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Maximize tire and rim cleaning

October 11, 2010
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Look at that freshly washed car roll off the conveyor. The paint is glossy and shiny, the windows are sparking and clean, and as people walk by they can see their own reflection.

Now look down at the tires and rims. The tires still look old and used, and the rims are covered with brake dust and dirt.

With the car aftermarket industry bigger than ever, many consumers are spending more on their wheels and tires than their entire car, making this aspect of washing more important than ever.

Make them sparkle
There are five main aspects to making sure rims and tires come off a conveyor looking clean and new:

  1. Solution application;
  2. Dwell time;
  3. Brushes;
  4. Water pressure; and
  5. Movement of the water.

Each step has an equal importance in the process, and each must be done correctly for a car to look its best.

1) Solution application
The solution application is the first step in getting rims and tires clean. No matter what kind of solution your wash chooses to use, applying the cleaning solution to a dry rim and tire is the most effective way.

Try to avoid using harsh chemicals like hydrochloric acid when cleaning rims and tires since there are now safer products available and acids can damage the vehicle.

According to Tim Taylor, owner of Tim’s Car Wash & Detail Shop in Canonsburg, PA, and inventor of a wheel cleaning technology called “The Cobra System,” there is a high liability issue at hand and it can be dangerous to use hydrofluoric acid.

Using acid can also ruin your equipment as well as the customer’s rims.

Nothing looks worse on a shiny black tire or chrome rim than a big dirt spot right in the middle.

So make sure the machine your wash uses applies the cleaning solution to the entire rim and tire so that all of it is covered. This ensures that all brake dust and road dirt is loosened during the wash.

Keep in mind that your machine may cover the entire rim and tire of a Geo Metro with 13-inch rims, but it also has to cover the Cadillac Escalade with 22-inch rims.

2) Dwell time
The dwell time is extremely important because it gives the chemicals that have been applied time to work.

According to Simoniz USA National Sales Manager John Kelliher, the longer the chemical sits on the wheel and tire, the more effective it is going to be.

The minimum the conveyor should allow is 10 feet of space for the tire and rim to soak. If the chemicals aren’t given at least that much time, they are not going to work as effectively.

Also, be careful that water from a presoak is not dripping down the car onto the rims during this time because the water will dilute the chemical.

3) Brushes
The brushing process occurs when all the dirty work is done. The brushes will scrub the wheels and tires, helping the chemical penetrate even deeper into the rim.

According to Kurt Greiner of Gold Rush Car Wash in Grass Valley, CA, using a hog’s hair prep brush is the most effective choice because it leaves fewer streaks than nylon.

If your wash uses a brush made of a material other than nylon, make sure that it will not damage the rims and make sure the brushes are long enough to clean the inside of the rim, not just the exterior.

This part of the cleaning process is the last chance for the dirt and break dust to be loosened up before the water turns on, so all of the dirt needs to be ready to be washed away.

If the brushes don’t do their job, you are only wasting the water that is sprayed on, so make sure the brushes work properly.

4) Water pressure
Water pressure is a key component to getting the rims clean. Without proper water pressure, the dirt that the brushes and chemicals have loosened up will not come off the wheel.

Around 500 pounds per square inch (psi) will usually get the job done, but depending on your duration-time you may need up to 1,200 psi.

According to Taylor, the duration of time the water is being sprayed on is also important. To achieve the maximum cleaning and reach areas where the brush may not, the rim must receive ample spray time.

The longer the duration of water being applied to the wheel, the more dirt is going to be removed.

5) Movement of the water
According to Kelliher, the way the water is moving when coming out of the blasters will also influence the cleanliness of the rims and tires.

Water that is moving straight is not as effective as water that is moving in a circular pattern.

The circular pattern moves with the wheel and makes sure it is hitting the inside of the rim and tire, instead of just hitting the outside.

By ensuring that your wheel and tire cleaning process follows those simple steps, wash owners can now look at that same shiny car that rolled off the conveyor and say it looks brand new.

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