Everything you need to know about : Tire Dressing

Everything you need to know about : Tire Dressing

Everything you need to know about: Tire Dressing

Tire Dressing and Tire Shine Products are admittedly one of my absolute personal favourite detailing products to use on my car. I could not live without them. I could have the cleanest car in the country, immaculate paintwork, gleaming alloy wheels and everything else JUST right, but I would still be unsatisfied if those grubby and faded black tire walls left the overall appearance of the car down.

Tire dressing is one of the “little things” that can make a big difference. To me, keeping the look of the tires up to scratch with the rest of the car is a must and I constantly use some sort of Tire product on my car after every single maintenance wash ( Partly due to the fact I live in rainy Ireland and it is nearly impossible for any Tire dressing to withstand the amount of rain and terrible weather conditions we get here, but more on that later )

Due to this fact, I have had the pleasure of testing a lot of different Tire Shine products and have my personal favourites. There are a lot of different types of Tire dressing product on the market today, from Spray Dressings to Gel Dressings and water-based dressings, each with their application/finishes and to suit peoples personal preference which we will talk about in detail later in the article. But for now, let’s start at the very beginning.


What is a Tire Dressing?

Tire dressings, also known as tire renovators, and protectants, also known as vinyl dressings, have the purpose of enhancing the appearance of rubber and plastic surfaces. .Basically, this is just a detailing product that helps to bring back the deep dark color of rubber on your tires. 

There are two types of tire dressing you can buy today– These water-based and non-water-based types of Tire Shine Product. (Protectants are typically water-based products) .There are some big differences between the two, which we will talk about later. 

Most dressings available today fall into two categories: solvent-based or water-based. Both still use the same active ingredient (silicone fluid) but have different carriers or co-solvents.


Why Should I use Tire Dressing on my Car?

Tires are critical to the overall appearance of a car and yet are often overlooked by most amateur detailers when cleaning their car. Because tires are in continual contact with the road and suffer from adverse effects of road tar, dirt, grime, water, salt, brake dust, grease and ultraviolet radiation ozone, and oxygen, it is understandable that they require great care.

A properly cared for tire will add significantly to the overall appearance of a well-detailed vehicle. They complete “the look”.

Appearance reasons aside, people often apply tire dressing for its protective properties ( Not all products fall into this category though ) The products that do, often claim to prevent cracking, fading and hardening of your tires. in essence, These Types of products help to revitalize rubber while leaving a rich shine.

My #1 Reason for using Tire Dressing is just that it looks damn good. This look is subjective though, some people like their tires to look a certain way. These “looks” usually fall somewhere in the below categories.

-Very glossy effect Or Wet Look ( My Preferred finish )

Glosst Tire Dressing
-Satin effect

Satin Tire Dressing
-Matte effect


Matte Tire Dressing


Some people simply prefer shiny black tires, others prefer the satin look and others choose the matte effect as their ultimate finish. Certain manufacturers also combine these two.

A lot of times the same product can achieve different finishes. This is due to control over the finish as applied by the individual detailer ( For Example, multiple coats of a Satin Or Matte Effect product can produce the glossy effect )

What are the different types of Tire Dressing?

There are Two Main Different Types of Tire Dressings available.  The difference between water and solvent-based dressings is simply in the ‘carrier’ system used. Solvent-based products use a hydrocarbon silicone to suspend the product whereas water-based products use water.

Solvent-based Tire dressing

While the silicone that produces the shine is very easily dissolved into solvents, the main issue with solvents is that they are considered volatile organic carbon compounds (VOCs). VOCs have been subject to more and more regulation since they add to other harmful carbon emissions. 

Today’s solvent-based dressings work similarly to traditional dressings. However, the solvents used tend to evaporate much more slowly. This requires detailers to apply the dressings differently by applying thin layers rather than heavy applications and using a sponge or brush rather than misting or spraying action.

This prevents pooling or slinging, which is caused by too thick a layer of silicone slinging off a moving tire onto the side of the vehicle ( This is a term Referred to as tire sling )

A Solvent formula is a go-to choice if you want a high gloss or wet look from your tires. The downsides with the solvent formula are that if it does sling off the tires and gets on to your vehicle’s paint. If it is not removed quickly can dry and set which will end up leaving marks on your paintwork.

Also, because it is sticky it can attract dust and dirt more quickly than a water-based product. This is the one major downside I find with applying these dressings to my car. There is another problem with solvent-based dressing because they can damage the rubber in such a way that it increases structural wear. The tire will crack quicker and turn brown much more easily. It does take a long time for this to become apparent, but once it shows, there is no way to repair this. The solvent-based dressing is almost always sold in spray cans

Water-Based Tire Dressing

Water-based tire dressing is a slippery liquid with a milky white appearance. To Mimic the way tires come from the manufacturer it supplies a satin or matt finish to the tires. Some brands have UV protection in their formula which will protect the tire against sun damage.

Because these water-based formulas are less sticky than the solvent-based dressings, there is much less chance of tire sling and will not attract dust and dirt as easily. If it does sling and ends up on the car’s paintwork, it is less likely to do ANY damage to the paint because it is much more Eco friendly.

It is also a lot more versatile. Many detailers also use it on other parts of their cars. It can be applied to Vinyl, rubber bumpers and window striping. All in all, it is a lot more versatile. Popular situations to use a dressing are:

  • Unpainted trims
  • Unpainted bumpers
  • Door seals
  • Plastic parts in the engine bay
  • Plastic parts on the underside of the car
  • Dashboards (although this is NOT recommended because of the shine/glare it creates)
  • Wheelarches


What is the Best Tire Dressing Product to buy?

Based on the evidence above, it does seem like water-based Tire Dressing would be the type to go for. However, in my personal experience, I find that sometimes the finish can be lacking, but this could just be down to my personal preference of a more dramatic wet look.

Let’s take a look below at some products, most of which I used on my own car.


1)Poorboy’s World Bold ‘N Bright Tire Dressing Gel

This is one of my very own personal favourites. Here is a recent picture I took when I applied it to my car. As you can see, the level of shine and the wet look is very dramatic and lives up to its name ‘Bold ‘N Bright’. This product  Long durable tire shine that is easy to apply and does not sling. It does seem rather sticky though, so it MAY attract dust etc a bit more quickly.

This product would suit detailers who prefer the control of a wipe on gel formula, but also that bright wet-look shine. You’ll love the glossy sheen, and your tires will appreciate the UVA and UVB blockers in this Poorboys product. Detailed product info here

My notes :

  • Water-Based
  • Can be applied via Foam Applicator or Brush
  • Long-lasting ( although can be faded a bit quickly in the rain )


Poorboys Tire Dressing

2)Gtechniq Tyre Dressing

I am a huge fan of Gtechniq products in general and must say I am pretty impressed with the performance of their Tire range. I must admit where it falls short for me is on the finish, it is just a bit TOO matte for my liking. However, I have found that if I apply 2 or 3 coats it gives me the look that I am after. It is a great product though and a little goes a very long way. This bottle has lasted me quite a while so far and I’m happy with it. Detailed product info here

My notes :

  • Good durability
  • Simple application
  • Non-sling formula

Tire dressing

3)Chemical Guys Silk Shine

Chemical Guys are one of the leading names in Detailing products these days, and they do not disappoint with their spray on silk shine formula. This product would appeal to those who prefer a more natural look and is one of the companies best-selling tire products. Detailed product info here

My notes :

  • Durable – one application can last a long time
  • Weather-resistant
  • More natural look

Silk tire dressing

4)Chemical Guys Extra Glossy Shine

Another Great Chemical guys product, this one leans towards detailers with a preference for the more glossy look on their tires. Water-based formula, packed with gloss enhancers and UV blockers.More info on this product here

My notes :

  • Super Glossy with No Sling
  • Weather-resistant
  • Safe to use on interiors, exteriors, and even engine bays

Glossy Tire Shine

5)Meguiar’s G7516 Endurance Tire Gel

Meguiars is probably one of the oldest and most trusted brands in the car cleaning world, and for good reason. Their products work! You can’t go wrong with their endurance tire gel, which can be bought in most car shops, unlike maybe the Gtechniq or Chemical guys product which would lean towards the more serious detailer focused demographic and could be harder to find. More info here


My notes :

  • Good level of gloss
  • Easy to apply as most gels are
  • lives up to its ‘Endurance’ name


Best Tire Dressing

You can read my full in-depth review of Meguair’s in a separate post HERE

How to apply Tire Dressing

Applying tire dressing on your car is quite straightforward, the best method for the application depends on the type of tire shine product you are using. Let us have a look below at a few different methods for using the products. One point to note though, which applies to all applications is to make sure your tires are clean and free from any dirt or road grime before you go near your tires. If you apply tire shine to a dirty tire, you will get crap results!! If you have just washed your car and tires, Dry off your tires. Some tyre shine’s can be used on wet tyres, so check the bottle first. I recommend putting them onto a dry tire wall though, as its less likely that the tire dressing will sling later.


Method 1 – Use a Curved Tire Dressing Applicator Pad

Dressing application is typically a messy job, especially if you don’t have the right applicator. This is probably the quickest and easiest way of applying the tire dressing to your wheels and the method I probably use the most.  They are relatively inexpensive and can be used for a long time before needing replacement. You can find a whole range of applicators like this over at Amazon so take your pick.


  1. Apply the tire shine product directly to the applicator pad
  2. Work your way around the contours of the tire making sure you spread tire dressing evenly
  3. Work in both directions to make sure you get the entire tire covered
  4. Wipe off any excess and leave to dry before driving anywhere to avoid any sling



Tire Dressing Applicator

Method 2 –  Using a Tire Dressing Brush

Using a brush is another easy way to apply the dressing, and most of the time you will have less chance of getting the product all over your hands. You can find a whole range of brushes like this over at Amazon so take your pick and any of these should be fine in most scenarios. If you have an old clean paintbrush at home, this should work fine too.


  1. Apply the tire shine product directly to the brush
  2. Work your way around the contours of the tire making sure you spread tire dressing evenly ( do your best to keep any of the dressing off the surface of the alloy wheels )
  3. Work in both directions to make sure you get the entire tire covered
  4. Wipe off any excess and leave to drive before driving anywhere to avoid any sling


Tire Dressing Brush


Method 3 – Using A Microfiber Pad/Cloth

This is probably my least favourite method, as it will end up ruining your good clothes and pads. ( forget about using it for anything else afterwards ). It will work if you are stuck or you have specific pads for this purpose. You also have a much greater chance of wasting some of the product and/or getting it all over your hands and clothes!


  1. Apply the tire shine product directly to the pad/cloth
  2. Work your way around the contours of the tire making sure you spread tire dressing evenly
  3. Work in both directions to make sure you get the entire tire covered
  4. Wipe off any excess and leave to drive before driving anywhere to avoid any sling



Tire Dressing Applicator


Hopefully, I have given you all the detail you need to know about tire dressing and how to start getting your tires looking their best.  If you have any tips of your own or feel that I have missed something in the guide above, please leave a comment.

Happy Detailing

About the Author – Darren O Hara

Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out out new products.

Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.

You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork

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3 thoughts on “Everything you need to know about : Tire Dressing

  1. You’ve gotten tire dressing on your tread. Trust me, when you’ve lost someone in a car accident you start thinking more about safety than looks. You should not be getting Tire dressing anywhere near your tread, and I personally won’t even place it on the sidewall of the tread. My life means more to me than looks. I don’t say this to be a jerk, but to make you remember how important this is in terms of safety.

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