By on July 23, 2013

Driver front BEFORE

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?

BMW dirty wheel

 

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 product after 4 weeks close

&

Passenger rear WITHOUT product after 4 weeks close

 

 

Driver Front WITH Protectant                               Passenger Front WITHOUT Protectant

Driver rear WITH product after 4 weeks close

Passenger rear WITHOUT product after 4 weeks close                 

 

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.

 

RATING
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!

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53 Comments on “SPARE ME THE DETAILS – Product Review Armor All Wheel Protectant...”


  • avatar
    NotFast

    I like this type of writing on TTAC – nice to see things mixed up. However, are the pictures presented correctly? Shouldn’t “Passenger Front” be after “Driver Front”? I see 2 pictures of “Passenger Rear” but no front.

  • avatar

    Chrysler’s stock SRT pads are extremely grippy but they are also extremely dusty. I normally buy Bendex Semi Metallics and have less trouble with dust – which my car generates in just 40 miles of driving.

    I clean my wheels and tires with Armor All Wheel and Tire:

    http://c.shld.net/rpx/i/s/i/spin/image/spin_prod_807628412?hei=315&wid=315&op_sharpen=1&resMode=sharp&op_usm=0.9,0.5,0,0

    This stuff is oleophobic and hydrophobic. The wheels and tires look great even after rain/snow.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I also see two duplicate Passenger Rear images

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Typically I will wax alloy wheels, as long as they have an acrylic clearcoat finish…and most do, with the same high quality wax that I use on paint (Optimum & Zaino are two of the more durable polymer waxes that I’ve used). Consequently most dust/dirt will wash off with just a strong spray from the hose versus the scrubbing that’s usually required.

    Tires get a spray of 303 Aerospace Protectant….nice matte finish with UV inhibitor. I *hate* a greasy/glossy sheen on tires.

  • avatar
    noxioux

    Just keep a good coat of wax on your rims. I always wax mine when I’m doing the rest of the car, and at the very least will make it easier to clean off the brake dust when you wash.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Been using the product for the last couple of years. Like you, seeing dirty looking rubber on a clean car drives me nuts. As far as I’m concerned, it works well enough for my expectations. Price is reasonable, and I don’t lay it on all that heavily. One moderate speed pass over the sidewall to insure that everything gets covered in white foam. Then wipe.

    Will continue using it until something better and/or cheaper comes out.

  • avatar
    Immanuel Transmission

    The hope I would have for such a product is just that it would make brake dust easy to hose off, without scrubbing. Does it help in that respect?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    While I won’t critique the article itself, I feel I must critique the photos. Due to the difference in lighting between the driver’s side and passenger side of the Honda, the difference in amount of brake dust visible is almost unnoticeable. These pictures would have served better had they been taken in equal light–preferably out of the direct sunlight. As it is, it looks like the wheel protectant worked better on the tires simply because the shaded side of the car made those tires look much darker than the side in full sun.

    You also used the same image to represent both passenger-side wheels. (an easy mistake to make and probably makes little real difference, but it is obvious).

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Euro cars tend to have a softer material for brake pads, these are great for quick stops from high speeds but tend to have a shorter service life.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    I guess I wash my cars often enough that I don’t find brake dust any harder to get off than any other kind of dirt. I don’t buy the bazillion-spoke wheels or any busy-looking kinds of wheels that are tough to clean – most simple five-spoke designs are best.

    I just use a spray-on wax when I wax and that’s it – get done washing the sheet metal, change to an older wash mitt from my good one, wash the wheels and that’s all. The dust just comes off. The way people bitch about it, you’d think brake dust was like tar or bug guts or road-marking paint to get off.

    Some of the studly-looking aftermarket light-truck wheels that look like they were designed by the “Transformers – The Movie” people would be hell, but I don’t have a truck and am not trying to cultivate that image anyway, so I’m good.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      If you don’t stay on top of it, brake dust can be a PIA to clean. Haven’t tried spray wax on the wheels, I’ll have to pick some up.

      • 0 avatar
        Monty

        When somebody first told me about using spray wax on alloy wheels, I was skeptical at first, but in the dozen or so years since, I have become an advocate of doing so.

        When we swapped Mrs. Monty’s 2005 Focus this past spring, the new owner thought I had replaced the original wheels with brand new OEM’s. Nope, I just cleaned and waxed the wheels every time I swapped out for the winter wheels and tires, and used spray wax on them every second or third wash of the car. It helped that Mrs. Monty NEVER once scrubbed the tires (winter or summer) which also helps keeps the wheels looking new.

        I just use cheap Turtle Wax spray, and it works like a charm.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I use spray wax all the time, it is great for keeping the cars clean between full wax, even on the wheels. I am sure I will get blasted for this but I also use foaming tire cleaner on the tires and wheels as well. I spray the tires and then wipe them along with the overspray on the rim until clean. I don’t let it sit because I don’t like shiny tires, just a nice matte finish, and the tire shine cleans the rims and leaves a protective coating that seems to keep them very clean. I have used it for years, never once had a problem with the rims on many different cars so it seems safe.

  • avatar
    sco

    This looks like a fine product for those who care about brake dust. How about something for those drivers, often of luxury vehicles and perhaps the majority, who do not appear to know that they have rims at all and never ever clean off the dust.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      There are brake dust guards that can be attached. I’m skeptical, but will check them out in the future. Or maybe they should just trade out their nice rims for some steel ones with hub caps!

  • avatar
    nutbags

    While it may not prevent brake dust from clinging, does it make cleaning the wheels easier?

  • avatar
    7402

    I have had two tire shops tell me that early tire rot (think 2-4 year-old tires) is caused or at least aggravated by spray-on products meant to clean brake dust. We drive little enough that I would expect tires to last a good 6 years before wearing out (I also rotate religiously), and few things annoy me more than seeing a 3-year-old tire crazed with rot cracks. What gives?

    Can anyone chime in on whether this is true or not and which products to avoid?

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @7402…I’ve heard the same thing for years. I’ve also used Armor all for decades. I am very picky, I baby my cars, and always have. I once ran a set of factory Good Years, for 90000 klms= 54000 miles over a 5 years period. They were borderline,but they still passed an ownership change,safety check. I have never seen any evidence of premature cracking, and or rot.

  • avatar
    bjchase55

    A book could be written on brake dust (in fact many have), but I will just do up some Cliff Notes. All brake pads produce dust. It’s a matter of how much dust, what color of dust, and what is in the dust. Brake pads aren’t the only thing that produces dust. I’m looking at you rotor. European vehicles typically have dirtier wheels because they use a low-metallic brake pad. Low-met pads are more aggressive and have better fade resistance but tend to produce more dust (and darker color of dust). The very nature of brake pads and rotors is you are using friction forces to stop the vehicle which wear away the brake pad and rotor. By nature dust will always be there. I’ve been a product design engineer in the aftermarket braking industry for 13 years, 8 of those with Honeywell-Bendix. I doubt you have heard of my current company but we are one of the largest in the aftermarket in North America and a large OE player in Europe. In addition…I never really liked Armor All products.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Why wouldn’t we have heard of one of the largest aftermarket brake companies?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I love it when people use 25 words to tell me I wouldn’t know about the name of something, rather than using the 1-2 words to simply tell me the name.

        • 0 avatar
          bjchase55

          I did it that way because someone always asks “who the hell is that, never heard of them before”. So those “25 words” I would have to type anyways. I just answered the question before someone asked in this thread. For what it’s worth the company is GRI Engineering, or Roulunds Braking in Europe. The parent company is MAT Holdings which does many different things other than just brakes such as lighting, car car products (non-chemical), fencing, gardening, compressors, generators, and I’m sure a few others which elude my mind at the moment.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      But it is the high metallic content pads that cause more rotor wear and deposit metal dust on your wheels the quickly turns to rust and discolors your wheels the most.

      • 0 avatar
        bjchase55

        In general speaking terms yes. But I have seen/tested some high metallic pads that produce less dust and wear the rotor less than some ceramic pads.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Great explanation, thanks for sharing!

  • avatar
    mikey

    @sco…I’m fine with the way it is. Nothing like owning a used, base model Mustang convert, and getting more compliments and looks, than the guy with a $50K luxury vehicle.

    I’m with “Fordson” I keep my cars washed ,so soap, and water,and a little tire dressing works for me.

    I have the luxury of being retired, and the Mustang, and Camaro, are garaged. The brake dust on the Camaro is a nightmare. However the wheel design allows you to get a cloth,and your hand into almost all the nooks and crannys. The brembo brake calliper is huge,so I just hope that it comes up in a different position each time I clean the wheels.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I have owned several European cars and have found that changing to Wagner Thermo Quiet brake pads has SIGNIFICANTLY reduced brake dust while stopping very well at the same time. In fact, they seem to produce hardly any dust at all.

    Otherwise as others have said, keeping the wheels waxed along with the vehicle seems to be the best preventive maintenance.

  • avatar
    mmdpg

    I use 303 protectant on the tires, not too glossy and it does prevent UV damage.

    I like to spray a 50/50 mix of Simple Green and water on the tires and rims, let it sit for a couple of minutes and the brake dust comes off very easily with a wipe and water rinse.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    Clean wheels look wrong to me, but I’m not in danger of buying any cleaning products anyway.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I can barely tell the difference in the driver and passenger wheels. I’m with the wax/sealant crowd, though I don’t even bother to do that. I just keep cleaning, and it usually isn’t too big of a deal. Cleaning in between the parallel spokes that BMW likes to use is a pain though. That area never gets completely clean.

    Also, some of this spray is going to hit the rotor. I assume Armor All has thought of that and designed the product accordingly, but I still think it’s sketchy. I will stick to soap and water.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    When cleaning I just save the wheels for last, and use the hand chamois thing right before I rinse it out. After drying them, I use Turtle Ice Wax on my paint and then on the wheels. Then a wipe/buff of them after I’m done with the rest of the car. I never have much of an issue with brake dust using this method, and the hose always sprays the dust right off come the next wash.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Two of my cars have wheels are very easy to keep clean, even the inner portion of the wheel behind the spokes, so I just keep them clean, dust isn’t much of an issue. But our older Honda CRV, which gets the bulk of daily use and is not garaged, has wheels that are hard to clean, had years of previous owner’s neglect, and seems to put off a lot more dust that usual. So the wheels are always a bit grimy looking even when clean.

    I have been considering having them powdercoated black, but I have always wondered how black wheels hold up with brake dust. Anyone with black wheels have any comments?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I had black wheels on a Ford Escape I had until just recently. They had a somewhat satin finish (smooth, but not gloss) No noticeable brake dust ever, however, if you live in an area that salts there roads in winter, you can just imagine what they look like then.

  • avatar
    ezeolla

    I have the solution if you hate brake dust and also hate cleaning your wheels

    Black Wheels

    You’re Welcome

  • avatar
    EspritdeFacelVega

    I can bore at length on this topic! I use paste WheelWax (a fabulous product) once a year, which helps enormously. I have tried ALL the various rim cleaners over the years and have found Black Magic wheel cleaner (in the red bottle) has worked best for the alloys on various European cars I have owned — spray on liberally before the weekly wash ‘n rinse. The trick is to never let the wheels get too dirty, even in winter. And you still need to wipe and dry the wheels carefully as there will be residual grime.

    Except in the dead of winter I use ArmorAll Extreme Tire Shine after every wash on both our cars and it looks great. I find it lasts longer than the regular tire foam, which I used for years. As a west coast boy, I used plain old ArmorAll on my tires way back in the distant pre-tire foam years. I’ve done this for nearly 30 years and have never found it damaging to the tires.

    As a relative newbie to chromes, I’ve found ArmorAll chrome wheel cleaner is best for the chrome wheels on my 2009 Infiniti M45 (these wheels also must be waxed with chrome polish annually to maintain lustre). I’m sure I shouldn’t, but I routinely clean off water spots etc with either just a damp washcloth or glass cleaner (very sparingly used). As they are more work and get dirtier far faster than alloys, I’ve noticed that few people seem to maintain chrome rims. As a result a modest amount of TLC really makes the car stand out and draws attention.

  • avatar

    Is there a specific chemical in this Armor All Wheel Protectant that makes it superior to competing wheel cleaners? I usually use a wheel cleaner spray which foams and needs light scrubbing, afterwards the wheels always look great, no brake dust, and it usually repels brake dust for at least 4-6 weeks or so (ie looks relatively clean for about that long). I usually just get whichever wheel cleaner is cheapest at the store at the time, they all seem similar to me.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I worked in several detail shops and they always slathered the wheels down in wheel acid regardless of their finish and quickly pressure washed. I have used the Mag cleaner which contains formic acid at home in a similar manner on particularly grimey wheels with no adverse long term effects…just dont leave it on long.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Every third E65 BMW that I see—and there are a lot of them around here—has wheels that are covered in brake dust. And it’s not because the E65 wheels are hard to clean; it’s because the owners don’t seem to care…

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Both my last Saab and my BMW came with pads that seem to hardly dust at all. I know the Saab came with Akebono ceramics from the factory, I am assuming BMW is using something similar these days. My Fiat Abarth dusts like crazy, but the wheels are dark gray, so who cares! :-)

    On my daily drivers, when I change out wheels for winter/summer I give them a good clean and wax.

    • 0 avatar
      MK153

      My favorite mod for my e46 was a set of Akebonos – truly amazing that there is almost no dust. Can’t wait for my Cayenne’s brake pads to wear out and get a set for it.

  • avatar
    Matt Fink

    Sorry for the confusion with the pictures. The bottom line is that it did prevent some brake dust, but definitely not all of it. The best picture to look at is the top right title “Driver front with product after 4 weeks”. I’ll work on clearer images to compare next time.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Isn’t Armor All the garbage solid in supermarkets and stuff? I’m amazed that a professional detailer would touch anything that says Armor All on it with a 10 foot pole.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Armor All makes all kinds of products so I wouldn’t lump them all together. Right now there is only one that I use on my clients cars, but I’m always testing new stuff out on my own vehicles to see if my customers would benefit.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    “Each can cost between $9-$12 (in Ohio) and is available at most any automotive parts store”

    Actually O’Reillys has had it marked down to about 3 bucks lately.

    John


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