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  1. #1
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    Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    I've searched a read posts and have taken in as much information as possible in regards to wheel/tire cleaners. I am hoping to compile a bit more technical details in one thread.

    I am also curious what types of wheel cleaners and pH levels are safe for different variations of wheel finishes and perhaps whether or not they are protected with a sealant or coating.

    I'll start with two of my go-to wheel cleaners. One is a popular OTC and the other is relatively common "non-acid" wheel cleaner with directed dilution ratios.

    Meguiars D143 Non-Acid Wheel & Tire Cleaner - pH of 13.5
    From a post I found:
    "The d143 contains tetrasodium edta which is one component that harms bare and anodized aluminum. It also produces hydrogen gas when it contacts aluminum"

    Eagle 1 A2Z Wheel Cleaner - Alkaline base pH of 13.5


    Ultimately, I want to find what separates one wheel cleaner from another. The posts I dug up are a hit or miss, and I'm hoping for the experts to chime in and categorize all these different chemicals.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Calendyr's Avatar
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    Re: Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    The rule of thumb is, if you are working on bare metal (Aluminium, Magnesium, etc), you want to use a PH Neutral product.

    For painted wheels, you can use more agressive products both alkaline and acids.

    Acids do a much better job at removing the type of dirt on wheels, especially break dust.

    Auto Fanatic just came out with a new wheel cleaners that is PH Neutral but is super effective on break dust, I have not tried it yet but all the promo videos I have seen are very convincing. The product cost is a bit silly right now but if the guy can make some deals for distribution with large companies like PBMG or others, he will likelly be able to ramp up production and reduce the price of the product.

    As of right now, the most effective cleaner I have worked with is Meguiar's Wheel Brightener. This stuff is amazing but it's very toxic. So it's not something I would recommend to the general public. As detailers, we can take the necessary precautions when using it. From the Meguiar's forum, it's supposed to be a PH of 5.5, I guess it also depends on dilution. I normally use it 4:1

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  4. #3
    Senior Member briarpatch's Avatar
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    Re: Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Calendyr View Post
    The rule of thumb is, if you are working on bare metal (Aluminium, Magnesium, etc), you want to use a PH Neutral product.

    For painted wheels, you can use more agressive products both alkaline and acids.

    Acids do a much better job at removing the type of dirt on wheels, especially break dust.

    Auto Fanatic just came out with a new wheel cleaners that is PH Neutral but is super effective on break dust, I have not tried it yet but all the promo videos I have seen are very convincing. The product cost is a bit silly right now but if the guy can make some deals for distribution with large companies like PBMG or others, he will likelly be able to ramp up production and reduce the price of the product.

    As of right now, the most effective cleaner I have worked with is Meguiar's Wheel Brightener. This stuff is amazing but it's very toxic. So it's not something I would recommend to the general public. As detailers, we can take the necessary precautions when using it. Can't remember the PH level, but I am guessing probably around 2 depending on dilution ratio. .
    I've seen those same Auto Fanatic videos. His wheel cleaner, while it may seem over-priced, is designed to be diluted, and more cost effective. I've not had the need for a dedicated wheel cleaner in some time, as all the wheels on our vehicles are coated and clean up with soap and water. As I branch out into a side gig a little more, and work on some wheels that are not maintained, I may bite the bullet and see just how cost effective the Auto Fanatic stuff can be.

  5. #4
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    Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    MOST pH wheel cleaners(non iron removing) are ineffective on siloed wheels. Once wheels are deep cleaned, they are excellent to maintain with. The iron removing pH neutral cleaners tend to do very well on soiled wheels, as well as acidic and alkaline cleaners.


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    '03 Corvette Z06

  6. #5
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    Re: Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    Modern iron and fallout removers are the way to go. PH neutral and work very well for wheels and paint. Also no damage to surrounding areas such as brake components or anodized trim, such as running boards or wheel arch trim.

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  8. #6
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    Re: Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike lambert View Post
    Modern iron and fallout removers are the way to go. PH neutral and work very well for wheels and paint. Also no damage to surrounding areas such as brake components or anodized trim, such as running boards or wheel arch trim.
    Agreed. I'm trying one more alkaline wheel cleaner. P&S Brake Buster. Someone claimed the corrosion inhibitors prevent rust from forming on the caliper after rinsing. I won't be sold until I try. If it works, that would be awesome!
    '03 Corvette Z06

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    Senior Member Eldorado2k's Avatar
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    Re: Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    Quote Originally Posted by WRAPT C5Z06 View Post
    Agreed. I'm trying one more alkaline wheel cleaner. P&S Brake Buster. Someone claimed the corrosion inhibitors prevent rust from forming on the caliper after rinsing. I won't be sold until I try. If it works, that would be awesome!
    Ever try BriteMax Grimeout for cleaning wheels?

  10. #8
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    Re: Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldorado2k View Post
    Ever try BriteMax Grimeout for cleaning wheels?
    Yes, it’s fantastic for wheels and tires.


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    '03 Corvette Z06

  11. #9
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    How about...


    Pick a BRAND NAME you trust.

    For example - Meguiar's and Mother's both make VERY SAFE consumer products that I dare say are Bubba-Proof. As long as you MATCH the product to the SURFACE you probably can't get any more bubba-proof.



    Or do a ton of research and then pick something. It's just sometimes it's easier to KISS or Keep it Simple Simon.


    I recommend the SONAX wheel Cleaners. They are all Acid Free and safe on anything. I have un-coated aluminum mags on a streetrod or two in the garage right now for my class this weekend and we're using SONAX wheel cleaners.



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  13. #10
    Senior Member Calendyr's Avatar
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    Re: Deep talk about wheel cleaners - alkaline, acid, pH levels

    Quote Originally Posted by briarpatch View Post
    I've seen those same Auto Fanatic videos. His wheel cleaner, while it may seem over-priced, is designed to be diluted, and more cost effective. I've not had the need for a dedicated wheel cleaner in some time, as all the wheels on our vehicles are coated and clean up with soap and water. As I branch out into a side gig a little more, and work on some wheels that are not maintained, I may bite the bullet and see just how cost effective the Auto Fanatic stuff can be.
    Most products can be diluted. Let's do a direct comparisson:

    Wheel brightener from Meguiar's can be diluted up to 10 to 1, cost is 24,99$ per gallon but often comes on sale so I generally pay about 18,99$ per gallon.

    Auto fanatic wheel cleaner sells for 49,99$ for what looks like 32 onces and can be diluted up to 5:1

    So for light cleaning, a gallon of wheel brightener will yield 44 quarts of usable cleaner at 0,43$ per quart

    Auto fanatic's quart will yield 6 quarts of usable cleaner at 1.95$ per quart, or 4.5 times the price of wheel brightener.


    If you go to heavy concentration for trashed wheels:

    WB diluted 4:1 will yield 20 quarts of products at 0,95$ per quart

    AF diluted at 10.5:1 will yield 11.5 quarts at 4.3 times the price of WB.

    So... the only issue I see is the price. He needs to lower his price a lot for his product to be worth it. At twice the price of WB I would probably consider it. It is not as bad on your health and is less likelly to damage something, so there is value in that. But that value is not worth paying almost 4 times more.

    Also while I was researching this today I fell upon some videos of P&S Brake Buster that seems to have the same characteristics of Auto Fanatic's products at a fraction of the cost. BB is cheaper than WB, not sure about dilution but people in the videos say they are using it 5:1 to 10:1 so it's consistent with WB for dilution.

    I will be giving that product a try when I run out of wheel cleaner.

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