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How To Detail Wheels & Tires The Right Way

Your tires play a major role in determining the appearance of your car. The upkeep and maintenance of your tires are as important as keeping the exterior body parts of your vehicle clean. To allow your vehicle to grab the attention it deserves, you need to pay special attention to the cleanliness of your tires. Getting the best tire shine pushes the individuality you want. It also adds to that extra “pizzazz” of a waxed and shiny ride.

However, if you think cleaning your car’s tires only enhances the visual appearance, you are mistaken. Proper maintenance also protects your tires from cracking and weathering (due to excessive wear). It removes corrosion and protects your tire's thread from various elements. Therefore, clean your tires every time you wash your car, or at least once every two weeks.


Here is a handy YouTube video you can watch to learn more about shining your tires.

Here is a brief guide to the best tire shine that you can conveniently follow:

How To Clean Car Tires - Step By Step

Step 1: Prepare For The Cleaning

When it comes to cleaning your tires, it is vital that you have all the necessary materials and equipment on hand. To ensure the process goes smoothly, you will need water, wash mitt, sponge, pressure washer, dish soap, bucket, tire wax, a tire cleaner and tire dressing solutions.

Step 2: Rinse Your Wheels Thoroughly

Now that you have all the materials ready, it is time you start the cleaning process. Rinse your tires and wheels thoroughly with water to remove brake dust, mud, dirt, debris, gunk, and other filth from the tires. Your tires are bound to get dirty when you drive your car around.

You should use a pressure washer for removing the dirt from the outer layer of the tires as well as the surface of the tires. Rinse the rubber sidewalls and the area between wheel spokes with a direct and high-pressure stream of water.

Step 3: Mix Dish Soap And Water

For the initial cleaning, you need a normal solution that can help you remove grease and road oil from the tires. Mixing dish soap with water can do the job. So, fill a bucket with water and add a tablespoon of dish soap per gallon. Wait until the solution mixes completely. Dip the foam sponge in the solution and apply on the tires.

Step 4: Scrub The Rims And Tires

After applying the dish soap and water solution, grab the wash mitt and scrub the face of the tires and rims. Try removing as much road contaminants and dirt from the tires as possible by scrubbing the wash mitt hard on the rubber sidewalls the tire tread. Also, wipe between the wheel spokes to remove debris and dirt.

Step 5: Rinse Off The Wheels

After scrubbing the tire with the wash mitt, use the pressure washer again to rinse the soapy water off completely. Do not hesitate to rinse thoroughly to ensure all the soap is removed from the tire and wheel. Wait a while to let your tire dry and move on to the next one. After the tires dry, you will still notice some tough to remove, stuck-on materials. This may require you to coat the tire with an appropriate and powerful cleaner.

Step 6: Coat Wheel With Cleaner

Once you have found the perfect cleaner for your tires, spray it over the whole surface of your tire and rubber sidewalls. To ensure complete cleaning without cleaner drying onto the wheel, it you work on one wheel at a time.

Best Tire Cleaners

When it comes to choosing a cleaner, you need to be aware of which will work best for your wheels and tires. For example, you can use Mother’s Foaming Wheel & Tire Cleaner for both cleaning your tires and even coated wheels. However, if you opt for their Chrome/Wire Wheel Cleaner instead, you cannot use it on your wheel (which is a risk as there is a chance of the cleaner making its way to your wheels).

Opt for multipurpose cleaners that you can use on both tires and wheels to ease the process. You can get the Wolfgang Tire & Wheel Cleaner, which loosens brake dust that creeps onto the tires, into the pores of the rubber, and into the tiny holes in the metal wheels. A little scrubbing with a brush or wash mitt allows the cleaner to do its job better. If you have tires and wheels with caked-on brake dust, or that haven’t been cleaned for months or probably even years, you might require something more powerful.

Go for the Pinnacle Advanced Wheel Cleaner Concentrate. This product comes under the professional-grade category. This cleaner contains butyl ethers, caustic acids, and other harsh detergents, which can instantly get rid of the gunk, dirt, and debris that make their way into the pores of the rubber. However, it is vital you follow the directions on the package, as this formula can even do more harm than good if you don’t use it properly.

Step 7: Let The Cleaner Sit

Let The Cleaner Sit

After applying the cleaner on the tire and wheel, let it sit and work its magic for 30 seconds. Grab a cleaning brush and start scrubbing the rubber sidewalls and outer surface of the tires again to loosen the brake dust and grime stuck on your tires completely. After a few seconds of scrubbing the tires, you will notice the dirt starts to run off the wheel.

Cleaning Brush

Instead of using a washing mitt for the scrubbing, go for a product that is designed for tires. Go for the Mother's Contoured Tire Brush. Bear in mind that for thoroughly removing the dirt particles from the rubber tires, you require a stiffer brush. So, use this cleaning brush and do not hesitate to put a little “elbow grease” into the task, especially if you have been putting off cleaning your tires for a while and the tires have layers of old dressing on them.

Upon application of the cleaner and scrubbing with the contoured tire brush, you will notice these layers turn brown and rinse off your tires. This ensures every nook and cranny of your tire’s sidewall is now clean of the stubborn road film. The curved handle of this brush also minimizes fatigue, while offering maximum scrubbing power and efficiency.

Step 8: Dry The Tires

Dry the tire completely with a lint-free cloth. Never use the same cloth on the tires and wheels. Always make sure to use separate ones for both. The surface of your tire should now appear completely clean and dry. Now you can move on with the shining process, which involves waxing your wheels and tire dressing.

Wax Your Wheels!

After following the steps above, you still have to shine the tires. This involves waxing your tires thoroughly. Therefore, once your tires are clean and rid of all stubborn road film, brake dust, and other sticky particles, apply a layer of quality wax on your wheels to seal the surface.

Tire wax works just like car wax and delivers a perfect shiny appearance. You have to apply it using an applicator pad while using a clean, soft, lint-free microfiber towel for buffing. The wax also prevents brake dust adhesion and plays an important role in making your tires look cleaner for longer. In order to keep the shine lively, you need to reapply wax on a weekly basis.

This is the best solution for keeping your tires clean, rather than scrubbing your wheels every two days. Some waxes for tires even come with their own natural coating that protects the tires from attracting dust, debris, and stuck-on surfaces from the road. For instance, you can use a coater/waxer, like the Pinnacle Black Label Diamond Wheel Coating. This product acts as a wax and a layer of protection that virtually eliminates brake-dust build up on your tires.

Tires coated with this wax are easier to maintain and clean. Moreover, you can handle regular wheel cleaning with just water and soap. Since the coating creates a slick barrier of protection, you can remove most of the grime and dirt by hitting tires with a strong jet of water. Read on and follow the precise and clear instructions on waxing your wheels:


  • Ensure your tires are cool to the touch and away from direct sunlight
  • Thoroughly clean each wheel before application (follow the step-by-step guide above)
  • Once your tires are completely dry, use a towel to smoothen the rubber sidewalls
  • Apply the wax on your tires and distribute evenly over the surface
  • Keep working on the coating after application with a standard cloth into the surface
  • Once the coating disappears, use a lint-free, clean microfiber towel for buffing and adding shine to the tires

Tire Dressing

Tire Dressing

If your car tires still do not look as shiny as you want them to after waxing, you should opt for tire dressing. This process provides a beautiful shine to your tires, considering you pay strict attention to the amount of product you apply. You can apply this via spray or foam and this will help enhance the visual appeal of your tire sidewalls, while also preventing premature aging. In a way, tire dressings act as both protectors and creators.

However, since car tires do wear out eventually, due to wear and tear while driving, it is vital you focus more on the visual enhancement aspect of tire dressings than prevention of premature aging. After all, there is nothing like a tire that looks extremely clean and shiny. Not only does this help make your vehicle look more attractive, but also ensures you will make heads turn when cruising down the streets.

You have to apply tire dressings the same way you apply tire wax. You can either spray it or use it in foam form. Regardless of which option you choose, you must distribute the product evenly over the entire tire surface. Work the coat with a standard cloth and use a microfiber towel for buffing and boosting the shine. You have plenty of product options for tire dressing. There are water-based and silicone-based products. The latter provides a greater, glossier shine but has the tendency of going brown after a certain period.

Water-based products are environmentally friendly and don’t damage your tire at all. Some products provide protection from the UV rays of the sun, which prevents your tires from cracking. An example of a good water-based tire dressing is the Black Magic Tire Wet Spray that provides a shine like no other and does not require as much work as silicon (gel-based) products. In addition, this is among the few products on the market that offer three separate settings, according to your tire preference.

You can opt for the Meguiar’s G12024 Hot Shine High Gloss Tire Spray, which is a high-quality spray that offers more shine. It boasts antiozonant and water-resistant technology that provides your car tires with durability and longevity. The hot shine also protects against browning, while preventing fading and cracks. Another option is to use the Tuf Shine Tire Clear Coat or McKee’s 37 Tire Coating, both of which are semi-permanent and feature acrylic-based resin that forms a flexible, chemical-resistant coating on your tires.

A single application of these tire-dressing products will provide you lasting shine and several months of protection, even in extreme climates. So, if you want to leverage the best tire shine, follow the abovementioned guidelines on cleaning, waxing, and dressing your car tires.

About Jason Trevino

Jason is a talented and advanced author, blogger and auto expert. He is determined in researching thousands of products so as to make it easy for the owners to find the best products. He focuses on giving users better understanding on products they are using and ones they anticipate to buy.

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