Like any red-blooded American, I have some pet peeves… like people that wait to merge until the last second, discovering a lack of toilet paper, and brake dust. Why God allows brake dust to exist will be one of the first questions I ask Him when I arrive at the gates of St. Peter. A molecular engineering textbook written in Wingdings would make more sense to me than why we can’t invent brakes without brake dust, or at least something that stops brake dust from getting on our wheels. I will get into how to clean wheels in a future post, but for now I’m trying to stop the monster from ruining yet another set of wheels. It’s not just an appearance issue either; brake dust is corrosive and over time will damage your rims. As always, I will only use products that the average car owner has access to and could easily use. I’m sure there are differences in brake pads that effect the amount of dust produced, but they will have to pay someone else $0 to do that test.
Nothing looks worse than a relatively clean nice car with black, grimy wheels. Is it just my imagination or do most European cars have dirtier front wheels than other cars?
As a part-time car detailer, I’m always looking for new products that could benefit my customers’ vehicles. First up, is a relatively new product from Armor All simply called, “Wheel Protectant.” Each can cost between $9-$12 (in Ohio) and is available at most any automotive parts store. The description on the can says, “Easy to build up and difficult to wash off, brake dust has been the bane of beautiful, shiny wheels since the invention of disc brakes. Simply spray Armor All Wheel Protectant on clean, dry wheels to repel brake dust, road grime, and dirt. The invisible barrier lasts up to four weeks, keeping your wheels clean from wash to wash.” It’s as if God has heard my prayers and created a product for me.
I did the test on my 2009 Honda Odyssey. I chose this car because I purchased it a few months ago and haven’t applied any other products to the wheels, so any benefits or faults can’t be blamed on any leftover product. I often test products out on my own vehicles before determining if it is worth using on my detailing clients’ cars. Obviously this isn’t a high performance car that will be throwing a lot of brake dust up, but it has alloy wheels with a lot of spokes that are a pain to clean and represents the type of car many of my clients bring to me. My wife drove it most of the time during the test so there wasn’t any real “spirited driving” to speak of.
The product claims to work for four weeks so that was the length of my test. Before I began I cleaned the wheels thoroughly and let them dry (see “before” pictures below). During the 4 weeks I did not wash the van at all (which is difficult for a car detailer to do let me tell you!), nor did I apply any type of tire shine (the sacrifices I go through for you guys are endless). The van was driven in the rain a couple times during the 4 weeks in which it covered 1,120 miles.
The Driver side wheels were cleaned and coated in the product. Passenger side wheels were just cleaned. Here are the results after 4 weeks:
Driver Front WITH Protectant Passenger Front WITHOUT Protectant
Driver Rear WITH Protectant
Passenger Rear WITHOUT Protectant
My first impression of the product was that there were not very clear instructions. How much do I apply? How many vehicles should one can cover? Without detailed directions I just basically covered the driver front and rear wheels for about 5 seconds of spray each, while leaving the passenger wheels untouched. The bottle says to apply liberally and not to touch the wheel after application. I let the van sit overnight after applying.
After 4 weeks, the passenger side wheels (especially the front) that did not have any Armor All coating ended up with a lot of brake dust and road grime… as expected. But, as you can see the driver side wheels still got some brake dust on them. It almost appears that there was a little pooling of the product that some of the brake dust clung to.
Pros: Very easy to apply, does prevent SOME brake dust
Although I hoped it would do more, the fact is if you can spare 2 minutes every month this product will prevent a lot of brake dust from ever getting on your wheels.
Cons: Costly, getting the right amount on your wheel can be tricky, there is still brake dust
The problem is that it still allows brake dust to accumulate. In my opinion it did not keep the wheels clean as advertised. So if you are going to have to wipe down your wheels anyway, does spending $9 to prevent some of the dust matter to you?
Does the product do what it claims: Yes.
It doesn’t keep all the brake dust off, but definitely helps.
Is it worth the money: That’s up to you.
I’d say if you are the type of person who cleans your wheels often, then it is not worth the money. You are still going to have to clean them. If you are the type of person that hates cleaning your wheels though and don’t have time to constantly worry about them, then buy a can as this product will help.
Will I use it on my customers’ cars: Not yet.
At $9 a pop it is a little pricey for my field of work.
Does it do anything else: Nope.
You can’t tell when it is on the wheels at all. It does not clean or shine the wheels, just protects.
If you don’t apply enough, it doesn’t seem to work. If you apply too much, it can pool up causing brake dust to actually accumulate there. Definitely let it sit well over an hour before you use it, or you will do the exact opposite of what you are trying to do. I’ll probably test it on a couple more cars in the future. Some online reviewers have complained that it leaves a cloudy finish on chrome wheels. So Best and Brightest, if you have a few minutes clean your wheels, let them dry, apply this product and let it sit (the longer the better), then report back to us if it worked! If nothing else, it certainly made cleaning the wheels a little easier the next time!