There may be no more confusing car-care topic than that of tire treatments.
At first shiny glance, tire shine or dressing may seem to be just a gimmick used by your local used car dealer to spruce up cars for a quick sale. But tire treatments do more than just make your car’s tires look freshly installed, although as you’ll see, that’s no small thing either!
Used correctly, these products can help protect your car’s rubber bits from damage from the sun’s UV rays and from the ravaging effects of salt exposure in the winter or near the coast.
We’ve taken a long, hard look at everything related to tire shine and dressing, then organized all the information we found in this handy guide to help you find the best tire shine for your needs.
Following our guide is a selection of nine tire-detailing products we’re happy to recommend and think you’ll love using on your vehicles.
At a Glance: Best Tire Shine – Our Top Recommendations
- Dam’s Tire Shine 16oz – Achieve A Premium, Lustrous, Dark, Long Lasting Shine
- Car Guys – Tire Shine Spray
- Meguiar’s G7516 Endurance Tire Gel
- TriNova Tire Shine Spray No Wipe – Automotive Clear Coat Dressing for Wet & Slick Finish
- Black Magic BC23220 Tire Wet Spray
- Chemical Guys TVD_109_16 Silk Shine Sprayable Dressing
- Optimum (OB2008Q) Opti-Bond Tire Gel
- Armor All Extreme Tire Shine Gel
- Aero Cosmetics Tire Dressing, Protectant, No Dirt Attracting Residue, Natural Satin/Matte Finish
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Tire Shine or Tire Dressing? are They Different?
Technically, “tire dressing” means something used to treat the rubber of your tires for various reasons other than appearance alone. “Tire shine” is, strictly speaking, a product that is focused primarily on improving the appearance of your tires, rather than being primarily a protectant.
In real life, though, these terms are mostly interchangeable. Products sold as either ad shine or dressing both improve the appearance of your tires and provide various protective functions. We’ll use the terms interchangeably in our guide below.
Types of Tire Dressing
Types of tire dressing are distinguished by their method of application: spray, liquid, or gel.
They can also be divided by the main chemical component of the tire dressing, either silicone or a non-silicone formulation.
Silicone formulations will last longer and will often have better UV-protection, but can be more likely to damage automotive paint if excess slings off onto your bodywork. Formulas without silicones are more likely to have a satin or matte finish rather than a “still wet” glossy and shiny finish.
Why Use a Tire Shine or Dressing? What Does it Do?
You’ve hand washed your car in the driveway, and it looks fantastic. Why take the extra steps involved in using a specialty product on your car tires? Let’s take a careful look at why you might bother.
Give a ‘Looks Like New’ Shine to Your Tires
Rubber naturally weathers as it ages, gradually changing to a softer black or grey color instead of the blue-black of brand new tires. Using a tire shine brings back that lovely brand-new look to your tires and makes your car look well-cared for.
You’d never wear a pair of grubby running shoes with your best suit to an interview. Tire dressing serves the same purpose as choosing your best leather dress shoes for that important interview: it’s the final, finishing touch that pulls all your hard work together and presents your car in the best light possible.
Add a Protective Layer
The rubber compounds in modern tires are engineered to withstand sun damage and extreme temperatures, but adding an additional protective layer is still a good idea. This can help protect the rubber against the fading that comes from UV light outdoors.
If you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean or unlucky enough to live where roads are salted or gritted in the winter months, tire shine will give your tires a little extra protection from salt exposure as well.
Prolong the Life of Tires
Opinions are mixed on whether tire shine or dressing will extend the life of your tires. Most owners will wear out the tread long before UV exposure and age cause “checking” (multiple small cracks that give a scaly appearance) and cracking on the surface of the tire sidewall.
The components of tire dressing, can, however, help prevent premature aging and they will certainly help keep your tires from looking old and worn. And you can check our guide if you’re curious how to fix cracked tires.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention here that appearance should never substitute for safety when it comes to your tires.
Tires that are older than six years (there’s a date code stamped into the side of every tire) may not be safe no matter how they appear. No amount of shine to make them look new can reverse the fact that the quality of the rubber may be too far degraded for safety.
How Does Tire Dressing Work?
Tire dressing or shine is pretty simple in concept. It will have a liquid carrier of some kind, either a solvent or water. The carrier evaporates away after application, leaving behind the various protective components of the product.
It’s in the protective components where products can vary. Some will simply make your tires look more black, but others will have high-quality, highly engineered silicones which provide UV protection.
Can Tire Shine Damage Tires?
Unfortunately, some cheap types of dressing can damage your car tires, especially if used repeatedly over time. You get what you pay for, says the old adage, and it’s especially true when it comes to car-care products.
Silicones have many, many different types of formulations, and they are not all created equal. You’ll want to choose a product that is carefully engineered to work with the UV-protectors and plasticizers built into your car’s tire rubber by the manufacturer.
Be careful with homemade or DIY tire-shine recipes. Some advice online suggests using brake fluid to shine your tires. Do not do this! The hydraulic fluid used for brakes is corrosive and definitely will damage your tires. It’s also incredibly damaging to automotive finishes, and you’d never want that to sling off your wheels onto your bodywork.
How Long Does Tire Shine Last?
Products vary quite a bit in how long they’ll keep your tires looking great. Some will last only a few days. Others are formulated to last a few weeks. Generally, the solvent based types will last longer and water-based types will be shorter-lived.
How much rain you drive through does affect the longevity of the product on your tires as well. Even the very best product will eventually wash or wear off.
What to Consider When Buying?
We’ve figured out what you’ll need to ask yourself as you choose which tire shine product to use on your car.
It may seem like a fairly minor decision but tires are expensive to replace, and taking the best care of them you can is a smart financial choice in the long run. By the end of our buying guide, you’ll know just what you need to shop for.
There are two main types of tire dressing, silicone-based, and non-silicone.
As mentioned above, the silicone types will offer a higher and longer-lasting shine, but the non-silicone types are less a worry if they get on your paint accidentally, and many people prefer the softer matte finish of non-silicone types of tire dressing.
Application Types: Spray Vs Gel Vs Aerosol
Read carefully when choosing aerosol tire shines. Some solvent-based aerosols are too harsh to be used frequently.
Aerosol types, though, have the easiest application process: spray and walk away.
Solvent-based types can be a little fussier to apply, as care must be taken not to get the product on your car’s paint.
Cheaply made solvent-based tire dressing can also, in some cases, dry out your car’s tires or even damage them.
What Finish are You Looking for?
As you shop, think about what you’d like your tires to look like when you’re done.
Some types of dressing offer a highly reflective gloss finish. Others offer up a soft matte finish with an appealing blue-black finish. And there are formulations in between as well.
How Easy is it to Apply?
Spray-on foam is probably the easiest to apply, but you’ll need to avoid getting it on the treads or the brake rotors. A wipe-on or spread-on product is a little more painstaking to apply but avoids getting the product where you don’t want it.
There’s no particular skill involved in dressing your tires with a protective product, but each manufacturer has some specific recommendations. Always read the directions on the bottle!
The biggest thing you’ll want to watch out for is avoiding “tire shine sling.” This is when the circular motion of your tires flings excess product onto the body of your car. Usually, following the directions will avoid this problem, as will not going too nuts with over-applying the product. Allowing the stuff to dry for a while before you drive the car is important, too.
Here’s how to apply tire shine correctly:
- Clean your tires properly. Wash all dust, dirt, and grime off.
- Let tires dry. Most products have better adhesion to a dry surface.
- Apply tire shine. Check instructions. Take care with aerosol products that no overspray gets on your treads or on your brake rotors. Be sure to wear gloves with any solvent-based products.
- Let the tire shine sit on your tires the recommended time or longer. Do not drive your car immediately, or you’ll risk excess product slinging onto the adjoining bodywork.
- Wipe off any excess product. Use a sponge or rag to mop up any extra dressing. This will prevent brake dust and road grime from collecting on the tire surface.
How Long Does it Last?
Rain is a harsh mistress! Expect anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks out of your hard application work. No tire dressing is permanent, no matter what the label says, although a silicone-based sealant-type of dressing will last longer than a water-based product.
Cleaning and drying the tire very well before applying your dressing will help your hard work last longer, too.
Best Tire Shine / Best Tire Dressing – A Detailed Look at Our Top 9 Choices
Now that we’ve looked at various things you’ll want to consider as you shop, here are our mini-reviews of each of the nine best tire shines or dressings available on the market in 2020.
Every type is represented at least once: aerosol, spray on, or wipe on, and solvent-based or water-based.
There’s a lot to consider here but as you read, think of your typical car detailing habits and take that into consideration. Are you usually in a hurry? Do you have a kid who likes to “help” with car work?
Adam’s Tire Shine 16oz – Achieve a Premium, Lustrous, Dark, Long Lasting Shine
Formulated with a light, non-greasy silicone that’s highly resistant to dripping or slinging off your tires, Adam’s Tire Shine can be built up in layers, allowing you to choose the level of shine you’d like.
Although Adam’s recommends their own branded applicator sponge for application, this is not required. Application is easy: spray onto the edges of your tires, then use a sponge sprayed with the product to wipe the sidewalls down. Allow to dry, then apply additional coats if desired.
Adam’s Tire Shine is a water-based product, making it safe to use in shops where painting is being done. This also means no worries if you do get some product on your bodywork. Just wipe off with a damp rag.
What We Like
- Adam’s makes an accompanying tire cleaner as well, to use before their tire shine product.
- Water-based formula means a more environmentally friendly product that won’t stain bodywork or your driveway.
- Pleasant banana-like scent.
What We Don’t Like
- Some users report that the shine lasts several days, not ten, as advertised, and that’s if it doesn’t rain.
- Adam’s can potentially leave a cloudy residue on your wheels. Take care in application not to get too much product on your wheels.
Adam’s Tire Shine is a great choice if you’re new to this kind of product and don’t know what sort of look you want, because you can vary the results of the final shine by building up layers. Due to the water-based formula, it’s a smart option if you’re working with a kid helping you: no harsh solvents or potentially harmful aerosols to worry about and easy clean-up of mistakes or overspray.
Check current prices at our link below.
Car Guys – Tire Shine Spray
Car Guys has a commitment to high-quality products that won’t harm you or the environment. Their tire shine spray is non-toxic and water-based, handy if you’ve got a dog that likes to hang out nearby you while you work.
Applied correctly, Car Guys Tire Shine spray won’t sling on to your car’s bodywork, but if it does, it dries clear and won’t damage your paint. Because of its non-damaging formulation, it can also be used on all your car’s black plastic and rubber trim pieces, parts of your car which can suffer terribly from sun exposure and fading.
There are two application methods. Either spray it on, wait a bit, and wipe off excess for a deep, satiny finish, or spray on and then allow the product to air dry, without wiping, for a higher gloss.
What We Like
- Car Guys Tire Shine can also be used on faded rubber and plastic trim elsewhere on your car.
- Purchase of 18 oz bottle includes a microfiber polishing pad.
- Money back guarantee.
- Doesn’t attract dirt and grime.
What We Don’t Like
- If you’re looking for the highest shine possible, Car Guys may disappoint you. It’s not a completely matte finish, and you can let it air dry to a very high gloss, but it’s not the “always wet” shine that you’ll get from a spray foam solvent-based tire shine.
- The longevity of the dressing on your tire is good, but prone to washing off in the car wash or during rain exposure.
Car Guys Tire Shine spray is a professional-grade product. It’s especially good for those concerned about any possible drawbacks of solvent-based dressings. And Car Guys stands behind their product; they’re responsive to customer needs and suggestions for improvements.
Pick up your Car Guys Tire Shine detailing kit at our link.
Meguiar’s G7516 Endurance Tire Gel
Meguiar’s G7516 Endurance Tire Gel is a purple bottled gel which you’ll need to apply with gloves and a sponge applicator, as it’s a silicone and solvent-based dressing. The extra effort in application is worth it, though, because Mequiar’s provides a highly rain-resistant and long-lasting polymer-based shine.
What We Like
- Excellent rain resistance.
- Pleasant grape scent.
- Gel formulation means no product where you don’t want it.
What We Don’t Like
- Can damage paint finishes.
- Due to the thick gel formula, Meguiar’s G7516 can sling off your tires onto your bodywork if extra care is not taken to wipe off excess and to allow enough drying time.
- Extremely slippery, which means care must be taken during application to avoid dropping tools and supplies.
If you’ve got a little extra time to do a careful application job and keep the product away from your bodywork, the Meguiar’s G7516 gel offers a dramatically longer lasting tire shine than water-based formulas.
Get started with our link below, and remember to pick up a few sponge applicators, too.
Trinova Tire Shine Spray No Wipe – Automotive Clear Coat Dressing for Wet & Slick Finish
With the possibility of a “wetter” look than other water-based sprays, TriNova is good at repelling dirt and grime. It’s also formulated with additional components to prevent yellowing of rubber.
It’s one of the few non-aerosols that has a no-wipe application. You can simply spray your (clean) tires and allow it to dry for a high-gloss deep black shine with no rubbing or wiping. We also like the high-end look of the packaging!
What We Like
- Super easy application, with no wiping.
- A well-designed spray bottle that ensures no product goes to waste, trapped in the bottom of the bottle
- Water-based and pH neutral, so no potential paint or wheel damage to worry about.
What We Don’t Like
- Although TriNova Tire Shine spray is water-based, it must be applied to completely dry tires and doesn’t play well with water spots that may be present from a freshly washed car.
- TriNova can stain concrete, so take care to rinse or wash off any overspray on your driveway promptly. TriNova states that a strong stream of water should wash away any staining.
If you really need a spray-and-walk-away application, TriNova should be on your hotlist of products to try. Although care must be taken to avoid overspray on your driveway, TriNova is easier to use than all but the classic foam-type aerosol tire-shine products. (We look at one of those types in our next mini-review).
Current prices for TriNova Tire Shine Spray are at our link below.
Black Magic Bc23220 Tire Wet Spray
Economical, easy to use, and fast drying, Black Magic Tire Wet is one of those classic aerosol dressings you may already be familiar with. Due to the aerosol application method, Black Magic Tire Wet is a solvent-based product, so you’ll need to be careful not to get it on your car’s paint or wheels. And as with any tire dressing product, be sure to keep it off of your car’s brake components. Brakes need to be sticky, not slick!
As one of the fastest-drying products we looked at, Black Magic is the best choice when you’re trying to squeeze in a car detail on a busy weekend. No hours of waiting for a water-based dressing to dry. A fast dry time means less chance of the product flinging off onto your paint, too.
What We Like
- Convenience and speed are the big advantages here. Just grab the can and spray, no setup, no wiping, no sponges to clean up afterward.
- Classic “just washed” gloss finish that can’t be matched by water-based sprays.
- Very wallet-friendly
- Won’t stain concrete driveways.
What We Don’t Like
- Many users point out that Black Magic’s shine doesn’t last as long as claimed by the manufacturer.
- Product adheres better to warm tires than to cool ones, so choose a sunny day, if possible, for application.
A convenient, easy to use, no fuss product that’s very budget-friendly, this tire shine should be on anybody’s shortlist. To learn more about this product and to check current prices, click the following link:
Chemical Guys Tvd_109_16 Silk Shine Sprayable Dressing
If the mirror-black gloss of a classic tire shine seems too much for your tastes, take a look at Chemical Guys Silk Shine sprayable dressing.
A non-aerosol spray-on tire dressing, it’s water-based and yields a soft, satin finish. It can also be used on other vinyl and plastic surfaces of your car.
What We Like
- The formula includes UV-blockers for sun protection
- Water-based formula is safe for paint and other automotive surfaces.
- Chemical Guys provide a toll-free tip and helpline for questions about using their products.
What We Don’t Like
- Chemical Guys Tire Shine is really not a high gloss shine. This is a good daily-driver “nice ‘n clean” look, but if you’re heading to a car show or a concours d’elegance, you’re going to want something with a lot more gloss than this.
- Some users report Chemical Guys Silk Shine doesn’t have the greatest rain resistance, especially when used as a dressing for exterior plastic trim and bumpers. It may be best used for tires and interior plastic, vinyl, and leather only.
When you’ve got to limit the number of products you’ve got in your detailing toolkit, Chemical Guys Silk Shine is a good basic to have on hand, since it can treat your car tires as well as serve as an all-purpose interior detailer. And its classy satin finish is excellent for luxury sedans. Get started with Chemical Guys at our link below.
Optimum (Ob2008q) Opti-Bond Tire Gel
Opti-bond can be used as is, as a gel, or diluted 1:1 and used as a spray. With careful cleaning of your tires before application, it can last a couple of weeks, with a nice, balanced mid-range shine.
It’s water-based, so no worries about driveway staining or strong solvents to potentially damage your paint. Along with good UV protection, it’s formulated to protect your tires against ozone in the atmosphere, important if you drive or park in highly urbanized areas.
What We Like
- Regular use will keep your tires flexible and free from fading.
- It can be used on interior and exterior trim, vinyl surfaces, and dashboards, replacing some of your interior detailer products.
- Two different application methods (wipe on or spray) means it’s easy to tailor the product to your needs.
What We Don’t Like
- Some users report that Opti-bond can leave a finish that can attract dust, even though the manufacturer claims it won’t. Be sure to wipe off excess and allow enough drying time.
- It’s on the thin side for a gel, meaning it can be a little tricky to get the hang of applying it. Some users find that painting it on with a small brush works better than using a sponge.
Optimum’s Opti-bond is another tire shine product, which, like Chemical Guys Silk Shine above, can replace some of your interior detailing products. When you’re not sure what you’ll prefer as far as application, Opti-bond Gel gives you choices.
Get yours below.
Armor all Extreme Tire Shine Gel
Armor All’s Extreme Tire Shine Gel is Armor-All’s glossiest finish. It’s an easy-to-use gel which ships with a specially-designed foam applicator. You draw a line of the gel down the groove in the sponge and wipe onto your tires.
Allowing the product to dry overnight on your tires will yield the highest level of gloss. Armor All’s Extreme Tire Shine Gel is an economical choice, as well.
What We Like
- Wallet-friend price
- Very high level of shine for a water-based product.
What We Don’t Like
- Due to the design of the applicator, it’s pretty easy to get too much product on your tire, which can cause shine-sling. Use care not to over-apply.
- Shine level builds as the product sits on your tire, so if you’re in a hurry or time is limited you may be happier with a different product.
Armor All Extreme Tire Shine Gel is a great choice when you’ve really got the time to let the product sit and soak into your tires. Your patience will be rewarded with a high quality, glossy black finish for not too much money out of your pocket.
Pick up your Armor All Extreme Tire Shine kit at our link.
Aero Cosmetics Tire Dressing, Protectant, No Dirt-Attracting Residue, Natural Satin/Matte Finish
Aero Cosmetics Rubber Care is a silicone-free rubber protectant developed for the aircraft industry. As such, it’s a high-quality product. And it doesn’t provide a glossy, car-show type of shine. It’s much more of a function-first product, primarily providing care for the rubber and protection from the elements rather than appearance improvements alone.
Many people do prefer a matte or satin finish on their tires, and this provides that beautifully.
Similar to Optimum’s Opti-Bond we reviewed above, Rubber Care performs best when its allowed to really soak into the tire surface over time. Aero Cosmetics recommends at least 30 minutes of sitting time.
Because Rubber Care is formulated for all rubber products and contains no silicones, it can also be used on hoses and plastics in your engine bay as well.
What We Like
- No plasticky-looking too-fake shine here, just the soft, quality black of brand new tires.
- Non-silicone, non-slippery formula means Rubber Care can be used anywhere on your car, even in the engine bay, where other silicone-heavy formulations may cause problems for cooling hoses and gaskets.
What We Don’t Like
- The application process takes some time. For best longevity, you’ve got to let the product sit on the tire at least 30 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, this is going to be frustrating.
- If your tires are badly aged, this product may not have enough shine power to bring them back to respectability.
Your car deserves the best you can give it, and a product developed for the aviation industry is an excellent choice for the care of your tires. Being able to keep engine bay hoses protected with the same product is a nice bonus as well.
Order your first bottle of Aero Cosmetics Rubber Care below.
We hope we’ve made the dizzying array of products for tire care more understandable and less overwhelming!
Whether you’re in a hurry or have a full leisurely weekend ahead of you to clean and detail your cars, and no matter the final look you want for your tires, one of our nine choices are sure to be a great fit for you.
Want to share your experience using one of these products? Do you have any questions for us? Comment below! We’ll answer every question.
Product image credits: © Amazon.com
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