When it comes to washing and detailing your car, there’s a good chance you don’t think twice about your tires. When was the last time you actually scrubbed all that dirt and grime off your tires’ sidewalls? It may seem a bit pointless, but caring for your tires is important if you want to get the most out of their lives. And since tires are one of the most expensive maintenance items your vehicle has, it’s worth giving them some attention from time to time.
Although tire shines are mainly used for cosmetic purposes, some quality products will offer protection to help prevent fading and cracking. How effective tire shines are at protecting tires is heavily debated, but it’s important to know quality products do more than just give your tires a fresh look. Ultimately, most people who are shopping for tire shines mainly care about how the finish looks, how long it lasts, how easy it is to apply, and whether or not it leaves behind a spitting mess. We’re here to help.
Below, you’ll find our top picks for the best tire shines, followed by some general tips and advice on how to properly use tire shine so it lasts as long as possible.
1. Top pick: Meguiar’s Endurance tire gel
- Lasts long when applied correctly
- Control the amount of shine through multiple coats
- Easy to apply with the correct applicator
- Gel application requires patience
- Can stain body panels if you aren’t careful
If you have the patience to apply a gel to your tires using an applicator, I highly recommend Meguiar’s Endurance tire gel. From my personal experience, this tire shine tends to last the longest, assuming you’re applying it on properly cleaned tires. Another reason why I like Meguiar’s Endurance tire gel is you can control the amount of shine simply by adding more coats. If you prefer more of a satin-like shine, you can get that with this product. If you want a real shiny, glossy tire, you can too — but it’ll take more gel to achieve that look.
It’s not perfect though, as one of the biggest issues with this product is that it can sling off your tires if you don’t wait long enough for it to settle before driving. If that happens, it can stain plastic or painted panels. So if you do notice any of it slinging onto the body of your car, you’ll want to wipe it off right away.
I recommend this tire gel for those who are willing to put in the time to clean the tires, apply the gel properly, and don’t need to drive their vehicle right away. The end results are worth it for some people, but not everyone.
2. Runner-up: Chemical Guys Tire Kicker tire shine
- Small amount goes a long way
- Less prone to slinging or spitting onto your car
- Can be used on black plastic/vinyl parts to restore shine
- Shine doesn’t last very long
- Spray bottle isn’t the best
For a more traditional tire shine that works well for the price, there’s Chemical Guys’ Tire Kicker tire shine. It comes in a spray bottle, although I still recommend using an applicator so it doesn’t drip all over your wheels. What I do like about this product is that you don’t need to use a lot of it to get a nice shine on your tire. That also means it’s less likely to sling off your tire after application. It’s versatile too, because you can use it on any type of rubber, vinyl, or plastic pieces inside or outside your vehicle.
It’s formulated with UV blockers to offer further protection wherever you choose to use it. It’s dry to the touch, unlike some other tire shines that are greasy. The biggest complaint most users have is that it doesn’t last very long. If you live in an area that experiences a lot of rain, that will definitely be the case. Also, the spray bottle it comes with isn’t the best, so I’d recommend transferring it to a better bottle.
3. Premium pick: Adam’s Graphene tire dressing combo
- Combo includes a great applicator
- Easy to apply
- Leaves no mess when applied correctly
- Can last a long time
- Graphene benefits are debatable
- Premium price
There are actually some interesting conversations online when it comes to this recommendation from Adam’s Polishes. If you follow the world of car care and car detailing, you’ve likely heard of graphene-infused products. It follows in the footsteps of ceramic and Adam’s Polishes has created a tire dressing with it. Some enthusiasts say it doesn’t make a difference, while others believe it’s worth the premium. As for myself, I do regularly use Adam’s Graphene detail spray as protection on my vehicle, and I’ve had good results with this tire dressing.
The company claims the graphene-oxide ceramic resins gives this tire dressing a curing characteristic in addition to the traditional, water-based silicone tire dressing. That means it’ll seal your tire and give it hydrophobic properties, keeping water, dirt, and other contaminants from sticking onto its surface. Personally I’ve been impressed with how well this tire dressing works, giving the satin-type shine I prefer. Its durability is comparable to Meguiar’s Endurance tire gel, although personally I still prefer the gel due to its price. But if you’re willing to pay a bit extra for a great quality product, consider this combo that also includes Adam’s Hex Grip applicator. It’s a great applicator, one I personally own and often use.
4. Best tire shine applicator: Chemical Guys Wonder Wave Durafoam
- Comfortable to use
- Washable and reusable
- You’ll eventually need to buy replacements
- Can be too big for some
I tend to exclusively use tire shine with an applicator because it’s a lot less of a mess and it helps you apply it evenly on your tire so it doesn’t look blotchy. Normally, I use this Wonder Wave Durafoam applicator from Chemical Guys. It’s affordable and really comfortable to use. Best of all, it’s washable and reusable and tend to last a few months for me.
Eventually, these things will fall apart though and you’ll have to buy replacements. As I mentioned earlier, Adam’s Pro Tire Hex Grip is another applicator I have. Some find it a lot more comfortable to use than the Wonder Wave Durafoam. I think it largely comes down to personal preference, so feel free to try both to see which one you like more.
How to properly apply tire shine
If you read online reviews about tire shine, you might find some interesting user feedback. You’ll have one person claiming the tire shine lasted weeks and another saying it didn’t even last a day. One of the main reasons for this discrepancy is the effort put into cleaning the tires before applying the tire shine. If it’s been weeks or even months since you scrubbed and cleaned your tires, you might be shocked by just how much dirt and grime has gathered on the sidewalls. Applying tire shine to a dirty tire guarantees it won’t bond to the rubber, which means the shine won’t last but a day or two.
After cleaning your tires, you’ll want them to be completely dry before applying your tire shine. To help prevent slinging, use a proper applicator and start with thin coats. This helps ensure the tire shine dries relatively quickly and you can apply it evenly. You can apply more coats if you want a shinier or glossier finish to your tire.
Once you get the look you like, it’s recommended to let your vehicle sit for around 15 to 30 minutes before driving it. You’ll also want to use a microfiber towel to wipe away any excess tire shine from the tire, and making sure it’s all dry. It might sound like a lot of work to just make your tires shiny, but it’s the correct way to ensure it lasts and doesn’t sling onto the body of your car. Don’t forget, quality tire shines — like our recommendations — do claim to offer some protection against UV rays, which can cause browning and cracking to your tires. Bottom line, clean your tires, and apply some tire shine to keep them healthy.