Here I sacrifice one of my Volvo V40 Arcadia alloy’s to show what can happen when you let a corrosive wheel cleaner dry on the surface.
This “highly scientific” test was to be conducted using Autosmart’s Smart Wheels, a powerful alkali cleaner which contains the caustic chemical Sodium Hydroxide. It’s a great product that I use in both neat and diluted form on a regular basis however as you can see from the warnings on the container it can potentially inflict some serious damage given the right (or would that be wrong?) circumstances, just like the ones I’d set up here.
It was to be administered through a colour-coded Qwazar Mercury Pro double action trigger; a top-end sprayer which for me personally, the jury is still out on.
With the sun fast approaching it’s highest point in the sky then, the Smart Wheels product was liberally applied to the dry face of the wheel before being left to soak into, and ultimately bake onto it. I had performed a basic wash prior to filming as I wanted to potentially inflict as much harm as possible and any dirt left on the surface could serve as a protective barrier soaking up some of the corrosive product. So, it was a case of clean, dry, warm, wheels plus neat application for maximum damaging effect.
Around an hour later and with the sun still radiating the face of the wheel, I returned to unsurprisingly find this unsightly mess!
Now, while any self-respecting petrolhead would quite rightly cringe at a sight like this I actually had the time to take it in here and carefully scrutinise the unholy mess the Sodium Hydroxide cleaner had created.
You’ll see this kind of thing inflicting vehicles that frequently visit hand car washes where strong chemicals are applied as it sits in a queue waiting to be rinsed off and whether your car is a week or a decade old, it’s never a good look.
There’s a few ways you can attempt to fix it and by far the easiest, believe it or not, is to simply reapply the product and re-clean the wheel without letting it dry. This is because occasionally what appears to be permanent staining is in fact just an excess of stubborn product residue and reactivating it with the same cleaner can sometimes be enough to take it off.
Once I’d completed a re-clean and began to dry the face of the wheel off I realised this was actually the case here and that despite my best efforts to ruin it for your viewing pleasure, the 14 year old neglected thing hadn’t suffered any significant damage whatsoever!
Now I did consider just binning the video at this point as the whole theme centred around inflicting some serious damage – something I’d clearly failed miserably at achieving but then I figured I’d gone to the effort of pre-cleaning the car, filming the process and recording a cringeworthy intro in front of the nosy neighbours so decided to plough on and put something out rather than nothing.
So while admittedly it doesn’t truly show what can happen when you let a strong wheel cleaner dry and so might be a bit of an anticlimax in that respect, it’s still hopefully enough to give you a quick fix until the next proper video is ready.
One thing you can be certain of is Sod’s Law will ensure that next time I’m carefully cleaning somebody else’s expensive wheels off camera with a diluted mix of this product in the shade it will without doubt stain the finish!
If unlike my indestructible wheels you’re dealing with ones that do remain stained after being re-cleaned then it’s not just residue and you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and grab the elbow grease. I’d personally reach for a paintwork cleanser or all in one polish first to see if the cleaners and light abrasives those kinds of products contain would lift off the staining, before stepping up to a “proper” polish ideally worked in with a spot pad on an appropriate machine if required.
If that doesn’t work however then short of wet sanding and compounding which can be nigh on impossible to perform on a complicated wheel design then it would need to be repainted so pick your products carefully as believe me, not all wheels are as resilient as the ones on this old Volvo!
And that’s really all I can offer in terms of advice in this short video. If I had managed to successfully stain the wheel then I could have gone into a bit more detail but there’s really not much point me prattling on when despite its dry roasting in Sodium Hydroxide, it looked exactly the same as it did to begin with.
I guess the moral of this story is not to let strong corrosive cleaners dry on the surface of your wheels unless they happen to be really old and really Swedish!