How to Remove Oxidation & Brake Dust From Aluminum Wheels

by Jenny Carver

    Keep aluminum wheels brake dust free by cleaning them once a week.

    Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    Aluminum wheels hold up well and look good when they’re new. But if you let brake dust collect and sit on them for long periods of time, oxidation occurs. You can’t wash brake dust or oxidation off with soap and water. You’ll need to remove it with a few products made just for this job.

    Items you will need

    • Masking tape
    • 600-grit sandpaper
    • 900-grit sandpaper
    • Water
    • Wax and grease remover
    • Microfiber towel
    • Clear coat aluminum wheel paint
    Step 1

    Place masking tape over any parts of the wheel you don’t want to sand. Make sure you cover the center cap and valve stem. You can take the center cap off to protect it further. Most center caps, even though they look metal, are made of coated plastic.

    Step 2

    Sand the surface of the wheel with the 600-grit sandpaper. Keep the paper flat against the surface with your hand flat on the back of the paper. Don’t rub one finger harder than the other or you can create scratches or uneven grooves. Keep the sandpaper wet by holding a hose above it. You could also soak the paper in a bucket of water every few minutes. Pay special attention to the areas with brake dust and oxidation.

    Step 3

    Use the 900-grit sand paper to sand the surface again, using the same technique as you did with the 600-grit paper. This smoothes the light scratches made by the other paper. It also removes any remaining oxidation and brake dust.

    Step 4

    Rinse the wheel and let it dry completely. Wipe it with a microfiber towel and wax-and-grease remover to take off any grease or fingerprints left on it. The wax-and-grease remover evaporates in less than a minute.

    Step 5

    Spray a total of three to four coats of clear coat paint on the wheels. Follow the product label for the amount of time to wait between coats. The final coat should dry in three hours or less. The clear coat adds a layer of protection to prevent future oxidation and helps to prevent brake dust from sticking to the aluminum wheels.


    • Wash your aluminum wheels with aluminum wheel cleaner at least once every week or two to prevent brake dust build up and oxidation.


    • Spray clear coat paint in a well ventilated area to prevent fumes from building up.

    Photo Credits

    • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images