(Author’ note:  This is Part III of a three-part series on Wheel and Tire Care.)

The theme of this three-part series on wheel and tire care is to take advantage of the opportunity of making your car look better with clean, well-maintained wheels and tires.  In Part I, we discussed the proper regular cleaning of wheels and tires, including which chemicals, brushes, and procedures to use.

In Part II, we discussed how to protect freshly-cleaned wheels from further build-up of brake dust and road grime through the use of one of Proje’s spray-and-wipe paint protection products.  We also talked about more permanent protection by applying a Proje ceramic coating product.  Finally, we discussed how to make the tires look “new” versus just “clean” by properly applying Proje Fusion Tire Dressing.

What about Problem Wheels

Perhaps you purchased a used vehicle that already has caked-on brake dust issues, or you are just now learning about the proper way to care for wheels, after months or years of innocent wheel “neglect”.  Well, fret not, there is hope!

The first step in reconditioning neglected wheels is to determine the extent of the problem.  This is simply done by performing a standard wash on the wheels, following the directions laid out in Part I of the series.  This involved misting Proje Redline Wheel Cleaner on cool, rinsed wheels, allowing it to dwell for a moment, and then using brushes like the Proje Wheel and Tire Brush to scrub the wheel surface.  Then, rinse off and see what you have left.

If there is still areas that have a brownish film or stain, or small dots of iron particles that you can feel with your fingertips, then we need to “bump it up a notch”!

Removing Heavy Brake Dust Build-up

Brownish film that will not come off the wheels with Proje Redline Wheel Cleaner may need a stronger chemical.  In this case, try Proje Heavy Duty Wheel and Tire Cleaner.  This product is designed specifically for wheels that need extra cleaning power.  It will also work well on tires that have a brownish layer that will not wash off.  It is not really for weekly or normal wheel cleaning, as it is a strong chemical.

When using Heavy Duty Wheel and Tire Cleaner, make sure to follow all the precautions of normal wheel cleaning, including making sure the wheels are cool to the touched and fully rinsed first.  You may also want to wear gloves when using this product.  Clean and rinse only one wheel at a time—you do not want to allow this cleaner to dry on the surface!

It is also recommended that the product be allowed to dwell on the surface for a minute or two—as long as it’s not drying up!—before scrubbing.  This dwell time will allow the product to break down or loosen the caked-on grime.  And, of course, after scrubbing, thoroughly rinse the wheel and tire.

Also recommended is following up with a Proje paint protection product like one of their spray-and-wipe quick detailer products.  It is important to note that Heavy Duty Wheel and Tire Cleaner, although excellent at cleaning, leaves the wheel surface “naked” to the elements, thus necessitating the follow-up protection.

Removing Iron Particles

Sometimes tiny iron particles come off of the brake components.  If not washed off regularly, these can rust into or etch into the painted wheel surface.  Those that have been left on the wheel for a long time will likely not come off with normal washing, and probably not even with Proje Heavy Duty Wheel Cleaner.

Instead, these particles can be removed with an iron-softening chemical like Decon Iron Remover.  This highly specialized cleaning product is designed solely for removing iron residue from vehicle surfaces.  The traditional method used by professional detailers was to utilize and acid-based wheel cleaner, which is quite dangerous to both the user and the vehicle, and requires very specific procedures to be followed to reduce such danger. 

We at Proje strongly discourage the use of acid-based wheel cleaners by anyone but trained detailing professionals.  Moreover, many detailing professionals have switched over completely to sulfur-based iron removers, which are much safer than any acid-based product.

Although Proje Decon Iron Remover is relatively safe, please thoroughly read the label instructions before using.  It is ph-neutral but still a strong cleaner with a strong sulfur odor.  Please use gloves and make sure your driveway is thoroughly wet with water before using.

The key to sulfur-based iron removal is dwell time.  When you spray Decon Iron Remover onto the wheel, you will immediately notice streaks of purple streaming down from any iron particles that are on the paint.  This is the normal reaction as the sulfur begins to neutralize the rusted particles and loosen them.  The purple means it’s working!

Allow the Decon Iron Remover to dwell as long as possible without drying, then scrub it with the Proje Wheel and Tire Brush.  Follow with a thorough rinse.  Several applications may be necessary to fully remove the iron.  When you spray the Decon Iron Remover and there is very little or no purple streams, you’re done!

Quickly clean the wheels one more time with Proje Redline Wheel and Tire Cleaner to neutralize and remove any leftover Decon Iron Remover, then rinse and protect the reconditioned wheels as necessary.

Using Proje Metal Polish, one can remove any leftover staining from up chrome-plated and uncoated aluminum wheels.  This will also bring out the shine on these bare metal surfaces.

Worst Case Scenario

If, after trying all of the above wheel cleaning methods, your wheels do not become significantly cleaner, they may be beyond normal help.  You may have to take them to a professional detailer who can perform a “wheels off” reconditioning, that might include such activities as wet-sanding.  Or, the wheels may need a compete resurfacing job, where all of the crud and paint is removed with sandblasting and the wheels are re-painted or powder coated.


In this three-part series on Wheel and Tire Care, we have fully discussed the cleaning and protection of wheels and tires, which enhances the overall appearance of most any vehicle.