your vehicle in the owner’s manual. I have said it many times before, but the owner’s manual is extremely helpful. Tires usually have a maximum pressure written on them, but it is best to follow what is in the owner’s manual. The size and pressure of each tire is specified in the manual.

Cleaning the Tires

Okay, so you have thoroughly inspected your tires. Now for cleaning. I like to have a good, stiff brush with a comfortable handle when cleaning. I fill a bucket with warm, soapy (dish soap) water. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as you may remove any white painted lettering, if you have it. Rinse the tire and move to the wheel. You can also use a special tire cleaner like Armor All Wheel and Tire cleaner.

For wheels, it is good to have a smaller, less stiff brush to get into the curves and grooves. Make sure to follow the wheel manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning the wheels.


Finally, when the tire is dry, I like to use a tire polisher to make the tires nice and shiny.  There are many, many products to choose from. My suggestion is that you try the products that interest you and pick your favorite.

And that’s pretty much all there is to inspecting and cleaning your tires. Happy motoring!

Written by Gary Pradel