Restore that showroom finish by concentrating on the bits of rubber that keep you on the road!
Over the years, tires have become more than just a valuable aspect of safety and road holding. In the '50s and '60s, they were fashion statements, with whitewall tires being in vogue. And in the '70s and '80s, it seemed no car could be improved upon without slapping on a set of white-lettered tires.
Today, you’d be forgiven for thinking that things seem a little dull in the world of tires. But they don’t have to be! Just because modern tires are seldom anything but black doesn’t mean they aren’t noticed.
On the contrary, detailing your car’s tires is the best way to take your car from looking good to great. And yet, it remains one of the most overlooked aspects of detailing. So how do you restore the original fresh look of your car’s black sidewalls? That’s where tire shine comes in.
What is Tire Shine?
Simply put, tire shine is a substance which acts as a dressing for your tires. It predominantly comes in two forms: water-based and solvent-based.
Water-based products tend to be easier to apply. They commonly leave a matte finish to your tire, while making it a richer black. However, water-based tire shines aren’t as durable, and probably won’t leave you with the deep, glossy finish that many desire.
For lovers of gloss, a solvent-based tire shine is your best bet. Not only do they give a much richer shine, but they're also more durable than water-based products. But on the flip side, solvent-based tire shines have a tendency to “sling”. Slinging is what happens when particles of the product are literally slung onto the paintwork of your car (usually the lower panels close to the wheel). You’re left with black spots which, if unattended, can build up over time. This is particularly noticeable in cars painted in lighter shades.
Like any product, tire shine needs a clean surface to be applied to. Use a wheel & tire cleaner to effectively degrease and prepare your car’s tires for application. This will help the shine stick to the tires more effectively and for longer. Most tire shines need to be applied to dry rubber as well, but consult the instructions for specific applications.
Tire Shine Foam Vs Spray Vs Gel Comparison Table
At any auto store or mainstream supermarket, you’ll be presented with a multitude of options. Many of these offerings fall into one of three categories: foams, sprays and gels. Let’s break each down, and see which is best for your needs.
Ease of application
By far the easiest to apply — Spray it and forget it.
Easier to apply than gel: spray on and let sit, or wipe to evenly distribute.
Slightly more laborious, this requires an applicator and a bit of elbow grease.
Depth of Gloss
Dull shine, and less deep color.
Strong shine and ability to restore color.
Deepest shine and the best possible way to get a deep black.
Aversion to Slinging
Lightweight foam means slinging is minimal.
Some slinging can occur.
Depending on product, heavy slinging can be present.
Not very durable — will last a few days to a week.
Has the potential to last 7-14 days, depending on application.
The most durable. Not only long-lasting, but able to remain in changing weather conditions.
If you’re using a motorcycle or bicycle, you should avoid tire shine products at all costs. While some showrooms may apply them to motorcycle tires to boost their visual appeal, you can be sure that, once out of the showroom, all traces of tire shine have been meticulously removed. This is due to the low-friction nature that tire shine products have, and can be especially hazardous to two-wheelers.
More About Tire Foam
Just as it says on the canister, tire foam is a foaming spray that is found in an aerosol. The consistency is like that of shaving foam—it bubbles up and foams around the tire.
The advantage of tire foam is that it takes the least amount of effort in term of application. You can spray it on to the sidewall of the tire and forget about it. You don’t even have to wipe it down.
But, this ease comes with compromise. Of all products, tire foam is least likely to be durable, and will often lose effectiveness after a few days. And, even when fresh, you’re unlikely to get the same shine or depth of color as you would from a spray or gel tire dressing.
More About Tire Shine Spray
Tire shine spray is liquid-based and comes in a spray bottle, not dissimilar to your common kitchen cleaner. In this instance, you're supposed to spray the dressing onto the sidewall and wait for it to dry. Depending on the product, you can either spray it on and leave it or ensure even coverage by lightly distributing it with a sponge or cloth.
Tire shine spay is a good compromise, as many products will both outlast and outshine even the best tire foams. In fact, depending on the particular item used, some may even surpass certain gels if applied properly to a clean surface.
The disadvantage is that with a spray you’ll likely have drips. These drips can run down on to your rim, and—especially if it’s light-colored—become visible on the wheel itself.
More About Tire Shine Gel
Tire Shine Gel is a thicker substance, which is commonly applied via a sponge, towel or with a dedicated applicator pad. A gel is mostly favored among those looking for a combination of gloss and durability.
Being a thicker substance, tire shine gel can be applied with more finesse than spray. You can ensure even coverage and easily reapply on any areas you have missed with control.
Tire shine gel is also the most labor-intensive of the three products, with extra effort needed to ensure the entire sidewall has been coated. You can also expect a marginally greater amount of slinging from a gel. This is because it's a thicker and heavier product, and has a tendency to be thrown off the tire, and on to the bodywork.