Wheels are key to a how a car looks. That’s why we like to invest in a set of alloys – but let them get dirty and it gives the whole car a second-rate appearance. Car wash and water will keep alloys clean and in good condition if done frequently, but to shift ground-in brake dust, you need a specialist cleaner.
In a bid to find the best we stepped up our test, assessing how much grime could be removed just with the cleaner and with light water pressure. Our usual brush test was also included, plus we took price into account.
Winner: Bilt-Hamber auto-wheel
Size: 1 litre
Bilt-Hamber is making a name for itself in our tests, and it can add the wheel cleaner crown to its trophy cabinet. This test debutant is also our first winner that can be used on all wheels – even those with delicate finishes. Just spray and leave the thickish cleaner to work and turn dark red. Then rinse away to leave just a few spots to take off with a mitt or sponge. You get plenty for your money with the big litre pack; just don’t stand too close as it smells of rotten eggs.
Comma Alloy Wheel Clean Kit
Comma has won our tests numerous times – alongside arch rival Wonder Wheels, which is just outside our top three. But this year, the Alloy Wheel Clean kit has to settle for a commendation as the new Bilt-Hamber is so good. Comma is ideal for those who like a kit as it contains not only a 500ml trigger pack, but also a cup, brush and latex gloves. Unlike our champion, it can only be used on sealed rims, although it needs to be left for just a minute before you work it with a brush. New tests showed it’s still a top buy, but auto-wheel had the edge.
Angelwax Original Formula Bilberry Wheel Cleaner
Angelwax gets a commendation on account of its great value. We tested the kit, which comes with a spare bottle to dilute the sweet-smelling formula two parts water, one part cleaner. It also contains a trigger and brush. You can save even more by buying the cleaner alone at £5.50 a litre. It performs well, and proves to be a cost-effective option diluted.
Wheel cleaner Q and A
My wheel nuts are dull with grey spots. Why is this? And how can I prevent it?
The grey spots and dullness appear as the nuts don’t have the protective clear coat the alloys do; they may have been cleaned with an aggressive formula, like those found at roadside handwash sites. To prevent this from happening, clean them with our top choice or remove them from the car and soak them overnight in soapy water.
I’ve used a wheel cleaner and my wheels get dirty really quickly. What can I do?
A wheel wax is the answer. Like a body wax, these give a protective coating that repels water and slows brake dust build-up. To ensure the wax bonds to the alloy – and is at its best – clay the wheels after washing to remove contaminants. If brake dust still returns quickly, get your pads checked; they could be wearing excessively.