Rust On Tire Rims (Problem and Solution)

Last Updated September 9, 2022 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no added cost to you

A nice set of rims is one of the most stylistic aspects of modern cars which means that they can make a cheap car look expensive and make an expensive car look cheap depending on how well they are being taken care of. Most rims these days are made out of steel or aluminum, but some higher-end cars also come with magnesium or even carbon fiber rims.

Rust On Tire Rims

Either way, rims are not indestructible which means that they can get damaged, scuffed, scratched, bent, or even completely destroyed. Rust on tire rims is one of the least attractive looks and one that needs to be fixed before it causes more serious issues.

Rust On Tire Rims (Problem and Solution)

Rim rust can take place due to many contributing factors, but most of them are associated with damaging the outer protective layer of the rim. When this happens, moisture, salt, dirt, or certain chemical particles can come in contact with barebone materials and cause rust.

The best thing you can do to remove smaller rust patches is to invest in a high-quality rust remover as these tend to be the easiest to use and shouldn’t cause additional damage to the rim, vinegar or lemon juice can also do the trick in a pinch. On the other hand, it’s best to sand down severe rust spots until they are as smooth as they can be.

After that, you should either cover that area with rim paint in order for it not to rust again. All in all, if you want to know more about the ins and outs of rust on tire rimes (problem and solution), be sure to read this article.

Rust On Tire Rims (Causes)

  • You hit a curb
  • You used aggressive cleaning products
  • Damage during wheel installations
  • Acid rain and acid ground
  • Road salt
  • Brake pad dust

Can A Curb Impact Cause Rim Rust?

It sure can. The fact of the matter is that hitting a curb tends to be one of the most common causes of rim rust, especially because many people down often even realize they even hit the curb. This means that you don’t need really need to hit the curb aggressively, you only need to scratch the top protective layer of the rim in order for moisture to get in.

Hitting a curb can cause all sorts of issues such as a flat tire or curb rash. Most people tend to scratch the rims of a curb during parallel parking which is why it’s always a good idea to adjust your rearview mirrors before trying to parallel park or even investing in a 360-degree camera.

Can Cleaning Products Cause Rim Rust?

Even though it may seem that steel and aluminum are way too rigid to be damaged by something like a cleaner, that is often the case. The reality is that aluminum and steel are incredibly weak against certain chemical and acidic cleansers. These aggressive cleaning products tend to eat through the rim’s protective coat and eventually come in contact with bare steel/aluminum.

When this happens, it is more than likely that your rims will rust. To make matters worse, this also lets moisture and salt get in and accelerate the process even further.

Can Improper Rim Installation Cause Rim Rust?

Sometimes it makes sense to do certain car maintenance necessities yourself as that can save you both time and money. Swapping your rims is one of those situations, but you do need to keep in mind that this can also cause rim rust. If you overtighten your lugs, they can scratch the area around the holes and thus cause rust.

Moreover, if you don’t tighten your lugs enough, water and salt can get in between the lugs and the inner portions of the lug holes and also cause rust. As such, it’s always best to use an impact wrench that is designed to torque your lugs to an appropriate level.

Can Acid Rain Cause Rim Rust?

Acid rain is typically caused by a chemical reaction when particles and compounds such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur are released into the air and later find their way back to the earth after they react with water (rain), oxygen, and other associated chemicals.

If the area you reside in gets lots of acidic rain, it’s best to keep your car garaged during that period as acid rain can cause a whole load of problems, one of which is rim rust. Also, cars that tend to be left outside can come in contact with puddles filled with acidic rain which can rust your rims even faster.

Can Road Salt Cause Rim Rust?

There are many good reasons why one should wash his/hers car during the winter more often than during the summer. Winter time is associated with more rain, more snow, more ice, and more salt, all of which can cause certain types of issues that can be avoided simply by cleaning your car more often. Salt is known to accelerate the process of rusting, and is typically all over roads during the winter.

This is why you should clean your wheels and your entire underside of the car at least twice a month or so because it’s much easier to clean your car than it is to rustproof it as that can cost a whole lot of money and isn’t always nearly as effective.

Can Brake Pad Dust Cause Rim Rust?

When you apply your brakes, the pads and discs come together and generate friction to stop the car. With friction comes heat which then wears the brake pads off and causes brake dust. Brake dust is made out of small burning brake pad deposits which then stick onto the rim. As these small deposits fly off at really high temperatures, they tend to burn through the protective rim clear coat and let moisture in.

These issues are more common on performance cars as these are typically driven in a more aggressive fashion. The harder you brake, the more dust is formed. Moreover, violent braking increases the temperatures of your brakes, and thus brake dust deposits become even hotter.

Rust On Tire Rims (Solutions)

  • Use rust remover
  • Vinegar, lemon juice
  • Sanding and painting the area
  • Professional wheel repairs

Can Rust Remover Remove Rim Rust?

As the name might suggest, rust remover is intended to remove rust from various surfaces, one of which is your poorly maintained rim. However, not all rust-removing products are the same as some of them are way too acidic. Therefore, you should do your homework before visiting your local hardware store, and buying a rust remover designed specifically for rims is the best way to go.

Using a rust remover has its benefits and drawbacks. The good thing is that rust remover is easy to come by and shouldn’t do any damage to your tire or your brakes. The bad thing is that rust remover isn’t going to do much if your wheels are severely rusty. Either way, you will need to clear coat your wheels afterward.

Can Vinegar And Lemon Juice Remove Rim Rust?

Vinegar and lemon juice are known to eat through rust because they contain citric acid that can typically be found in rust removers as well. However, you need to mix salt, vinegar, boiled water, and lemon juice in a somewhat correct manner which isn’t ideal when you are dealing with rims or other metals.

The effects should, in theory, be similar to those you get with rust removers. However, you will have to let this solution sit on the rusted area for at least 15 minutes before cleaning it off. This method also isn’t particularly effective on more severe rust spots.

Can Sanding And Painting Rims Remove Rim Rust?

Probably one of the best methods of getting rid of rim rust is to sand the rust away with both heavy grit and fine grit sandpaper and paint it. It’s also best for you to take off the tire away from the rim while doing this as this should save you some time because you don’t need to mask out the tire and the rest of the car.

While sanding the area, try to do it in a balanced manner before you remove all the rust and all you are left is a smooth surface. To finish off this process, you should coat your rims with either protective paint or with a see-through clear coat if you like that kind of look.

Can I Repair Rim Rust?

Hands down, the most effective way of fixing rim rust is taking your rim to a professional. This method is mostly reserved for situations where rust has severely damaged the rim or if rust spots are situated in hard-to-get areas. A professional with professional tools is going to be able to clean the rim thoroughly and protect it against future corrosion/rust.

How To Prevent Rim Rust?

If you managed to successfully save your rims from impending rust doom, now it’s time to be proactive and protect your wheels from rust in the future. The first step is to clean the rims more often, especially during winter when salt and moisture are at their worst. Don’t just rinse your rims a few times per month as you should both clean brake dust and all other contaminants as often as you can with appropriate cleaning agents.

Moreover, proper storage can also protect your wheels while you are not using them. Keeping your car in an enclosed room is also a good idea, so if you have access to a garage or at least something with a roof, be sure to use it.

Investing in high-quality metal sealants and rim blades is also a good idea. Try not to curb your wheels, and if you do, be sure to fix them as soon as possible. The idea here is to shield the protective clear coat on your rims as that is the best of keeping your rims rust-free for as long as possible.

Do Aluminum Rims Rust?

Technically, aluminum wheels do not rust, but they do corrode in a similar fashion. Rust creates goldish, orange, and brown deposits while aluminum corrosion typically creates a white-ish hue. The idea behind this is rather the same as with rust as aluminum corrosion is caused by pretty much the same culprits.

Be that as it may, both rust and corrosion need to be taken care of as soon as possible as they can cause all sorts of issues down the line. It’s a shame when a good-looking set of rims is all scratched out, rusty, and corroded.

Can I Use WD-40 To Remove Rim Rust?

WD-40 is a well-known lubricating and cleaning agent known pretty much to everyone. You can indeed use WD-40 to clean rim rust, but more severe rust spots can’t be solved with just WD-40. Be sure to spray WD-40 directly onto the rust spot, let it sit for a little while, and then use a metal scrub or bush to clean all rust spots by hand.

The good thing with WD-40 is that it will not cause damage to your tires, but this process can take hours and a few cans of WD-40. As such, if your rims are severely rusty/corroded, it’s best to take care of them professionally.


At the end of our “rust on tire rims (problem and solution)” article, we can confidently say that you can take care of rim rust in more ways than one depending on the severity of the issue and where the rust spots are located. It’s best to start with easier and less harmful methods such as rust remover, WD-40, vinegar, or lemon juice as these are not going to cause unnecessary harm to nearby components.

However, these methods can only help with mild rust and corrosion. If your rims are heavily corroded/rusty, be sure to go for a professional treatment. Either way, your rims always ought to be covered with a decent protective coat, no matter your preferred method of fixing rust.

Also, try to maintain your rims afterward and don’t damage them as you don’t want rust to cover your rims ever again.

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