If there is something I can easily admit to, it’s the fact that I don’t wash my car enough. Not only that, I never tend to tire and wheel cleanliness. And yet, I know I should—not just for aesthetic purposes, but also for safety purposes.
Is the cleaning of fleet trucks on your preventive maintenance (PM) list? For some, it may be a weekly chore. For others, it could be monthly. While clean fleet trucks reflect positively on the company to which they belong, that’s not the only reason to polish those workhorses. This is especially true when it comes to wheels and tires.
TAKING A CLOSE LOOK
Maintaining clean wheels and tires means getting down and dirty and using some elbow grease. Why is this important? Let’s start with the wheel. During the cleaning process, you can inspect lugs/studs to make sure they are on properly, helping to locate any loose or damaged lugs/studs before they cause a bigger problem.
Then, there is curbing damage, caused by the wheel scraping against a curb. Serious damage where the wheel meets the tire can affect the tire wall. This is an easily avoidable expense. Clean wheels better display curbing damage, allowing fleet owners to call a wheel service before any irreversible damage is done.
Clean tires can help reduce and/or highlight potential problems, as well. While some heavier-duty tires have secondary measures should the tread be pierced—like Goodyear’s Duraseal Technology®—that is not the all-encompassing case. During the tire cleaning process, you’ll be able to check the tire for small leaks you may not have been aware of. Should there be a hole in the tire, the water or cleaning solution—if the solution is a thinner liquid applied copiously—will bubble up on the tire’s surface.
This close-up of an uncoated aluminum wheel shows the damage low pH products can inflict.
I’d like to tell you that you could use pretty much any cleaning solution on your wheels and tires, but that would be a lie. For example, low pH cleaning products can severely damage aluminum wheels. When choosing a wheel cleaner, it’s important to know the product’s pH balance, which you can test by wiping or spraying the product onto a pH strip. Products with low pH numbers (0-3) are highly acidic, while products with a high pH number (10-13) are strong bases. Products with high pH levels can also cause severe damage to aluminum wheels.
It’s best to choose a product with neutral pH numbers (4-9), as these are the safest for aluminum wheels. General-purpose wheel cleaners may be acid, neutral, or caustic, so it’s important to get the right cleaner for your wheels. A couple of aluminum-safe wheel cleaners include: Black Magic® No Scrub Wheel Cleaner and Black Magic® Aluminum Wheel Cleaner.
When it comes to tire cleaning, an Occam’s Razor-esque principle applies, in which the simplest solution is the best—soap and water. While cleaning your tires with soap and water will help expose any holes that may have gone unnoticed, it won’t bring that shine you get from using a tire dressing. As far as PM, tire dressings don’t really contribute. If you want your fleet to have that little extra aesthetic flare, a good tire dressing to bring out the tires’ shine may be just what you’re looking for.
While it may not seem very important, cleaning should be on your fleet truck PM list, whether it’s once per week or once per month—but, especially the more damageable areas, such as wheels and tires. Maintaining the cleanliness of wheels and tires—mostly just the act of cleaning itself—is a helpful way to more deeply inspect for easy-to-fix damage before it gets out of hand.
With quick tire repair products, such as Fix-a-Flat, on the market, closely inspecting tires may not seem too important. It should be noted, however, that those products are only temporary fixes. In the end, you’ll still need to replace the damaged tire. So, before it gets that far, clean and inspect your wheels and tires. It’s easier and more cost effective to patch and plug a tire than to replace it.