Do Tire Cleaners Work?

| November 2, 2012

keeping tires cleanIt takes a special-purpose cleaner to get your tires looking sharp; your regular car shampoo just isn’t going to do it. Auto parts stores carry a wide range of tire cleaning products, so use the DexKnows listings site to find one close by and head on down.

Why clean

New tires are a lovely satin black color, but that quickly fades to a dull gray. Some tires will even take on a slightly brown appearance, which really takes the edge off a car you’ve spent hours cleaning. The good news is that with a minimal amount of “elbow grease,” it’s possible to bring back that “as-new” shine.

You’ll find plenty of tire cleaning advice online. Michelin says, “We recommend using a soft brush and mild soap to clean tires.” Continental adds, “Simple soap and water, with a little scrubbing on the whites, will keep your tires looking like new for years.”

But there’s more to it than a good scrub with soapy water. Rubber is a natural product that ages in sunlight, losing it’s suppleness and flexibility. Kumho explains it this way: “Tires contain waxes and emollients to protect their outer surfaces from ozone and weather cracking. As the tire rolls and flexes, the waxes and emollients continually migrate to the tire’s surface, replenishing this protection throughout the normal and proper use of the tire. However, when tires sit outdoors and are unused for an extended period of time, the tire surface becomes dry, the tire may be susceptible to ozone and weather cracking, and the casing becomes susceptible to flat spotting.”

Got all that? No worries; here’s the bottom line: a tire “dressing” applied after cleaning not only gives tires a glossy appearance, but can help protect against aging due to UV rays and other factors. So what are the options?

Water or solvent?

Water-based tire dressings have a milky appearance, while those that are solvent-based are clear and greasy. Both can be applied as a spray, as an aerosol foam or by wiping on, but there are pros and cons to each.

Solvent-based dressings are somewhat controversial because some see a risk that they could harm the rubber. Indeed, Michelin says, “Tire dressings that contain petroleum products or alcohol can accelerate the aging process and contribute to cracking.” And putting it more bluntly, Continental advises: “If you are using a tire shine product, avoid using petroleum based products.”

A second issue is that of “sling.” When a wheel rotates, solvent-based dressings are susceptible to being thrown off, potentially marking up your paint on the car. But if it’s maximum tire shine you’re after, a solvent dressing is the way to go.

Water-based dressings, although kinder to the rubber, tend to yield a more satin-look finish. Many car detailers consider this perfectly acceptable, although some suggest multiple applications for increased shine.

Choosing a product

So you’ve decided you want your tires looking like new, but you’re not sure which product to use. The guys and gals at the auto parts store know all about these things, so tell them what you want to do and ask their advice. Not sure where to find a good parts store? Use the DexKnows auto parts listings to find one that’s convenient — and get cleaning!

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Category: Auto Maintenance, Autos

About the Author ()

After twenty years in the automobile industry the craft of wordsmith called. Putting down the wrench, Nigel picked up a keyboard on which to express his passion for all things automotive.