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Surf City Garage Code Red Active Wheel Cleaner Review

Cleaning alloy wheels is one of my least favorite car care chores. If you don’t stay on top of it, brake dust will ruin a nice set of alloys. The dust clings to the wheels and – if not removed periodically – will turn that gorgeous surface into a nasty mess. I’ve tried lots of wheel cleaning products over the years, but I’ve never found my go to bottle. I’m always on the lookout for new products to make car care easier, faster and more effective.

Earlier this year, I tested the Surf City Garage Clayzilla paint cleaning system. When the folks at Surf City saw the review, they asked if I would like to test more of their products and I happily agreed. You might think I live a glamorous life, with a different shiny new car in the driveway every week, but the fact of the matter is that I spend a considerable amount of time keeping those cars clean. If I had opened a detailing business at the same time I tripped into the car review game, I’d be in better financial shape.


Surf City Garage Code Red Active Wheel Cleaner might remind you of Comet detergent – but instead of shaking out white and turning blue – it sprays out green and turns red when it encounters brake dust. I tested it on two vehicles and found it to be quite effective. While the label suggests that you can simply spray it on and hose it off in three-to-five minutes, I found that the product worked significantly better if agitated with a wheel cleaning brush after application.

For lightly soiled wheels, spray-on/spray-off might be fine. But for anything with a real accumulation of brake dust and gunk, you’ll need to work the surface over. In these cases, the more cleaning brush options you have, the better. Some wheel designs were created without consideration of cleaning. Getting into all the nooks and crannies in a modern alloy wheel can be tough. My wheel cleaning brush has seen a better day and I need to replace it.

I did notice some discoloration on the tires the next morning. You’ll want to give the tires a good scrub and add some protectant after cleaning your wheels with Code Red.

There are lots of choices when it comes to alloy wheel cleaners, but it can be tough to find the best stuff. Surf City Garage Code Red Active Wheel Cleaner has a slew of competition. I found these products at Auto Zone and Advance Auto:

  • Black Magic/Black Magic aluminum
  • Griot’s Garage/Heavy duty
  • Eagle One/A2Z
  • Turtle Wax
  • Meguiar’s/Hot Rims
  • Armor All
  • Armor All/Quicksilver
  • Mothers/Wheel and tire cleaner foam
  • DUB by Meguiars

Pep Boys had a deeper selection, including:

  • Surf City
  • Barrett-Jackson
  • SONAX
  • Purple Power

Amazon has the most compete selection. Choices include:

  • Chemical Guys
  • Nanoskin
  • Adam’s DWC-16
  • S100
  • Wizards
  • Flash Brown Royal Non-Acid
  • Car Guys

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not a paid review. Surf City Garage sent a bottle of Code Red to me to test.

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 Aidan on 04.26.16 at 4:17 pm

I just inherited a mates holden while he’s off on holiday. Does the discolouration of the tyres disappear after a clean + spray? I’ve never had a car with alloy wheels (I have ’01 falcon with plastic rubbish, haha) and don’t want to bugger up his tyres.

Cheers.

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