Date of Review: 14th April 2019
The Sales Pitch from Auto Finesse:
The Auto Finesse Imperial acid-free wheel cleaner contains a powerful blend of cleaning agents and degreasers to separate the brake dust and road dirt from the wheels on contact. Its high-foaming formula makes light work of a heavy task, and will take your rims from shameful to sparkling in a matter of minutes.
Its highly concentrated formula is economical, safe to use on all modern coated wheel finishes, and is gentle enough that it can even be used for cleaning tyres.
What You Get:
A clear liquid wheel cleaner that doesn’t change colour. This is a spray-on cleaner that you will have to work into the dirt and brake dust to allow the product to do its job properly.
From Auto Finesse themselves.
“Cleaning your wheels is generally the first job you tackle when detailing a car or bike, so start by taking some time and laying out the tools you will need. You will need two types of brushes; a dedicated wheel brush for the barrels of the wheels, and a smaller ‘detailing brush’ for the faces and wheel nuts. You will also need a separate bucket to rinse out your brushes. Lastly, you will need a Microfiber Drying Towel to dry off the wheels, and of course our Imperial acid-free wheel cleaner.
Begin by using a free-running hosepipe or pressure washer to remove any loose contamination, and spray Imperial wheel cleaner directly onto the wheels and tyres, thoroughly saturating all exposed surfaces. Allow the wheel cleaner product to dwell momentarily while it begins to soften the brake dust and road film. Start with the wheel brush, cleaning in between the spokes, and reaching into the barrel of the wheel to break loose as much of the brake dust as possible.
Finish by using the detail brush to clean the face and lips of the wheels, as well as around the wheel nuts. Also, take this opportunity to thoroughly scrub the tyres, removing the old dressing in preparation for a new coat. Afterwards you can rinse or pressure wash off the remaining brake dust and cleaner residue.
During the wheel cleaning process, make sure to regularly rinse out your brushes in the bucket you assigned for ‘wheel duty’, as this will minimize the chance of scratching the wheels.
If iron or tar based fallout is still present after cleaning with Imperial wheel cleaner, try the Auto Finesse Iron Out, and/or Auto Finesse ObliTARate.
Imperial is safe to use on all painted, clearcoated, and powdercoated alloy wheel finishes. Chrome, bare polished aluminium, or anodized finishes should be treated with extreme caution. These types of wheel finishes are most common on aftermarket wheels, and should be cleaned with a mild exterior all-purpose-cleaner like Auto-Finesse Citrus Power.
Do not use on bare metal, chrome or polished rims.
Do not apply Auto Finesse Imperial wheel cleaner if the wheels are warm, in direct sunlight, or the ambient temperature is below 0-degrees Celsius.”
The (not so) dirty wheels to be cleaned.
Rinse the wheels and then spray Imperial onto the wheels ‘liberally’ as it says on the bottle but not the instructions for some reason. You have to make sure you spray the whole wheel not missing any bits. I didn’t see much evidence of the ‘high foaming’ either as the product liquid ran down the wheel. The wheels to be cleaned were not that dirty to be honest and they are an easy clean being open and smooth polished surface style.
I have a good wheel brush that I use and started to work the product around after a minute or so until it shifted some of the dirt.
I had to apply an additional spray to get the product to work again. The smell is pretty neutral and not too obnoxious.
After the wheel has been scrubbed use the jetwash to remove the product and rinse the wheel.
The face of the wheel did clean up well in some places and produced a shine. However, if you look closely to the upper right opening part of the spoke to the left of the valve, you will see some grime left behind. This took another effort and more product to eventually remove.
This was not a particularly dirty wheel. Through the inside of the wheel rim, there was much more brake dust. Although the cleaner reached most of these parts, even with a bit of treatment with the brush it didn’t remove a great deal. I used a spray on Wash & Rinse, left it for a few minutes and it took the dirt off. So I know that this product is not a particularly strong cleaner.
Rating: 6 out of 10
This product does work on light to moderate dirty wheels. But it hasn’t touched very dirty parts of these wheels or most of the wheels on my other daily drive car. That needed something more aggressive. The Achilles heel of the AF product bottles is the silly little trigger, this did work fine for this test, but it was just starting to leak down the trigger a little instead of coming out of the nozzle.
Ease of use – more work expected to get a result from the product even with the agitation of the product.
Finish – on a not so dirty wheel it was fine, but on heavily soiled wheels it struggled.
I’m unsure if this cleaner is PH balanced as it says don’t use on chrome. There was no high foaming action and it’s a bit ironic that you have to spray liberally to get the ‘concentrate’ to work. The watery product ran down away from the upper side of the wheels before I got clean those areas. Then I had to apply again to clean what was left behind. I used around a third of the bottle on four small wheels. At £9 the cost is not to bad I say, but for a little more money there are much better products out there that are less hard work and work better. Also this product can’t be used on some wheel finishes. So it’s not strong enough to do an amazing job, yet it’s constitution will damage other wheel finishes, I’m not sure I understand this product.
Would I recommend it? No.
Would I buy it again? No.