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Cleaning & Maintaining Your Mustang's Aftermarket Wheels

Written By: Andrew Cilio

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Show everyone your style and personality by equipping your Mustang with a set of aftermarket wheels. A lot is said by what a person drives so make sure the statement you're making is one that represents who you are.

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There are stark differences between wheel finishes besides looks. Your local roads, weather, and how much time you have will determine which finish is best for you.

American Muscle

Basics of Aftermarket Wheel Care

  • The first rule in caring for any automotive wheels, regardless of finish, is keeping them clean. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when cleaning your wheels
  • Generally speaking, from week to week during your car wash cycle, it’s best to clean them with a soft brush, soap and/or mild degreaser or quality spray-on wheel cleaner
  • For best results, it is important to keep wheels clean, not allowing road film, contaminants and brake dust (which retain moisture) to accumulate and sit on the surface
  • Be careful in selecting wheel cleaning products—select products that are safe for the finish of your wheels
  • If you live in a harsh winter climate where salt and chemicals are used during the winter, regular cleaning is even more important
  • Avoid harsh or abrasive cleaners. Some cleaners are harsh and could damage your wheel finish
  • Also be aware that many car washes use strong chemicals to clean wheels and tires that could cause damage to your wheel finish or even your automotive paint
  • NEVER CLEAN HOT WHEELS, allow wheels to cool or cool them with running water
  • Another important step is to seal your Mustang's wheels with a sealant that will reduce static and resist brake dust
S197 with Painted Bullitt Wheels

Mustang Wheel Finishes

Most wheels have one of the following finishes:

  • Clear coated and/or painted
  • Chrome (applied to either aluminum alloy or steel)
  • Polished aluminum alloy (no protective coating)

Specific Types of Maintenance: To better understand the specific care and maintenance of your wheels, determine which finish applies to your wheels from the list above. After you figure out what finish applies to your wheels, go to the section below for suggestions and instructions for the detailing, care, and maintenance of your wheels.

Collection of Mustang Rims at the 2014 AM Show

Clear-Coated Mustang Wheels

  • Clear-coated wheels should require only soap or a quality wheel cleaner product, water and a soft brush
  • Once you have cleaned your clear coated wheels, a coat of hand-applied quality, non-carnauba, non-abrasive polymer sealant-quality wax will enhance resistance to brake dust and contaminants
  • Waxing works well and will save you cleaning time in the future
  • ALL chrome and replica wheels from AmericanMuscle have been clear-coated
New Edge Mustang with Chrome Wheels

Chrome Wheels

Aluminum or steel wheels plated with chrome are beautiful and can significantly change the appearance of your car or truck. If maintained, the chrome finish will produce a brilliant shine. To reflect light, which produces the attractive brilliant finish, the wheels must be cleaned regularly.

  • It’s best to clean them with a soft brush, soap and water
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • After cleaning your wheels do not allow soap, chemicals or water to sit on the surface and produce water spots
  • Dry your wheels with a soft, non-abrasive towel

Keep Your Mustang's Wheels Clean: As stated above, it is important to keep wheels clean, not allowing road film, contaminants and brake dust (which retain moisture) to accumulate and sit on the surface. If you live in a harsh winter climate where salt and chemicals are used during the winter, regular cleaning is even more important. 

Polish Your Chrome Wheels: Periodically, polish chrome wheels with some quality non-abrasive chrome polish. For best results and to reduce cleaning efforts in the future, after polishing and/or cleaning, apply wax to seal the surface—this should help avoid problems in the future and will reduce static so that your wheels are more resistant to brake dust.

Chrome Wheels with Billet Lugs

Polished Aluminum Mustang Wheels

Polished aluminum wheels are very popular, particularly with racing, off-road and hot rod enthusiasts, however, they do require more periodic maintenance than other finishes, depending upon the climate, road conditions and your vehicle car care practices in general

Polished aluminum wheels require the highest degree of maintenance and a certain amount of oxidation is to be expected as the wheels naturally oxidize with age. Polished wheels can be re-polished commercially or by hand after many years of use, effectively restoring them to an almost factory original condition.

  • When new, coat your polished wheels with a quality, hand-applied sealant wax. This coating will assist in preventative maintenance by resisting brake dust and other contaminants
  • When your polished aluminum wheels begin to lose their shine or are dirty with road film or brake dust, begin by cleaning them as instructed above
  • If you use a brush, be careful to avoid scratching the uncoated, polished aluminum alloy by using only a SOFT brush
  • Follow up by polishing them by hand with a quality metal or wheel polish.
  • After polishing, coat them with a top-quality wheel wax according to instructions. If they are in bad condition, this will take some time, and polishing wheels is never an easy task
S197 with Polished Wheels

Power Mini-Polisher: For faster and perhaps easier results, use a dremmel-type tool mini-polisher, with the correct polishing mini-pads. Just swab on some polish, then buff them with the polishing tool. Mini power tool polishers will clean up and polish your wheels quickly, saving time and producing a brilliant shine. 

Embedded Brake Dust: If your wheels have deeply embedded brake dust or other contaminants from lack of maintenance, you can try an aggressive spray-on wheel cleaner (be careful, some contain acid) with a brush, BUT DO NOT ALLOW IT TO SIT ON THE SURFACE AND ETCH THE POLISH SURFACE. Rinse your wheels thoroughly and dry with soft, non-abrasive cloth. Polished wheels look great, but do require regular maintenance.

Mustang Brake Dust Shield