Wheel wells are the recessed compartments on the underside of a vehicle where the wheels are located. They are designed to prevent muck, rocks, and other road spray from being thrown up into the air as the tire rotates.
In addition, most modern cars are fitted with wheel well liners, or fender liners. These are sheets of plastic, steel, or aluminum that line inside of the wheel wells to prevent road grime, road salt, and moisture from getting into the engine bay and damaging a vehicle’s internal components.
Because wheel wells are barely visible, there’s always a good chance you will overlook them when washing your car. Please don’t. At the very least, dirty wheel wells will detract from your spotless tires, gleaming wheels, and flawless paint job.
So how do you keep your wheel wells clean?
First, you need the right tools:
- Garden hose
- Pressure washer, if you have one
- All-purpose cleaner / degreaser / bug and tar remover
- Detailing brushes (preferably with varying handle lengths and soft bristles)
Note that you have the option to remove your wheels for better access, if you feel up to the task. For this, you will need a trolley jack, axle stands, breaker bar, and a torque wrench.
Now to clean your wheel wells, here’s the best way to do it:
1. Pre-wash and rinse.
Do this if you haven’t washed your wheel wells in a long time. Pre-washing and rinsing will remove any loose dirt and contaminants. If you’ve been driving a lot in the snow and the rain, your wheel wells would be caked in mud and/or road salt. Large chunks of mud will not be easily removed with just soap and water, so you may have to knock them off using a pressure washer or a hose. Be sure to remove any trace of road salt.
2. Apply a degreaser, all-purpose cleaner, or bug and tar remover.
Everything that gets on your tires—dirt, road salt, tar, etc.—will inevitably end up on your wheel wells and the fender liners, which makes them dirty. To break down these substances, treat your wheel wells with an all-purpose cleaner (APC) or a degreaser.
You may also want to use a body solvent intended specifically for breaking down substances like bugs, sap, and tar. Take note that degreasers could dry out your hands, so make sure you have your gloves on.
3. Agitate the degreaser, cleaner, or bug tar remover with a brush.
Use a soft-bristled brush to agitate the solution, whichever one you opt to use. Should it dry out, reapply the solution and continue topping it up as you work.
4. Rinse and wipe dry.
Rinse using a hose or a sprayer. Afterward, wipe down the fender liners with a microfiber towel.
5. Apply a protectant.
A protectant, as the name suggests, is a substance used to protect a vehicle’s suspension components, wheel well liners, and anything found underneath. At the same time, it will enhance the clean, gleaming appearance of your liners to match your clean tires and wheels.
Spray directly onto the surface or use an applicator pad for an even application.
Take care of your vehicle—including the parts that you don’t immediately see. It’s impractical to invest time, money, and effort on your car’s paint job and interiors while ignoring the undercarriage components, which are vulnerable to damage caused by muck, mud, road salt, and other substances.
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