Car Advice

How to clean wire spoke wheels

The tedious job of cleaning wire spoke wheels is not really that hard, if you follow these simple steps…

MODERN ALLOY WHEELS can be hard enough to clean (especially if left too long) however cleaning wire spoke wheels such as those on classic MGs and Austin Healeys can seem daunting. It’s an easy process though and while you’ll need to set aside at least half a day to do it properly, the results look outstanding.

We spoke to Peter who hangs out the back of The Healey Factory in Ringwood, Melbourne, and who cleans all of the cars which go through the showroom. Peter has years of experience detailing classic vehicles and talked us through it step by step.

Peter’s novel method of taking all the wheels off is a forklift

Preparation

If you’re serious about cleaning the wheels properly, they need to be removed from the car. Wheels left on a car will remain dirty on the backside no matter how hard you try. As the wheels should be cleaned one by one they can be removed and replaced on the car in such a manner if there’s only one jack and stand handy. If there are multiple stands or a hoist at hand, the process is a little quicker.

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The cleaning product used will depend on the type of wire spoke wheel – degreaser for chrome and Wheel Wizard (or similar) for polished alloy wheels.

What you need:

  • Gloves;
  • Safety goggles;
  • Rag;
  • High pressure washer;
  • Degreaser (chrome wheels only);
  • Wheel Wizard or similar cleaning product (polished alloy wheels, optional for chrome wheels); and
  • Wire spoke wheel cleaning brush (see pictured)
Peter’s wire wheel brush

Chrome wheels

With the wheels off the car, set the wheel upright, out of direct sunlight and on a surface which can safely collect the residual degreaser fluid. Apply degreaser all over and ensure both front and back has been well covered.

Allow 3-4 minutes to pass and then, wearing gloves, begin cleaning the wheel with the brush. This is a lengthy process and the longer that is spent on each spoke the better the end result. Don’t be so vigorous as to damage the wheel. Use the rag for any nooks the brush fails to clean.

Wire spoke wheels are tricky to clean, but be patient

Once the wheel has been scrubbed well, put on the safety goggles and hit it with a high pressure washer. Give it a good spray and be sure to concentrate on the tight weave in the centre of the wheel. Don’t use a hose, it will just leave a smeary mess on the wheels.

If the wheels were very dirty, consider repeating the process or, apply a coating of Wheel Wizard or similar wheel cleaning product and follow the instructions on the bottle (similar to steps above). Peter uses Wheel Wizard at The Healey Factory with great results.

Polished alloy wheels

With the wheels off the car, set the wheel upright, out of direct sunlight and on a surface which can safely collect the residual wheel cleaning fluid. Apply Wheel Wizard or similar wheel cleaning product all over and ensure both front and back has been well covered.

Allow 2 minutes to pass and then, wearing gloves, begin cleaning the wheel with the brush. This is a lengthy process and the longer that is spent on each spoke the better the end result. Don’t be so vigorous as to damage the wheel. Use the rag for any nooks the brush fails to clean.

Use a high pressure washer only, not a hose

Once the wheel has been scrubbed well, put on the safety goggles and hit it with the high pressure washer. Give it a good spray and be sure to concentrate on the tight weave in the centre of the wheel. Don’t use a hose, it will just leave a smeary mess on the wheels.

If the wheels were very dirty, apply another coating of cleaning product and repeat the process. Peter uses Wheel Wizard at The Healey Factory with great result.


Alex Rae

Alex Rae

Alex Rae grew up among some of the great stages of Targa Tasmania, an event that sparked his passion for all things mechanical. Currently living across Bass Strait in Melbourne, Alex has worked for the last decade in the automotive world as both a photographer and journalist, and is now a freelancer for various publications. When not driving for work Alex can be found tinkering in the shed on of one his project Zeds or planning his next gravel rally car.