Mirrors of the soul

To my way of thinking the condition of a car is a very good reflection on the mindset of the owner. The two parts of the car that are the greatest indicators of this are the interior and the rims.

Although this post is about rims I’ll diverge here for a moment to talk about the condition of a car’s interior. Many a time, when I have been interviewing a prospective employee I’ll finish the interview by walking them to their car. What I am interested in is the condition in which it is maintained. It doesn’t have to be spotless but if the interior is filled with fast food wrappers, paper, dirt, junk and so on it reflects in my mind that the owner has little respect for their property. Chances are, that respect will also not be forth coming when it comes to employment. Of course, this little observation is only part of evaluation of any employment candidate, but believe me, it is a very good indicator into the mindset of the individual in my experience.

Apart from the condition of the interior of a car to me the next most telling aspect of owner’s mindset is the condition of their rims. Many times while in traffic I find my gaze straying to inspecting the rims on the car next to me. I can’t tell you the number of times I simply cringe at what I see on all sorts of cars.

Many such rims have never ever been anywhere detergent, a sponge, wash mit or a brush. This immediately says to me that owner doesn’t care about their purchase. Sure, everyone is not a car enthusiast, but cars aren’t cheap, so keeping them in reason nick is a good idea? No? One would think that it helps with the trade-in or resale value? No?

The other problem with not regularly cleaning your rims is that the stuff that ends up on them is far harder to remove than normal road grim. This is because it is typically material from the brake pads and disc that is super hot when it initially attaches but when it cools down becomes very hard to shift. You should think of it much like allowing plaque to build up on your teeth.

If this build up continues, much like plaque, you get layers and layers of rock hard material that becomes virtually impossible to shift. Again, like plaque, you can’t see the damage that this is doing to your rims as it is being constantly caked on.

Long story short here, clean your rims regularly to remove all this this build up regularly. Of course you should always start with rinsing your rims down with water to remove any contaminates that you can. Of course, water alone is not going to shift much but it does provide lubrication for the next step which is using detergent.

Detergent is designed to loosen the contaminants from the surface and then the liquid in the mix floats those contaminants away. You can use a typical sponge or a stiff bristled brush to clean your rims but beware, you run the risk of scratching the surface if you use either.

I believe a better option is to use a lambs wool mit like you should on the rest of the car, however I would suggest that you should use a different one to any you clean your paintwork with. Why? Remember, brake pads and discs are made out of metal and small pieces end up on the rims, then in your lambs wool mit you clean it with. It can be very hard to full remove all these types of particles from your wash mit and even if they only scratch minutely, it will show up on the paintwork which is not what you want. So, if you can use totally different cleaning utensils (including buckets) when it comes to cleaning your rims, you should. I also like using a mit on the rims as it better allows you to get into all those nooks and crannies around the rim.

Another quick side note here. I once saw a Ferrari 458 (price around AU$500,000) at one of those cafe car washes. You know the places where you take your car, leave it to be washed by someone else while you have a cappuccino? Anyway, I saw the attendants cleaning the paintwork of the 458, then start cleaning the rims and then with the same sponge and bucket return to cleaning the paintwork. Noooooo…… Again, another very good reason not to take your pride and joy to a cafe car wash unless you want it covered with scratches and swirl marks!

So now you have washed your rims and they are clean? Yes? For most people, yes, the rims are clean. However for captain OCD here, there is more that can be done. if you want to go another step further you can purchase some Ferrous cleaner like so;


which I obtained from Car Car Products. This stuff is a lot more aggressive than your standard detergent because it will dissolve iron fallout from your rims. So be careful using it as it contains generally strong chemicals to remove all that nasty brake dust.


So here’s my nice clean rim after just detergent. However, if you spray the Ferrous cleaner on it and let it dwell, after a few minutes you rims will begin to look like:


Those purple streaks are the Ferrous cleaner reacting with iron deposits on the rim and dissolving them.


What I then do just prior to rinsing, is to agitate the whole area using a brush to ensure good coverage.

So even though my rims are pretty clean anyway, you can see that using the Ferrous cleaner pulls off even more contaminants.

If you wanted to go another step further in cleaning your rims then you would use a clay bar to pull any more contaminants out. If you wanted to be really thorough (and had plenty of time) you’d actually take the wheel off and clean both sides as well as the callipers.

Having done all this then your rims should be gleaming but the problem is now they are going to get embedded contaminants again really quickly. Why? Because you have stripped off all the protection from the rims and taken it back to its base. What you need to do as a find step is apply some protectant to the rims to resist the build up of baked on grim.

For this job, I turn again to Permanon which you simply dilute in water and spray onto the surface you want to protect. Permanon has a much higher melting point than brake dust so that means it won’t allow any super hot particles to now bond to your rims.

Once the rims have been give a liberal coating of Permanon I wipe them down with a micro fibre towel and provide a nice finish. This is one thing I love about Permanon, it is so easy to easy ANYWHERE!

So there you have it. Lots and lots of words about doing something simple like cleaning your rims, but as I said before, I truly believe that the cleanliness of your rims is a real reflection on your respect for the investment you have made in your vehicle. At the very least simply WASH then. If you are an extreme OCD hobbyist detailer like me, you’ll want to invest in some Ferrous cleaner, clay bar and remove the wheels completely from the car to clean them.

Unfortunately, after all this hard work the rims are what gets dirty the quickest but if you have taken my advice above, then at least the next time you clean then it will be much quicker and easier.