Gloss vs Satin vs Matte Black Wheels: Which Should You Choose?

If you’re looking for some new black alloys, then you’ll need to decide if you want to go with a gloss, satin or matte finish. These finishes vary in terms of the way they need to be maintained so it’s good to know the differences between them.

In this article, I’ll compare gloss, satin and matte black wheels in-depth so you can figure out which is the best option for your car.

The Quick Answer

Gloss black wheels show light scratches, brake dust and dirt more than satin and black wheels, but are less susceptible to staining. Satin black wheels have more of a sheen compared to matte black wheels but neither finishe type can be polished as this will affect the appearance of the wheels.

Gloss BlackSatin BlackMatte Black
Suit most colour carsSuit most colour carsMostly suit black/ white cars
Suit cars with gloss, satin and matte finishesSuit cars with gloss and satin finishesSuit cars with gloss and matte finishes
Less susceptible to stainingMore susceptible to stainingMore susceptible to staining
Swirl marks are more visibleSwirl marks are less visibleSwirl marks are not visible
Brake dust is more noticeableBrake dust is less noticeableBrake dust is least noticeable
Can be polishedCannot be polishedCannot be polished
Gloss vs satin vs matte black alloy wheels

Unsure whether you should go for painted or powder coated wheels? Check out my in-depth comparison between these two finish types to learn more.

Gloss Black Alloys

Gloss black alloys are very popular and suit a wide range of car colours. They can suit cars with gloss, matte or satin paint finishes. Many aftermarket alloy manufacturers produce gloss black wheels so you’ll have no trouble finding a suitable spoke design, size and offset.

As with all black finishes, you’ll need to be careful when cleaning them to avoid staining. Using a pH neutral or mildly alkaline dedicated wheel cleaner/shampoo is the best option and you should never let any chemicals dry on the surface.

The main issue with gloss black wheels is that they show light scratches and swirl marks much more easily than matte and satin finishes. These swirls and scratches are likely to be inflicted during the wash process since the brake dust they collect is very abrasive and difficult to remove without causing some level of damage.

Extra care should be taken when washing to ensure minimal damage is inflicted.

The wheels should always be rinsed before making contact to remove as much brake dust as possible. Plenty of lubrication should be used (car/ wheel shampoo or sprayable wheel cleaner) as well as a soft microfiber wash mitt. Avoid using brushes if possible, and if not possible, make sure they are incredibly soft.

If you do notice light swirls, the good news is that they can be polished out in the same way as a gloss paint finish would be. They can also be decontaminated using clay without altering the finish, as long as any marring from the clay is removed with subsequent polishing.

As with any finish type, it’s a good idea to protect the wheels using ideally a ceramic coating, or a wheel sealant/ wax. A ceramic coating will prevent the brake dust from sticking as much to the finish so it can be rinsed off more easily which reduces the risk of scratches and swirls when using the mitt.

Matte Black Alloys

Matte black alloys are typically used on gloss and matte finish cars which are either black or white, as this helps to provide a lot of contrast. Matte black wheels are rarer than gloss finishes but are still quite readily available.

The main advantage of a matte finish over a gloss finish, is that it will not show light scratches and swirl marks inflicted during the wash process like gloss finishes do.

However, there is a greater risk of staining if harsher chemicals are used on the surface and extra care should be taken to ensure they do not dry or are left on for prolonged periods of time.

The issue with maintaining a matte finish is that it cannot be polished or clayed, as this will alter the matte appearance and ruin the look of the wheels. To keep them decontaminated, they will need to be treated with iron fallout remover and tar remover, but care should be taken as these are harsh chemicals.

Matte black wheels can be ceramic coated without turning them into a satin or gloss finish, however it will often add more of a richer black finish.

Satin Black Alloys

Satin black alloys suit a wide variety of car colours which have either a gloss or satin finish, but do not generally look very good on matte finished cars. Satin has become quite a popular finish choice with many car owners selecting it over the classic black matte finish.

Satin wheel finishes have more of a sheen compared to matte finishes which have a flatter appearance which does not catch the light. Both finishes are similar in terms of maintenence.

Again, harsh chemicals should be avoided to ensure the surface doesn’t stain so a pH neutral or mildly alkaline wheel cleaner is the best option.

The finish also cannot be clayed or polished (similarly to matte) as this will alter the appearance of the wheel. Instead, they will need to be decontaminated using iron fallout and tar remover instead.

Satin black wheels can be ceramic coated without turning them into a gloss finish, however it will add a richer finish to the wheels.

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Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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