Raise your hand if you’re a fan of cleaning caked-on brake dust and road-grime from deeply corroded aluminum wheels. Anyone? Anyone at all?? Bueller???

For many people, hand cleaning a car’s wheels is about as much fun as waiting in line at the DMV, undergoing a root canal, or being subjected to an impromptu yodeling session. Will you survive? Barely. Are you looking forward to having this experience again anytime soon? Hell naw…

But “wheel cleaning blues” are quickly becoming a thing of the past, as the application of high-end DIY nano ceramic coatings have made this chore extremely easy. It doesn’t matter if you roll on chrome, forged aluminum alloy, carbon fiber, or stock steelies, ceramic coatings provide years of protection and gloss, and help make cleaning day a straightforward and stress-free experience.

Looking to learn more about how this magical elixir works? Could ceramic coating your wheels become the second best life decision you’ll ever make outside of that winning lottery ticket?

Then read-on, because we’ve got the ultimate step-by-step guide for surface prepping, applying, and caring for ceramic coated wheels. So without further ado, let’s have some fun, and let’s get those rollers done!

Supplies Needed for Ceramic Coating Wheels

A freshly powder coated set of Weds SA-60M wheels, prepped and awaiting a layer of ceramic coating protection. Photo Credit: Micah Wright
A freshly powder coated set of Weds SA-60M wheels, prepped and awaiting a layer of ceramic coating protection. Photo Credit: Micah Wright

The first ceramic coating step, is to make sure that you’ve got all of the right supplies in place.

In order to successfully ceramic coat a set of wheels, they must first be thoroughly cleaned, surface prepped, and if damaged in some way, repaired and powder coated.

Here is what you’ll need in order to get the proverbial pistons pumping…

  • (1) Bottle of wheel cleaning agent
  • (1) Bottle of pH neutral car shampoo
  • (1) Microfiber wash mitt
  • (1) Soft bristle wheel brush
  • (2) Wash buckets
  • (1) Pack of microfiber drying towels
  • (1) Bottle of isopropyl alcohol (IPA) surface prep spray
  • (1) Nano ceramic coating DIY kit
  • (1) Drop cloth
  • (1) Garden hose or pressure washer

Quick Tip: To make the wheel removal and reinstall process as quick and painless as possible, either have the following things at your disposal, or know someone who can lend them to you.

  • Car jack
  • Jack stands
  • Torque wrench
  • Socket set
  • Wire brush
  • Anti-seize lubricant
  • A shaded place to work

How to Ceramic Coat a Set of Wheels

Even this Tesla's wheels got a generous layer of Armor Shield IX ceramic coating for this Wilson Auto Detailing experiment. Photo Credit: Wilson Auto Detailing/YouTube
Even this Tesla’s wheels got a generous layer of Armor Shield IX ceramic coating for this Wilson Auto Detailing experiment. Photo Credit: Wilson Auto Detailing/YouTube

Now that you have everything, it’s time to clean the wheels, fix any surface flaws, neutralize any remaining debris, and ceramic coat everything. If the wheels are not compromised in some way, this entire process should only take a few hours.

That said, you will experience a significant amount of downtime between when the wheels are coated, and when they are ready to roll. Ceramic coatings require at least 48 hours of downtime before they become hard enough to be safely used, and will continue to cure for a couple of weeks thereafter. So no off-road rally racing straight out the gate, alright?

Quick Tip: Regardless as to whether you are ceramic coating an entire car, or just hitting its wheels, you should invest in some clay decontamination media and learn how to make your own lubrication spray. For more on this dynamic car detailing duo, check-out our article focusing on the art of properly claying automobiles.

Step 1 – Remove and Clean Wheels

If you want to make this job a bazillion times easier, jack the vehicle up, slide some jack stands underneath it, and remove all four wheels. While you don’t have to remove your wheels in order for them to get ceramic coated, the DIY difficulty level is going to increase exponentially if you don’t pop those puppies off beforehand.

  • Spray: Start by blasting the inside barrels of the wheels with a garden hose sprayer or a pressure washer that’s been set to the lowest setting, before moving on to the spokes and lips.
  • Apply Wheel Cleaner: Following the directions on the wheel cleaner label of your preference, blast the most heavily caked-on areas to lift as much road grime, deicer salt, tar, and brake dust as possible. Agitate the surfaces with a wheel brush, rinse, and reapply cleaner as necessary. It may take a few rounds, but you’ll eventually begin to lift that deeply embedded gunk.
  • Wash With Car Shampoo: Wheel cleaning chemicals tend to be pretty toxic stuff, so once the previous stage is complete, rinse the wheels, and grab that sudsy bucket of pH neutral car shampoo. A microfiber wash mitt and the two-bucket cleaning method will do wonders once a bit of elbow grease is implemented. Wheels thoroughly scrubbed with suds, rinse them off one more time, and prepare for the next step.
  • Wipe and Dry: Unless you enjoy looking at unsightly hard water spots, it is vital that you thoroughly dry all of the wheels after rinsing away the car shampoo.
  • Apply IPA Spray: The final wheel prep step is the act of wiping all surfaces with a properly blended isopropyl alcohol (IPA) solution spray. Not sure how to make IPA spray? Our article focusing on this crucial ceramic coating surface prep product will tell you everything you need to know.

Quick Tip: If the wheels are still super filthy after a pH neutral shampoo scrubbing, you will need to graduate to a surface prep shampoo. This soap’s more intense pH levels will safely lift the majority of the crud that the wheel cleaning agent was unable to eliminate.

Step 2 – Apply Ceramic Coating

Crystal clean bling officially in full swing, it’s time to bring in that ceramic coating. Am I the only one who speaks in rhyme around here? Huh. Guess I am…

Circling back to the subject of coating rollers, you will find that this process is no different than that of applying it to paint, glass, carbon fiber, plastic, or any other piece of a vehicle’s exterior.

Following the DIY directions found within your Armor Shield IX kit, apply the coating on the barrel of the wheel, leaving the rear lip and face devoid of coating. Allow the coating to harden for a few minutes so that it can “flash,” and then wipe it off with the included microfiber buffing cloth.

Once you’ve fully coated the barrel, place the wheel face-up on the drop cloth, and coat its spokes, face, center cap, and front lip. Be thorough, hitting all of those little nooks and crannies that are notorious for collecting brake dust and other crud. Continue the coat and wipe-away procedure until every square centimeter has been covered with ceramic coating.

One core thing to remember, is that you must beware of the weather when applying ceramic coatings to surfaces. Never apply a ceramic coating in direct sunlight, and don’t attempt the coating process if temps are dipping below 45°F. Extreme humidity should be avoided as well, as this forces the ceramic coating curing process to drag-on for entirely too long, thus causing it to look “greasy.”

Quick Nerd Note: Due to a ceramic coating’s hydrophobic repelling properties, getting stick-on balancing weights to adhere to freshly cured wheels can be extremely challenging. To combat this issue, we suggest having the wheels balanced beforehand, or opting for the old fashioned clamp-on weight method.

Step 3 – Reinstall Wheels & Wait…

May it be a set of forged alloy wheels, or an entire automobile, the most frustrating thing about ceramic coating is having to wait for the product to cure. Photo Credit: Micah Wright
May it be a set of forged alloy wheels, or an entire automobile, the most frustrating thing about ceramic coating is having to wait for the product to cure. Photo Credit: Micah Wright

Ceramic coating procedure complete, try to avoid the temptation to leave the wheels laying flat on their backs. Carefully pick them up by their uncoated sides (or tires, if they are still attached), and prop the wheels up at an angle in front of a fan. If you have the ability to hang the wheels by their bolt holes, go ahead and do so, as this will significantly decrease their curing time.

Like any other ceramic coated surface, you will need to wait at least 48 hours before putting those wheels back on your automobile and hitting the highway. Allowing ample time for a ceramic coating to cure is what will guarantee that the product works as directed. So don’t be an eager beaver, or you might find yourself ruining the ceramic coating, thus forcing you to strip and reapply the surface protectant before you ever leave the garage!

Quick Nerd Note: If you ever get ceramic coating on your brake rotors, remove it immediately, and then spray the area with brake cleaner. Nano ceramic coatings are super slippery stuff, and the last thing you need is a massive brake failure while flogging your jalopy down a rock-strewn canyon.

How to Keep Ceramic Coated Wheels Clean

A ceramic coated wheel will not only resist surface scratches, minor rock chips, brake dust, road grime, deicers, and other crud, but it will also be super easy to clean, and look like a bazillion bucks in  the process. Photo Credit: Micah Wright
A ceramic coated wheel will not only resist surface scratches, minor rock chips, brake dust, road grime, deicers, and other crud, but it will also be super easy to clean, while looking like a bazillion bucks in the process. Photo Credit: Micah Wright

Like any ceramic coated car part, we recommend that you wait at least two weeks before washing your freshly ceramic coated wheels. On the upside, once it is finally time to wash your wheels, you will find those rollers are a breeze to clean.

Just be sure to use a pH neutral car wash shampoo (make sure it is wax-free too), and wash your wheels with the two-buckets-and-a-beer method. You may even discover that a quick rinse with a garden hose is all that is needed, as the hydrophobic properties within the ceramic coating prevents brake dust and road grime from adhering to the wheel’s surfaces.

Just don’t forget to dry everything off with a plush microfiber drying towel once you are finished scrubbing and rinsing. While a nano ceramic coating will protect your wheels from the open road’s nastiest contaminants, hard water spots are one of those things no product can prevent.

Parting Shots

Ceramic coated surfaces tend to repel road salt and deicers extremely well, making them an ideal option for those looking to protect their vehicles and the alloy wheels they roll upon from winter's wrath. Photo Credit: Micah Wright
Ceramic coated surfaces tend to repel road salt and deicers extremely well, making them an ideal option for those looking to protect their vehicles and the alloy wheels they roll upon from winter’s wrath. Photo Credit: Micah Wright

In closing, here are a few things that you should NEVER do to ceramic coated wheels. If you have any burning questions about the following warnings, or need us to clarify something, don’t hesitate to reach out. AvalonKing’s customer care specialists are always eager to point you in the right direction, and learn about your ceramic coating projects.

Things to NEVER Do When Ceramic Coating Wheels

  • NEVER use an iron remover or degreasing wheel cleaning agents on ceramic coated wheels. This stuff will eat into ceramic coating at an alarming rate, so for safety’s sake, stick with the pH neutral shampoo and sponge approach.
  • NEVER apply a ceramic coating to the threading on the inside of lug nuts, on hub bolts, or on the face of the hub itself. Ceramic coatings are incredibly slippery, and you want those rollers to snug-up nice and tight when they get torqued down.
  • NEVER resist the opportunity to snap pictures or let others take picture of your sparkling clean wheels. We love seeing freshly coated sets of wheels. So take some snaps of those Armor Shield IX protected alloys, and either email them over to us directly, or drop them on our Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook social media page so that we can admire the results right along with you.

If you enjoyed this article, then you'll love AvalonKing's automotive care products for Do-It-Yourselfers. We create "No B.S. products" for an affordable price. And the best part, we treat our customers like family, so if you have any questions or just looking to chat about cars, we're only an email or call away. Check out our homepage here.