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Whether you’re detailing your own car or you’re starting a detailing business, tire shine is a great way to add that final touch. But tire shine isn’t as simple as it seems. There is a right and wrong way to apply tire shine, and chances are you’re doing it the wrong way. I had to learn the hard way so you don’t have to: Here’s how to properly apply tire shine.

Why did tire shine turn my tires brown?

Tire browning from poorly applied tire shine.
Tire browning on a vintage show car | Tim Graham via Getty Images

Before I give you all my secrets, let me tell you what you’re probably doing wrong. It’s easy to think you can just slap on some tire shine, quickly wipe it away, and you’re good to go. But you’ll start to notice that in just a few days that tire shine looks patchy. In many cases, it can turn an unsightly brown and look considerably worse than before application. That’s because tires come with a unique protective compound that prevents oxidation.

Tire browning, or blooming is the result of these chemicals leeching out of your tire as it begins to age. However, tire shine will mix with these chemicals and bring them to the surface. As your tire shine is worn away, this brown residue remains, and your tires end up looking dirty, even if they’re relatively new.

Another tire shine mistake

Tire shine sprayed directly on a tire
Tire shine sprayed directly on a tire | Joe Santos, Motorbiscuit

Another common mistake when applying tire shine is applying too much, or not adequately working it into the tire’s surface. If you simply apply a coat of tire shine and drive away, it will end up slinging all over your wheels and fenders, leaving streaky residue on your paint.

This can be a result of overapplication, but it can also result from tires that are still wet from cleaning wheels. The water affects the surface tension of the tire shine, causing it to liquefy and run. This can be especially challenging on heavily treaded tires like snow or off-road tires. In addition, wheels with an aggressive lip can trap water. This trapped water is hard to see but will wick out from the tire bead and wheel lip when applying tire shine. At that point, it’s best to simply wipe the tire clean, ensure it is dry, and start again.

The proper process for applying tire shine

A worker applies Chemical Guys Tire Kicker tire shine
Applying Chemical Guys Tire Kicker tire shine | Chemical Guys

As simple as it sounds, there is a proper way to apply tire shine. First, be sure to scrub the tires with an aggressive bristle brush. Avoid metal brushes, but instead opt for a stiff plastic or poly bristle brush. Using your car wash soap and water, scrub the tire wall to help pull some of the oxidation chemicals to the surface. If it is a relatively new tire, it may take a few passes in order to have a clean tire surface.

Once your tire is sufficiently clean, you need to ensure the entire surface is dry. This includes the tire tread, the tire bead, the wheel lip, and the wheel itself. This prevents the tire shine from mixing with water and slinging or running all over the place. Aside from a quality towel, an air blower can help ensure even those hidden crevices are dry.

Once the tire and wheel are dry, apply your tire shine to a foam or microfiber applicator. This gives you more control over the process rather than spraying it on the tire directly. Using the applicator, make a smooth, even pass covering as much of the sidewall as possible. Multiple passes may be required for larger tires. The idea is that you’re drawing on the tire with the applicator, rather than splotching or swirling the tire shine into the surface.

Once applied, let it sit for up to five minutes. This allows the tire shine to soak into the tire for a longer-lasting shine. Finally, use a dry towel to remove any excess tire shine for a clean, even finish.

Make your car look better, and for longer

While these mistakes are easy to make, properly applied tire shine will make your car look better for considerably longer. Use this guide to your advantage and be the envy of your friends with tires that keep their deep, black color for weeks at a time.

Related Tested: Can You Use Tire Shine to Clean Your Car’s Engine Bay?

Tested: Can You Use Tire Shine to Clean Your Car’s Engine Bay?