Wheels come in many different size, shapes, colors, and prices. However, what most people forget about when maintaining their car is maintaining their wheels. Keeping your wheels clean and corrosion free is just as important as maintain other parts of your car.
Most original equipment manufacture's aluminum wheels are painted with a clear coat for corrosion resistance. To maintain this clear coat you can used any wax product that is formulated for base coats or clear coat finished. Additionally, there are specially formulated waxes designed for alloy wheels. However, DO NOT use any wax or polish that contains abrasives. The abrasives in chrome polish, rubbing compound, and restorative waxes will scratch and dull the clear coat on aluminum wheels.
For those of you whose wheels are not as new as you'd like them to be, don't fret. There are wheel polish kits that can help restore dirty and rusted rims. Using a fine steel wool brush, wheel polishing compound, and a little bit of elbow grease you can remove surface oxide and anything that is remaining of the old clear coat finish. Once your wheels are looking shiny and clean you can re-apply a durable clear coat epoxy or paint, thus protecting your wheels from future damage.
Road debris and salts can quickly corrode and pit unprotected aluminum wheels. Over extended durations of exposure, corrosion can cause more permanent irreversible damage to the wheels. Using some sort of wax, sealer or paint can protect your wheels from the elements.
Another problem that may not seem so apparent to owners is aluminum wheels' ability to “weld” itself to another piece of metal. When Aluminum is in contact with a steel brake or drum rotor, the difference in metal compositions can lead to an electrolytic corrosion. As a result the aluminum literally becomes stuck to the steel wherever it comes in contact for a long period of time. This is really not an issue that should concern you on a daily basis as it can take quite a long time to occur. Furthermore, OEMs usually apply a clear coat on the aluminum that prevents this from happening. Another alternative to prevent electrolysis is to apply a light coat of silicone or synthetic break grease to the back of the wheel where it comes in contact with the rotor or drum.
Ultimately, taking a little time to touch up your wheels now and then can save you the trouble of unsightly rusted and dirty wheels.