If you’re striving for a professional finish on any car, you’ve got to nail the wheels. If the wheels aren’t 100%, then it will affect the whole look of the car. However, not all wheels are the same. There are diamond-cut wheels, anodised wheels, chrome wheels, painted & lacquered wheels, and even split rims. All of these different types of wheels require slightly different treatment. This is to avoid damage the wheel and to preserve the amazing finish that each possesses. In this guide, I’ll be focussing on how to clean diamond cut wheels in the best way possible.
What Makes Diamond Cut Wheels Different?
The makeup of a diamond cut wheel is not the same as a standard alloy wheel. During the manufacturing process, first, the wheel is painted before being cured with heat – very similar to how paint is cured on a car. After the wheel is cured, the face is then machined using a lath. This machining is what gives the shiny alloy finish on the face of the wheel. Once machined, the wheel is then finished with acrylic lacquer.
The key component is the lacquer as this can corrode a lot more easily than other alloy wheel types. Damage to the lacquer, such as stone chips or curbing, can allow moisture in behind the lacquer causing a cloudy, and sometimes bubbly appearance.
Diamond cut wheels can be repaired by shaving off the top layer of the wheel, revealing a fresh layer of alloy. However, this is not an infinite solution because eventually, you’d get to a point when no more alloy can be removed. It’s also quite expensive, so it’s best to keep them in good condition to save the pennies.
Best Wheel Cleaner for Diamond Cut Wheels
The stand-out choice of wheel cleaner for diamond cut wheels has to be Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner. This wheel cleaner is acid-free and pH balanced which means it will be extra gentle on lacquer – reducing the risk of chemically damaging the wheels. It leaves an excellent finish, is quick and easy to use, and is overall a very solid wheel cleaner for diamond cut wheels.
Last update on 2020-10-31 at 10:16 via Amazon Product Advertising API
Do’s and Dont’s
1. Don’t use snow foams with colouring agents
Although they may look nice, some colouring agents can stain diamond cut wheels, ruining the crisp alloy finish you want to preserve.
Check out our Best Car Snow Foam article for more information on snow foams.
2. Don’t use acid or alkaline-based wheel cleaners
Acid/alkaline based wheel cleaners can cause ugly discolouration of the surface of diamond cut wheels. Ensure that you use wheel cleaner marked a pH neutral or pH balanced.
3. Do use a mild shampoo, rather than wheel soap
Diamond cut wheels are delicate, so a mild shampoo is more desirable as it won’t contain the harsher chemicals found in wheel shampoos. Wheel shampoos can be great on most alloy wheels as they contain strong cleaning agents designed to fight more stubborn contaminants, but in the case of diamond cut wheels, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
4. Do use a wheel wax or sealant
Caring for your alloys between washes is just as important as cleaning them. Like with car paintwork, it’s important to protect the wheels after a good wash. Not only does this act as a barrier between the wheel and the environment but it will also make your life easier in future washes.
PoorBoys Wheel Sealant is a fantastic wheel sealant that will help to care for diamond cut alloys between washes. It will help to increase the lifetime and condition of the wheels by protecting them from the environment.
Simply apply with a foam applicator pad, allow to cure, then buff off with a microfibre towel. This sealant will leave a shiny finish on your wheels as well as a protective layer that will last for months!
Last update on 2020-10-31 at 10:16 via Amazon Product Advertising API
How Should You Clean Diamond Cut Wheels?
Before we get into the cleaning process, the aim here is to clean the wheels without inflicting any damage to the lacquer. Whilst cleaning, remember that diamond cut wheels are coated in a clear coat, a layer that we want to keep intact to avoid any imperfections or staining on the wheel.
Due to the delicate nature of diamond cut wheels, you want to remove as much dirt as possible before making contact with the wheel.
To get started, spray the wheel with a stream of water from a hose or a power washer. This will remove any loose dirt, making the decontamination a lot more effective, and the wash stage a lot safer.
TIP: If the wheels are heavily soiled or heavy with road grime, you can soak the wheel in mild snow foam or traffic film remover to help to break down the dirt.
This is a good point to de-grease the tyre. De-greasing the tyre will help the tyre dressing to bond with the rubber, and also prevent any browning discolouring of the rubber. Simply spray the tyre wall with some wheel cleaner, and agitate the dirt with a stiff bristled tyre brush.
Make sure that the tyre is thoroughly rinsed before moving onto the next step.
Brake dust is one of the most abrasive contaminants you will find on a dirty car. It’s essentially an accumulation of extremely fine metal shavings, produced by the brakes.
If not dealt with correctly, the abrasive properties of iron contaminants (such as brake dust) can scratch the lacquer on diamond cut wheels. With this in mind, you want to get rid of the brake dust before making any contact with the wheels.
Iron fallout remover is great for breaking down iron particles without the need for much intervention. Simply spray the face of the wheels with the product and watch it turn purple. The colour change is caused by the product reacting with the iron particles – it gives you a good idea of how contaminated your wheels are!
Once the iron fallout remover has done its job, rinse the wheels completely before moving onto the next step.
TIP: By rinsing the wheels after each stage you’re ensuring no cross-contamination between stages meaning that chemicals do not mix and dirt is carried away at each stage of the wash.
For cleaning wheels, you’d usually want to use a wheel soap as they contain stronger cleaning agents designed to fight more stubborn contaminants found on wheels. However, due to the delicate nature of diamond cut wheels, you should substitute the wheel soap for a mild shampoo.
Now fill a bucket with water and mix in some mild shampoo.
If the wheels are very dirty, a few sprays of wheel cleaner inside the wheel and on the face of the wheel will help you out in the next part of the wash. Remember that you should only ever use pH neutral wheel cleaners on diamond cut wheels to avoid discolouration and nasty stains.
First, we will focus on the inside of the wheel. Take your long wheel brush, dunk it in the bucket of shampoo and proceed to work your way between the spokes, focussing on the inside of the wheel.
Once you’ve finished with the inside of the wheel, take your exterior wheel brush and start working your way across the face of the wheel. Let the brush do the work, as pressing too hard will only increase the risk of damaging the wheel.
TIP: When cleaning wheels, work from top to bottom as you don’t want the dirty suds & water running over areas you have already cleaned!
Again, fully rinse the wheels before moving onto the next step.
For this stage, take a microfibre cloth and dry the wheels, removing all water from the face of the wheel.
You should use a cloth that you’ve dedicated for use on the wheels. Do not use the same cloth on the paintwork as this will introduce abrasive iron particles to the paint, causing nasty scratches.
Although it’s not essential, some avid detailers will use an air blower to clear water from the wheels as they’re really good at getting water out of the places a cloth can’t reach, like small crevices and wheel nuts. Also, diamond cut wheels tend to have sharp, complex edges so drying with a cloth can be tricky!
Be sure to dry the tyre wall too, and remove any water from the gap between tire and wheel. A dry tyre will help the tyre dressing bond with the rubber.
Like paint, diamond cut wheels benefit massively from a coat of wheel wax or sealant. This will add a sacrificial layer of protection between the environment and the wheel lacquer.
Once the wheels are dry, check that the surface of the wheel is smooth before applying the wax/sealant. Apply with an applicator pad before buffing with a clean microfibre cloth.
If the surface of the wheel is not smooth you may want to clay the wheel with a clay bar and lubricant to remove any embedded contaminants.
Apply the tyre gel to the applicator pad. To start with you may need to apply slightly more, especially if its a fresh pad. Create four equidistant spots around the tyre with the applicator pad to spread the product evenly around the tyre.
Next, work the product into the tyre walls, making multiple passes if need be. It’s up to you how many layers you want to apply, as this will determine the finish that you want.
For a glossy finish, you may want to apply a few layers of gel. The more layers the wetter the finish.
For a satin finish, apply fewer layers for a dryer look. Afterwards, wipe down the tyre with an old microfibre cloth to remove any excess tyre gel.
Check out our Best Tyre Dressing 2019 article to guarantee a professional finish on your wheels!