I also tried a few different wheel waxes. Putting those on takes a while; they disappear after a wash or two when cleaning with APC, and if I just soap clean the wheels I’m still spending way too long.
I tried a couple of spray on products too: Armor All wheel protectant works great. I was skeptical but it actually works well at keeping dust to a minimum. Easy to spray on with no mess, most of the dust does actually wash off just with a hose but some APC+ and light agitation still required. Meguiars brake dust barrier did not work at minimizing dust, and worse, if you have any water all on your wheels when you spray them it will create a white etched crust that seriously hardens onto wheels. I used APC, alcohol, clay, all sorts of stuff trying to restore my wheels. As you will see in some of the pictures, some of the etching remains.
I’d like to find something that will be a true spray on, spray off solution. I’m hoping that by coating the wheels with Armor All wheel protectant at each wash, I can find a brushless solution.
All cleaners will be used according to their instructions. No wheel protectant is on the wheels. No pressure washer, just a firehose nozzle on a normal hose.
Just completed a 20+ hour drive through salty roads, up and over mountains, tail of the dragon, etc. Here is what we are working with, after hosing down all the wheels:
Pre-tournament rankings (based on various google searches):
1. Sonax ($17, online)
2. Griots heavy duty wheel cleaner ($18 online or advanced auto)
3. P21S wheel cleaner ($18, online)
4. Eagle 1 wheel cleaner ($4, walmart)
5. Wolfgang tire & wheel cleaner ($20, online)
6. Mothers wheel cleaner ($5, walmart)
7. Chemical Guys Diablo gel wheel cleaner ($18, online)
8. Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner + ($15 / gallon, online)
Round 1: Four wheels, each wheel split in half so 8 total products. All products sprayed on and set for 4-5 minutes. Summary: Griots, Sonax, Mothers, and Wolfgang advance
P21S v. Eagle 1 (heavily dusted wheels)
Eagle 1 goes on as a foam. Both products have decent sprayers, but neither product works. Eagle 1 leaves the wheels looking essentially the same after applying, P21S fairs only slightly better. Summary: neither product works any better than Megs APC+ (and probably do not even work as well).
After soaking, hosing off, looking basically the same:
Griot’s Heavy Duty v. Mothers (moderately dusted rear wheels)
Mother’s also goes on as a foam. Griot’s turns the brake dust to various colors and streaks off. Both products perform surprisingly well on these moderately dusted wheels and come close to being a spray on, spray off solution in that situation. I spent some time trying to pick between which was better and determined it was a tie.
Megs APC+ at 4:1 v. Wolfgang:
Megs APC has been my solution for a while now and is the benchmark. Wolfgang does fair better though and advances, leaving the wheel not as clean as Griot’s or Mother’s, but still better than Eagle 1, Megs APC+, and P21S.
After: If you look close, you can see in the wheel where APC+ leaves it dusty (left side) and Wolfgang (right side) has done a halfway job of getting it clean. Definitely not touchless but better than APC+.
CG Diablo v. Sonax
Sonax smells bad but works good. Starts green and turns various colors. CG Diablo works slightly better than Eagle 1 and P21S, but not as good as the rest, and would not be worth buying over a generic APC like Megs APC+.
Round 1 summary: None were touchless, but Griot’s and Mother’s came close on moderately dusted wheels.
Round 2: Decided to do a second touchless pass on the front wheels. Here is what one of the front wheels that received P21S and Eagle 1 looked like AFTER the first round of treatment, getting ready for the second round.
No after picture. Griot’s continued to clean the wheel but was not touchless. Mother’s did not touch that baked on dust that Eagle 1 left behind, the wheel improved only slightly. Mother’s seemed to handle the moderate dusting on the rear wheels well, but once faced with heavy dusting it did nothing.
Wolfgang v. Sonax:
No after picture. Sonax was re-applied to the same portion of the same wheel it had originally treated. Wolfgang continued to clean some but not much. Sonax did better after the second pass, but the wheel was still dirty in many spots.
1. Griot’s HD wheel cleaner
5. Meg’s APC+
6. CG Diablo
8. Eagle 1
For heavily dusted wheels, I see no point in anything other than Meg’s APC+ at 4:1. The reason is that even after two rounds of spray on, spray off, I still had to go back over all of the wheels with a brush as I normally would. If I’m going to have to do that, I may as well just use the cheapest thing that works well, which is Meg’s APC+. The pictures do not show all of the brake dust that remains on the wheels after treatment, but it is very noticeable and collects at various points.
However, for lightly dusted wheels I think Griot’s HD, Sonax, and possibly Mother’s could actually be a spray on, spray off solution. I’ll try that on my wife’s car in a few weeks and update… I also think that heavily dusting wheels can be protected with Armor All protectant at each wash, and something like Griot's would get them very close to touchless clean with just spray on and spray off. I'll try that one too
Long term update September 2013
I have now used up most of the products that I purchased for this test, and also purchased Brown Royal. My original conclusions basically remain without change. Griot's is the way to go if you are looking for a nice smelling, effective, strong cleaner that will change the color as it works. Meg's APC+ remains the way to go if you are looking for something cheap, nice smelling, and effective. Neither are truly spray on-spray off solutions, but they do work well.
As for Brown Royal, I do not care for the product. It smells pretty bad, and it is obviously brown. The color makes it more difficult to tell when a wheel is coming clean as you brush or whether caked on brake dust remains because you are smearing brown solution all over the wheel. It seems very slightly stronger than Meg's APC+, although mixing at different dilutions would address this. I tried Brown Royal at 3:1 and 4:1. Overall Meg's APC+ smells better, works just as good, and has a clear / light orange color that makes it easier to see when the wheel has come clean. It also has more versatility for other general purpose use.
Edited by extrabolts, 16 September 2013 - 07:54 AM.