Alloy wheels are strong, stylish, and save weight, but their open-spoke design and contoured surfaces make them a magnet for brake dust and road grime. A number of spray-on products promise to make it easy to keep the wheels clean—an assertion we had to test. But nothing comes easy: We found that elbow grease is often needed and top-dollar doesn't always buy the best cleaning solution.
Alloy wheels have become nearly ubiquitous in recent years, both from the factory and aftermarket. These wheels aren't cheap, so there is incentive to take care of them—especially here in the northeast with abusive winter months when salt can lead to pitting and corrosion that can cause permanent damage. Plus, sparkling clean wheels can dress up a car, just as much as brake-dust-covered wheels can tarnish the overall appearance.
Many spray-on cleaners claim to work with little or no scrubbing, and some even boast that all you need to do for shiny wheels is to spray them on and hose them off.
Consumer Reports recently tested five such products, and found, as the saying goes, that your results may vary.
The Armor All Extreme Wheel & Tire Cleaner, Eagle One A2Z All Wheel & Tire Cleaner, Meguiars Hot Rims All Wheel & Tire Cleaner, Mothers Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner, and Black Magic Foaming All Wheel Cleaner sprays cost us between $4 and $7. These products have enough to typically clean all four wheels (and tires) three or four times. And all promise to put a shine on your rims without much fuss.
But after trying them on 20 different employees cars selected from our parking lot with wheels in varying states of grunginess, we found none worked as easily as advertised; all required some scrubbing with a brush to be truly effective.
And we found one general-purpose cleaner worked just as well for a fraction of the cost. Check out the video and full wheel cleaner report to see how we tested and what we found.