Cleaning up the wheel and arches at the start of a detail can make a big difference to the end result. Even as part of a general wash, ensuring the wheel arches are fully cleaned out is important to ensure that the car doesn’t have a clean bodywork but then muddy covered arches which stand out a mile away!
As part of a full detail on your own car, it is worthwhile considering removing the wheel altogether for easy access to the wheel arch region – while you are in there, you can also check the condition of the brakes, suspension arms etc . However, professional detailers may be disinclined to remove a wheel, for very good reason that its a big responsibility to ensure its refitted correctly. However, just jacking the car up can help with good access to the wheel arch and I would recommend this even if you don’t plan on removing the wheel itself.
Cleaning the Wheel Arches
- First rinse the wheel arch out to remove general loose dirt and grime.
- If you have access to a foam lance, spray the wheel arch with snowfoam as you would do the body. This helps loosen further dirt and makes the future cleaning easier.
- Rinse wheel arch out again to remove foam after allowing it to dwell a few minutes.
- Now more dedicated cleaning. Spray on an All Purpose Cleaner (APC). Foaming spray head increases dwell time.
- Agitate the APC using a brush to remove more ingrained grime. Ensure you do not miss the top of the wheel arch!
- Rinse out the wheel arch again. Directing the water upwards ensures the top of the wheel arch well rinsed out also, start here first on the principle of starting at the top and working down.
- Dress the plastics with a suitable dressing, Meguiars All Seasons Dressing used here.
Note heavier ingrained grime on the inner arch would require more treatment with a stronger cleaning solution, however two hits of APC here delivered a huge improvement.
Health and safety warnings
- Never go underneath a car supported by the supplied jack – always use axle stands if you wish to work underneath the car (engine undersides, chassis undersides etc).
- Always jack the car up at the manufacturer’s recommended jacking points. Ensure the jack is in stable contact with both the jacking point (see owner’s manual) and the ground. Always work on level ground.
- Place a wheel chock (or brick) on either side of the wheel diagonally opposite to the one on which you are working to prevent lateral movement of the car.
- Use the spare wheel – locate underneath the body either behind or infront of the jack as an additional support should the jack fail which the car can land on – do not rely on this to safe you, it is simply one of many precautions.
- If you have the wheel off the car for prolonged periods of time (for waxing, polishing etc) and you are using the supplied jack, put the spare wheel on the car and lower the car back down rather than leaving it on the jack for a prolonged period. The jack is simply designed to hold the car in the air for a short time to allow wheel changes. Keeping the car in the air for a prolonged time requires the use of dedicated axle stands.
- Wheel cleaners can contain certain harsh chemical that help the cleaning ability. These chemical can be bad for your health, and since you might be working very close to the subject you are cleaning, you are more likely to inhale part of these chemicals. It is very much recommended to wear proper mouth/face covers and wear suitable gloves.
The purpose of this tutorial is to outline a basic step guide to cleaning the arches on a car. It is not designed to be fully detailed but rather give a basic outline of some methods and techniques based on general products that most detailers are likely to have lying around.
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