Best car wheel cleaner 2019

Wheels are tricky to clean, so a good formula is vital. Here are our favourites…

Wheels are among the toughest parts of a car to get clean, because they spend their lives in a harsh environment in which they’re bombarded with searingly hot iron dust from the brakes, as well as normal road grime. The easiest way to put the sparkle back in to your alloys is to use a specialist cleaner.

The best wheel cleaning products will loosen the baked-on grime to the point where it can just be blasted off with a pressure washer, leaving just a few marks to be shifted with a mitt or brush. Key here is how effective the formula is at loosening that grime.

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How we tested them

Our test focused on the cleaner, assessing its progress on a long-neglected wheel trim; each product was allowed to work as long as the instructions required before gentle rinsing. We then used a lightly weighted brush and assessed progress. 

Verdict

Bilt-Hamber takes the crown, although it was pushed hard by more than one of its competition. 

  • 1. Bilt Hamber auto-wheel
  • ReviewsBilt Hamber auto-wheel

    Price: Around £13
    Size: 1,000ml
    Rating: 5.0

    Bilt-Hamber was at the forefront of the red revolution that has swept through the wheel cleaner market. Its auto-wheel was one of the first products to use a formula that changes colour as it reacts with grime on your wheel. It has been tweaked over the years to reduce dwell times and tone down the unpleasant bad egg smell. But it remains at the top even though rivals have developed their own ‘red’ cleaners. They may now match auto wheel for cleaning power, but not the overall package, which includes a brush.

    Buy the Bilt Hamber auto-wheel cleaner from Amazon here

    Turtle Wax Redline Wheel Cleaner

    Price: £7
    Size: 500ml
    Rating: 4.5

    Last year, Turtle Wax’s All Wheel Cleaner made our top four; this time it’s the brand’s Redline. But as far as our test is concerned, the formula isn’t much different. It’s still a pH-neutral cleaner good for all surfaces, and it goes on in a thick gel that clings well. The spray is a bit narrow for optimum coverage, but Redline had the edge over our winner. Higher price and lack of a brush mean it’s recommended here. 

    Buy the Turtle Wax Redline wheel cleaner from Halfords here

    Wonder Wheels Colour Active Super Wheel Cleaner

    Price: Around £7 
    Size: 600ml
    Rating: 4.5

    Just as auto-wheel does now, the original Wonder Wheels made this test its own a decade or so ago. But the formula could only be used on certain surfaces, hence the introduction of this Colour Active version, which works on all wheel types, including chrome and anodised. Like the others here it changes colour as it works and has to be left a few minutes. And it’s effective, working best when it’s brushed.

    Buy the Wonder Wheels Colour Active wheel cleaner from Halfords here

    Auto Curators Flawless Cleanser

    Price: £26  
    Size: 1,000ml  
    Rating: 4.0

    Flawless Cleaner needs to be just sprayed on and left for only one or two minutes before being rinsed away, or agitated if there’s heavy soiling.

    It works well, too; it had the edge over the all-conquering Bilt-Hamber across our tests. So why only four stars? You might get a big litre bottle, but this isn’t enough to overcome that hefty £26 price tag. As Auto Curators says, it is “the finest indulgence in car care”.

    Buy the Auto Curators Flawless wheel cleaner from Amazon here

    E-TECH Pro Class Wheel Cleaner

    Price: Around £11  
    Size: 500ml  
    Rating: 4.0

    Wheel Cleaner is part of the Pro Class launch line-up covering most tasks, from polishing and protecting to cleaning. E-TECH says it uses the “very latest techniques”, so it’s a bit odd that this is an acid-based cleaner when most products in this sector are ‘red’ formulas that react with iron particles to loosen grime.

    The acid formula means it’s no good for anodised surfaces or rims with no or damaged lacquer. Wire wheels, chrome finishes and stainless steel are out, too. Still, it’s effective, and matched our winner across the tests. You also only have to leave it to work for around three minutes before rinsing off. However, poor value next to the Bilt-Hamber and those restrictions lose it a star.

    Buy the E-Tech Pro Class wheel cleaner from Amazon here

    Turtle Wax All Wheel Cleaner

    Price: Around £8 
    Size: 500ml
    Rating: 4.0

    This new cleaner from Turtle Wax is another of the pH-neutral products that turns red as it works. Like the others here it needs to be left for five minutes to work, but the instructions say it should also be agitated before rinsing with a pressure washer. The spray is on the narrow side but the cleaner relatively thick, and clings well. It was a top performer with both rinsing and the weighted brush, but a higher price counts against it.       

    Buy the Turtle Wax All Wheel Cleaner from Amazon here

    Black Diamond Iron Out

    Price: Around £7 
    Size: 500ml
    Rating: 4.0

    Black Diamond is one of the latest to produce a pH-neutral cleaner. One of the few drawbacks to this new generation of cleaners is the bad egg smell, but Black Diamond has successfully added a minty edge to make it less offensive on the nose when you’re using it. The Iron Out cleaner works quicker than rivals, too, requiring just two minutes to shift the worst of the grime. It was a step ahead of the rest of the samples.

    Buy the Black Diamond Iron Out from Amazon here

    Xpert-60 Wheel Cleaner

    Price: Around £7 
    Size: 500ml
    Rating: 3.0

    This wheel cleaner doesn’t follow the current trend for formulas that turn red as they work on metal particles bonded to wheels. It is an orange formula that goes on in a foamy spray and lives up to its claims for good cling properties. Oddly, it needs agitating before being left to work and rinsing. Our test did not suit it but it made progress and was a close match for Iron Remover. 

    Buy the Xpert-60 wheel cleaner from eBay here

    Poorboy’s World Iron Remover

    Price: Around £13 
    Size: 473ml
    Rating: 3.0

    It might be unfair putting Iron Remover up against specialist wheel cleaners, because it is designed for pretty much any surface. It made progress in the test, but not as well as the test winner auto-wheel. It needs to be left for 5-10 mins to work. If you want to decontaminate bodywork this is the one to go for but
    it needs more work as a wheel cleaner. It’s also not the cheapest option. 

    Buy the Poorboy’s World Iron Remover from Amazon here

    Armor All Wheels

    Price: £12.99
    Rating: 3.0

    Wipes are all about convenience, and there’s certainly no brushing or pulling out the hose with Armor All Wheels, which are not just the brand’s waterless wash wipes in another pack. They are smaller and perforated, but still easy to handle. 

    Where the idea starts to falter is that you need to touch every part of the wheel, which is time-consuming. We took five minutes or so to clean our good-condition wheel, and it wasn’t helped by having to follow up with a microfibre cloth to get a good finish. Not quite the one-step operation the pack claims. 

    We used a wipe per wheel, so with 16 in a pack you are likely to get through just four full sets for your £12.95. A good solution for waterless washing, but they’re no match for conventional spray cleaners.

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