Get Your Shine On With Our Best Tire Dressings Guide
There are so many choices in detailing products, we help you choose the best tire dressing for shine and durability.
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Over time, your vehicle's tires start to fade and wear out as they are increasingly exposed to the elements and road debris. Tires withstand a lot of abuse and can sustain scuff marks and small cracks, which ages them and, frankly, makes your vehicle less attractive overall. Car shampoo doesn't do a great job of cleaning your tires. Instead, you need a product that's specially designed to spiff up your tires. The best tire shine brands not only clean your tires but also produce a nice, glossy look. If you enjoy detailing your car or truck, you don't want to neglect your tires if you want a polished result. When used as a regular part of your maintenance routine, tire shine not only makes your tires look better, it can also protect them from UV rays and other damage. Check out our list of the best tire shine products currently available.
In the early 2000s, psychologist Barry Schwartz popularized “The Paradox of Choice.” This counterintuitive theory attempts to explain why customer satisfaction decreases as the number of products per category increases. Schwartz wasn’t talking specifically about the tire shine market, but it is a prime example.
There is quite literally more tire dressing products on the market than we can count — seriously, do a Google search. Aerosols, gels, liquids, and sprays — shopping for deodorant is less daunting. All the varieties can be either water or solvent-based and designed to deliver a high-gloss or satin finish. We’re here to help you choose the best tire shine product, depending on your needs.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Insane Shine Tire Coating
- Glossiest, wettest, darkest product we tested
- Looks good after two weeks
- Leaves an even black satin finish after a wash
- Decent price
- Time waiting to dry is an insane as the shine
- Sprays everywhere
- A bit sticky and attracts dust
Chemical Guys Galactic Black Wet Look Tire Shine Dressing
- Thin liquid works into details with ease
- Spray pump is an ideal delivery method
- Can be used on trim and interior
- Not the glossiest in testing
- Requires application more often
- Water-based is better for rubber (arguably) and better for the environment (definitely)
- Can be diluted to use on other surfaces
- Thin consistency is easy to spread
- Good shine doesn’t last
- Significantly more expensive than most
We realize selecting the shiniest tire dressing isn’t as vital as choosing the most competent pediatrician or even the best multivitamin, but we still take it seriously. It started with a box full of the most popular tire shine dressings on the market. It was decided all the products needed to be used on matching tires to maintain consistency. A set of well-used track tires was selected and divided into sections to accommodate all the products being tested.
A popular spray-on tire and wheel cleaner was first used to remove any buildup and supply a clean surface. All the tire shine products were applied in the same session, using the method suggested by each manufacturer. The tires were then left for two weeks, with exposure to sun and dust. At the end of two weeks, the tires were washed using car shampoo. At each stage, notes were taken and photography was done. We judged each product on ease of application, drying time, initial shine, durability, finish after a wash, and value.
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.Learn more
Best Tire Shine Dressing Reviews & Recommendations
- Application Method: Aerosol can
- Formulation: Solvent-based
- Size:15 ounces
- Shiniest product we tested
- Top-level durability
- Even finish after wash
- Heavy spray fills in details
- Long dry time
- Aerosol gets product everywhere
- Application Method: Pump spray bottle
- Formulation: Solvent-based
- Size:16 ounces
- Designed to be sprayed onto an applicator
- Thin liquid works into small details with ease
- Even finish after wash
- Can be used on vinyl, interior, and exterior plastics
- Doesn’t last as long as most
- Leaves some residue after washing with just shampoo
- Application Method: Foam or microfiber applicator
- Formulation: Water-based
- Size:16.9 ounces
- Water-based formula is better for tires and the environment
- Makes tires blacker than a Swedish death metal band’s läderbyxor
- Can be diluted in different ratios for a variety of surfaces
- Several levels down on the gloss scale compared to competitors
- After a wash, it is completely gone
- Three times the cost of some competitors
- Application Method: Included foam applicator
- Formulation: Solvent-based
- Size:18 ounces
- Large, well-designed 18 ounce bottle
- Includes foam applicator
- Widely available
- Thick and sticky
- Doesn’t wash off cleanly
- Application Method: Foam applicator
- Formulation: Solvent-based
- Size:16 ounces
- Apply and let dry for shine or buff for a satin finish
- Washes off leaving a matte black finish
- Requires you to spend extra time in your garage, relaxing
- Long drying time
- Requires multiple coats
- Expensive for results
Our Verdict on Tire Shine Dressing
There are more tire shines and dressings than we could ever realistically test. Our overall favorite is Meguiar’s Ultimate Insane Shine Tire Coating based on the deep gloss it provides along with its durability. The easiest to apply was definitely Chemical Guys Galactic Black Wet Look Tire Shine Dressing. Just spray it on the applicator and wipe it on the tire. We’ve provided several other favorites in different categories as well.
What to Consider When Buying Tire Shine Dressing
Just about every tire shine or tire dressing product on the market is a delivery method for silicone. The shine you see is a thin layer of silicone sitting on top of the rubber, similar to the clear coat over your car’s paint — just far more temporary. Users have a variety of choices in delivery methods from aerosols to thick gels and chemistries are either solvent or water-based. These products will provide some level of UV light protection and shielding from ozone, but mostly, it’s about looks. While prices can vary greatly, even the most expensive we tested was still far less than a single tank of gas.
Tire Shine Dressing Application Processes
Taking us back to the days of building plastic models as kids, spraying on a coating of tire gloss around our sidewalls is a visceral treat. Besides satisfying our inner 8-year-old, it’s also the laziest way to get the product spread around the tire and into all the text and designs found on modern tires.
Aerosols do have a downside; tire dressing gets everywhere. It sprays on quickly, but you will likely spend a good amount of that saved time wiping overspray off your wheels and maybe even your fenders. Worst case scenario, on performance cars with brakes that fill up the wheels, you may end up with a coating of silicone on calipers and rotors, which is bad.
Pump Spray Bottle
At first, it seems like the trigger-pump spray bottle is the less-fun-friend of the aerosol can. But like a lot of fun-friends, aerosols have consequences. Sprays are the friends who bail you out, while aerosols are sitting with you in the cell.
Liquid dressing, which has a viscosity closer to water than hair gel, is tough to pour onto an applicator without spilling. So instead of spraying the tire, and everything around the tire, you simply spray the product onto your applicator and wipe on.
It may seem like an extra step and why not just make the product thicker, but the thicker the fluid, the harder it is to spread on the tire. Honestly, we hadn’t given tire dressing delivery devices a lot of thought before comparing a case of them head-to-head. A thin liquid product, sprayed onto an applicator, turned out to be our favorite method.
Gels, Lotions, Creams, and Balms
Variety is the spice of life and nowhere is that more cliché than in the detailing industry; maybe the beauty industry, which is basically the human detailing industry. Several industries use standardized rules of chemistry to separate gels, creams, lotions, and ointments by percentage of water, oil, and emulsifiers. In the detailing industry, a marketing person slaps a label on it.
Like art, you know when you see it Gels are usually thick and clear-ish. But, when it comes to tire dressing as cream, serum, or pomade, you’re at the fanciful whims of the corporate cubicle creative. The name is irrelevant. What you need to know is that liquids on the thicker side won’t run or drip, but are harder to spread. Thinner liquids are the opposite — they’re easier to get into details, but they run off the applicator, drip down sidewalls, and pool in the gap between the tire and wheel. Some brands claim extra-thick formulas keep the product from slinging onto paint when you drive. When sitting on the sidewall of a typical 25-inch diameter tire while you’re driving at 60 miles per hour, a little extra thickener isn’t going to do much good for a tire gel.
Tire Shine Dressing Key Features
Buckle up, kids. We’re starting a flame war in the comments section. First, while we do have some experience and education in both areas, we are neither chemists nor material scientists. The testing we have done in this area does not provide sufficient data to make a definitive judgment. So here goes.
Tire companies do not recommend using petroleum products or solvents on tires. It is stated that it will damage the rubber compound and cause premature aging. If a tire dressing is not water-based, it is solvent-based and that is almost always petroleum-based solvents. Do solvent-based tire dressings damage your tires? Probably. Does it matter if you, like us, are the type of people who wear out your tires every two years? Probably not.
But, if you’re the enthusiast counting on your delivery-miles, numbers-matching, Sunset Boulevard Edition, PT Cruiser selling for a million dollars on Bring-A-Failure dot com, you may not want to slather it on during your weekly rub-down session. Contact your tires’ manufacturer for further information.
We’ve already said we are relatively comfortable in a completely non-binding way recommending solvent-based products. With that said, water-based products do have some advantages. The entire point of solvents is that they flash, or evaporate faster than water. Those solvents are being put into the air and the last thing our air needs is more harmful products. So besides being healthy for your tires, water-based products are healthier for you and the planet.
The downside is water-based tire dressings don’t seem to work as well. In our experience, they don’t have either the shine or the durability. So it’s the old junk food dilemma.
Tire Shine Dressing Pricing
All of us here at The Drive realize that money matters to everyone. Knowing that much of what we review and recommend are discretionary purchases, we try to let value guide our recommendations, rather than just price. So, let’s talk dollars and utils.
Most of the products we tested come in roughly the same quantity. The sweet spot seems to be right around 16 fluid ounces of product, unless we are looking at aerosols and those are tougher to measure. Doing price searches, we found many of the mainstream brands at large retailers in the $7 to $10 range. Some of the boutique brands were in the $15 to $25 range. The average enthusiast probably won’t go through a whole bottle in a year, unless you drive a monster truck. The most expensive product we tested was still less than five gallons of gas, so our recommendation is to splurge on the product that will make you happiest.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: What is tire shine sling?
A: When you drive before your tire shine is dry, it “slings” off the sidewall and onto the rest of your car.
Q: What is tire shine made of?
A: Tire shine is either water or solvent-based but both are delivery methods for the active ingredient, silicone.
Q: Is tire shine bad for tires?
A: Tire shine products can block both UV and ozone, both of which can harm tires. The solvents in some tire shines may also be harmful to rubber with long-term use.
Q: Is tire shine bad for paint and wheels?
A: Yes. If you get tire shine on painted body panels or your car’s wheels, remove it right away.
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