Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best tire shine

If you take pride in your ride, you probably detail your vehicle on a regular basis. In addition to buffing and shining your car or truck inside and out, it’s also important to give your tires some much-needed attention with tire shine.

Few things beat the glossy black gleam of new tires, but that only lasts for so long. Continued exposure to dirt, rain, road salt, and other pollutants causes tires to take on a dull brownish color. Tire shine restores that like-new look. Not only does it remove dirt, but it also helps to restore the original black color. Some formulas even offer a degree of protection to combat damage from ultraviolet radiation and prevent pollutants from settling into tires.

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If you have an SUV with a rear fifth tire, it’s a good idea to apply tire shine to it when you do the other four tires. It’s a small maintenance task that will keep the spare in tip-top shape.

Key considerations

What does tire shine do?

Because vehicles spend considerable time on the road, and in the driveway if you don’t have a garage, tires sustain a lot of exposure to UV rays. Not only does this dull the tire color, but it can also result in cracking, which means your tires will need to be replaced sooner rather than later.

Tire shine certainly makes your wheels look brand-new, but it’s also effective at protecting your tires in more than one way. For one, it has a UV-protective formula that covers and coats the tire’s surface. It’s also effective at repelling dirt and pollutants, which can be difficult to remove if allowed to sit on and penetrate the tire.


While most people associate tire shine with an eye-catching, high-gloss finish, there are other finishes on the market. Matte is ideal if you prefer an understated appearance, and a satin finish offers a moderate amount of gloss without being too shiny. Of course, if you prefer what is referred to as a “wet” look, you’ll probably prefer tire shine that advertises its finish as “glossy,” “high-shine,” or “brand-new.”

While it’s not required, you might want to wear safety goggles while you apply tire shine, especially when using a spray formula.



Water-based vs. solvent-based

While tire shine is typically made with silicone as an active ingredient, the most popular formulas fall into two categories: water-based and solvent-based. The main difference between these formulas is how they interact with silicone. 

Water-based tire shine is made with a combination of water, oils, and polymers. Water is the solvent, and it doesn’t mix with silicone. As a result, droplets land on the surface of the tire. This type is popular if you like to “build” your shine. You can begin with one or two coats to achieve a matte finish and then simply apply more coats to increase the shine to your preferred look. 

Water-based tire shine requires more frequent reapplication than solvent-based tire shine. It’s also important to be mindful of the formula quality to get the most out of a water-based tire shine. Premium formulas cost significantly more, but because they’re often made with stabilizers and thickeners, the tire shine lasts considerably longer.

Solvent-based tire shine is made of a complex chemical formula, with nothing to dissolve the silicone, enabling the formula to adhere to tires better. As a result, it bonds better with the rubber and lasts much longer than water-based tire shine. Solvent-based formulas are usually more expensive than even premium water-based formulas, but given their longevity, it’s more of a long-term investment. 

Know that the efficacy of some of these formulas, especially those made with low-quality ingredients, can be attributed to volatile organic compounds (VOC). Unfortunately, VOCs are known to deplete the ozone layer and may have longer-term effects on the environment.

Application type

Gel: If you’re looking for an efficient application, gel-based tire shine is often the best choice. With a gel, you’re able to better control how much product is dispensed, resulting in less wasted product. Gel-based tire shine tends to go on much thicker than most foams or sprays, so you won’t need to apply as many coats.

Unfortunately, efficiency in gel-based tire shine doesn’t necessarily mean it offers a quick application. While it’s reliable and gives positive results, you’ll need to dedicate considerable time — up to an hour — to get through the full treatment.

Foam: For those in search of a long-lasting tire shine, foam is often recommended. It’s fairly easy to buff and rub in the foam with a microfiber cloth, and it usually dries much more quickly than gel or spray. Like gel, foam allows you to control how much product is dispensed.

While drivers often sing the praises of foam tire shine, they’ll also tell you that foam costs significantly more than gels or sprays. Not only is each bottle more expensive, but you’ll need to use far more product to fully cover each tire.

Spray: Many drivers prefer spray tire shine given its ease of application and wide coverage area. With that said, the quality of the nozzle can affect your experience, and for that reason, adjustable nozzles are generally preferred. With these, you’re able to increase or decrease the spray area and tilt the nozzle to cover hard-to-reach areas. 

A pitfall of spray applications is a large amount of wasted product. A quality adjustable nozzle can minimize this, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the stream will land on places other than your tire.

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It’s a good idea to apply tire shine to RV tires because it protects them from prolonged UV exposure, especially if you don’t have tire covers.

Tire shine prices

Tire shine costs anywhere from $5 to $30, mostly depending on the quality of the formula. You’ll definitely get what you pay for with tire shine: many budget-priced formulas contain low-quality ingredients and chemical fillers.

Inexpensive: Tire shine priced between $5 and $12 usually includes a variety of lower-quality water-based spray formulas. These offer a shiny finish, but many of these formulas wear off or dull quickly, thus requiring more frequent applications.

Mid-range: This tire shine costs between $12 and $18. These formulas are manufactured by leading names in the automotive and detailing industries and come with solid reputations. They use better-quality ingredients and occasionally come with application accessories.

Expensive: The most expensive tire shine costs between $20 and $30 and excels in all departments: shine, longevity, and protection. These formulas can be harder to find because many are specialty formulas from independent manufacturers. It’s best to get them in bulk to save a little money that way.

Avoid running a fan near where you’re applying tire shine because it can blow dust, pollen, and particles onto the product.



  • Watch a pro. If you’ve never used tire shine before, it’s a good idea to watch a pro do it through an online tutorial. For practical reasons, make sure the tutorial you choose features either the same tire shine you have or one with the same type of formula and application.
  • Take your time. Any time you detail your car, including applying tire shine, don’t rush. Going too quickly can result in an uneven application or wasted product.
  • Order a backup bottle. When you’ve used up 75% of your tire shine bottle, order another. That way, you’ll be sure to have enough product to get through a full application when you finish the bottle and move on to the next one.
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Always use the recommended tools or cloths when applying tire shine, which usually means clean rags, special sponges, or microfiber cloths.


Q. How do I minimize the amount of tire shine that gets on my vehicle?

A. An easy solution is to stick to a foam or gel product because you simply squirt it into a microfiber cloth. If you’re using a spray, it’s recommended that you spray the tire shine downward if you’re spraying it directly on the tires. While this can affect the flow of the product inside the bottle, just do a few squirts at a time. It certainly prolongs the application process, but it reduces the amount of tire shine that ends up on the vehicle or the ground.

Q. How often should I apply tire shine?

A. On average, drivers apply tire shine every two to four weeks. If your vehicle spends most of its time on the road or in the driveway, the tire shine may deteriorate more quickly than if you keep the vehicle in a garage. You may need to apply tire shine more often in winter if you drive on salted roads because the salt can dull the shine fairly quickly. 

Q. What’s the best place to store tire shine?

A. It’s generally recommended that you store tire shine at room temperature. Therefore it’s better not to keep it in a garage or shed since they aren’t necessarily climate controlled. Avoid keeping tire shine in your car, too, because wide temperature variations can degrade the formula.


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