First of all, it helps to know what you’re cleaning and polishing. Chrome is a very soft metal and it’s used to coat other metals because of its attractive finish. But you’ll never see anything made entirely of chromium because it just wouldn’t hold up well. However, because chrome is relatively soft, it responds very well to polishing. Some elbow grease will be rewarded with incredibly shiny, reflective chrome wheels (or exhaust tips, trim, and any other chrome surface).
Brake dust! The high heat and friction that is generated by the braking makes this combination highly corrosive and damaging to chrome! Because most cars are driven every day, more brake dust is constantly being made and can build up quickly. Frequent cleaning is the only way to keep your wheels clean and free from cosmetic issues. Chrome is a soft metal. Brake dust can and will pit chrome and penetrate the wheel finish very quickly! They must be kept clean and protected in order to maintain their finish.
NOTE: There are a lot of myths about ways to clean your chrome wheels, the tried and true method is simply using a gentle soap and water combination. Wheel clean products can eat through the chrome and other products such as Windex can cause a light static charge that can attract more brake dust. Be sure to follow up your cleaning with a polish to make future cleaning is even easier!)
Choosing a metal polish for chrome is interesting. Chrome wheels technically are coated but they’re coated with metal. It’s not quite the same as being coated with clear coat or paint. Chrome is a tougher material than clear coat. Many metal polishes that can be used on aluminum or steel can also be used on chrome. It’s just a matter of reading the label to determine if a product is safe on chrome.
Chrome can tarnish and rust, unlike clear coated alloy, so selecting a polish that is designed to remove oxidation is key.
For the best results, apply metal polishes to the wheels with a polishing tool, such as a Detailing Ball. It will give you the consistent speed and power needed to effectively polish wheels.
Once your chrome wheels are clean and dry, apply a quality wheel protectant (Wheel Wax or Wheel Sealant) to seal the wheel surface. These products work just like car wax. Apply them with an applicator pad and then buff the wheel. They keep your wheels looking shiny, and they prevent brake dust adhesion. These products dry clear, like a wax, so they will not diminish the shine of chrome wheels. Your wheels look cleaner longer. You have to reapply these products weekly, but it’s better than scrubbing your wheels every two days. The good news is, if you use a wheel wax as recommended, water is the only thing you need to clean your wheels between waxing sessions.
Following these steps will not only keep your chrome wheels looking great, but will help keep your wheels covered under Warranty!