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How to Clean Motorcycle Tires & Rims

Cleaning your motorcycle tires and rims isn’t that difficult nor time-consuming if you follow the right steps, use proper cleaners, and do it routinely. It’s very important to keep your rims and tires clean in order to prevent a large buildup of grime that gets more and more difficult to remove with time.

Furthermore, all the grime and chemicals that your tires pick up from the road are definitely not good for your wheel paint, thus it’s always a good idea to be proactive when it comes to maintaining the looks of your motorcycle.

Now, if you’re unsure how to clean motorcycle tires and rims without negatively affecting their longevity, then this guide is for you. But first, here’s a big mistake that I see people do from time to time.

Why You Should Never Use Tire Shine on Motorcycle Tires

Who doesn’t want shiny and glossy tires, especially on their shiny motorcycle? Sure, tire shine looks great, but it has some serious downsides, and one of them is really dangerous and can even be deadly.

Dry Rot

This is often the case with silicone and petroleum-based tire dressing formulas. There’s some seriously complicated chemistry going on here, but to put it simply – any chemical that contains hydrocarbons will pull the plasticizer from the tire and decrease the tire’s flexibility.

Now, using tire shine a handful of times probably won’t cause any measurable harm, but the more you use it – the more damage it does to your tires.

Slippery Tires

This is the big one. Tire shine/dressing is very oily and made to penetrate deep into the rubber and stay there for as long as possible. If you get any tire shine on the tread of the tires, you’ll risk losing traction while leaned over.

There are a handful of cases of people crashing because they mistakenly put tire shine on the tread. Risking your safety for shiny tires is not worth it.

How to Clean Motorcycle Tires & Rims

With all of that out of the way, let’s begin with the how-to. Here are the things that you will need:

  • Soapy water
  • Soft Brush
  • Microfiber towels
  • Goo Gone or WD-40
  • Simple Green
  • Pressure washer (optional)

Step-1: Rinse The Rims First

The first order of business is to put your bike on a stand (if you have one) so that the wheels can rotate freely as you clean. This is not required explicitly but will help you save time.

Next, rinse the rims with soapy water (a pressure washer is preferable if you have one) or a dedicated tire/wheel cleaner like Simple Green. Give the tires a few passes with a soft brush in order to get rid of any abrasive dirt, which could later on scratch the paint.

If your wheels aren’t that dirty, then a few passes with a soft brush and Simple Green might be enough, but if your rims are grimed up with chain lube/wax, then you’ll have to use stronger chemicals. If that’s the case, dry off your rims before going to the next step.

Step-2: Clean The Rims Thoroughly With WD-40

If the rims on your motorcycle are really caked up with grime or chain lube/wax, then the easiest and cheapest way to clean them is WD-40, Goo Gone, or something similar. WD-40 works extremely well in this case. It dissolves oils, does not damage paint at all, and lubricates the surface, which helps reduce the chances of scratching your rims.

Now, even though WD-40 and Goo Gone do not damage paint, they likely do damage tires. WD-40 specifically reacts with the chemicals inside the tires and accelerates dry rot. Because of that, you should be extremely careful not to get any on the tire itself.

With that out of the way, spray WD-40 on a microfiber towel and scrub the grime away from the rims. Don’t spray it on the rim, because you’ll risk getting WD-40 on your tires. You might need to reapply WD-40 a few times.

After you’re satisfied with how the rims look, then it’s time to remove the leftover residue from WD-40. To do that, you can use soapy water or any window cleaner (they do a good job of removing oily stains).

Step-3: Clean The Sidewall

After you’ve cleaned the rims, it’s time to move on to the sidewall of the tires.

Cleaning the sidewall is not that difficult, however, you need to be conscious of what chemicals you’ll be using. For example, WD-40 is way too harsh to be used on tires, and so is bleach. The only cleaning agent that works well and does not chemically react with tires is soapy water or a mild cleaner like Simple Green.

Do your motorcycle tires have white walls? If so, click here to learn how to clean white wall motorcycle tires specifically.

Spray soapy water or Simple Green on the sidewall and scrub it well using a Scotch Brite pad or something similar. Rinse the sidewall with water once you’re satisfied with how it looks.

Step-4: Clean The Tread (optional)

Cleaning the tread of the tire is most definitely not necessary and probably a big waste of time, as riding only a few feet is enough to get the tread dirty again. It’s similar to cleaning the soles of your shoes.

But if you would still like to do it, then you should not use any chemicals – especially tire shine. Tire shine like Armor All is very oil, gets deep inside the rubber, and stays there for a long time. Not only does it cause dry rot over time, but it will make your motorcycle tires slippery, which is just asking for trouble.

With that out of the way, the best way to clean the tread is with plain water or soapy water and a Scotch Brite pad. Just wash it down and scrub away until you get what you’re looking for.

Conclusion

While cleaning motorcycle tires and rims can be quite annoying and time-consuming, it’s necessary to do and does get easier if you do it regularly, and do not wait for grime to accumulate.

You should only be using soapy water or dedicated mild cleaners that are designed and safe for use on tires, otherwise, you’ll reduce their lifespan over time. Luckily, the rims can be safely cleaned with WD-40 that you probably already have in your garage.

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