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Applying tire shine may seem simple, but don’t be fooled. There are many methods to get the best look for your tire.

Applying tire shine is simple. Simply clean the tires, dry the tires, add the shine, let the shine soak, and then wipe off the excess liquid. The way you add the tire shine is important. I recommend using small, circular, motions in order to treat the rubber nicely.

Applying the tire shine can be misleading, since lot’s of shine companies don’t specify how to apply the shine, just to apply it. The tire dressings capabilities can be maximized if you take into account things like the rubber and size of the sidewall. More importantly, using the correct soap to wash the tire before dressing it is just as important. All these chemicals mix in a way that can either hinder the shine’s performance or be a benefit. We’ll cover all of these items so you can tackle your tire shining task with knowledge and confidence.

One of my first jobs was working for an independent body repair man who has a keen sense for fine tuning a car’s style. When I first applied tire shine, he told me I was “dressing the tire all wrong”, and proceeded to show me how. Ever since then, I’ve learned to apply tire shine in accordance with some standard rules.

Table of Contents

Common Directions

Lot’s of tire shine directions specify some steps that include cleaning the tire, applying the shine, and wiping the excess shine away. While helpful, these directions aren’t really the best way to apply the shine.

Mainly, you want to choose a clockwise, or counterclockwise direction to apply the shine, and stick with it for all four tires. This direction should be stuck to when spraying the shine on, in a circular motion, and then working it in a circular direction.

For example, if you start at the 12 o’clock position of a tire, and you choose clockwise, sweep the shine as you spray it from 12-9, then 9-6, and 6-3.

Apply a light coat first to prime the rubber. It’s recommended to lightly prime all tires before you really apply thick layers to “ready the rubber”. This gives the shine a chance to deepen its reach into the rubber before you start applying elbow grease.

A round about time is 5 minutes, but mainly you want to start looking for signs that the rubber has soaked up the shine. For example, a glossy color might turn matte black since the shine has embedded itself in rubber and has dried up.

The perfect time to really apply the shine is just before you start to see this happen. If the primer sets in too deep, the application layer will become harder to meet with the primer-level shine.

Apply the tire shine in “gusts of sprays” if you will, in the direction you picked earlier. The thicker, the better since you can always wipe away the excess.

I recommend giving it about 6 good sprays in total before you start to work it into the tire. Once you have applied the full coat, rub it in with either a brush or cloth.

Lots of people insist on using a special brush, but I’ve always found that a nice red shop rag does the trick perfectly. Take the cloth and run circles in the chosen direction all the way around the tire.

The circular motion really pulls together the application layer with the primer layer, all the while, making it seem like the tire is in motion when standing still.

That’s mainly the effect you want to shoot for when applying the shine. That it looks so perfect and glistens so well, it looks like it’s doing 60mph when it’s sitting in your driveway.

New Tires vs Old Tires

Lots of people use tire shine to spruce up their outdated tires. In my experience, I’ve only applied tire shine to newly mounted tires.

But adding shine to tires that have been driven on is totally acceptable. But make sure to wash the tire thoroughly before applying the shine.

Otherwise, the dirt will get caked into the shine. Make sure any punctures or scrapes are taken note of, and all dirt and mud removed from the tires surface area, including the tread.

Dirt in the tread can cause issues later by falling onto the sidewall after you have driven for a little bit.

After you wash your tires, you might be tempted to not use shine at all since they look good wet. But make no mistake, they will return to their old, dilapidated state quickly. So wash the tires, and dry them off before you apply the shine.

Water will lock out the shine from being absorbed by the rubber. There’s a couple ways to dry the tires out. One method to dry tires is to wait, while mother nature does it’s thing and dries them naturally. My preferred way is to use compressed air and a spray nozzle to quickly and thoroughly dry the tire while also clearing up any dirt you may have missed.

Make sure to wear safety glasses when you do this, because debris has a way of finding itself into your eye when using compressed air. Apply the shine in a circular motion and make sure all tires have equal amounts of tire shine applied.

This is more important on old tires, since flaws are more visible and the tire shine will reflect this if applied in different thickness of coats.

New tires, on the other hand, are different. New tires come with a small layer of shine on them when they ship to protect the sidewall lettering while being shipped. Some new tires contain “white wall” lettering on one side, so you have to remove this protective coating first before applying the shine.

Soap and water usually does the trick. The covering is a blue, sheetlike, material that maintains the coloring of the white letters. If you apply this shine before removing the covering, the shine will mix with it causing an undesirable effect.

Apply the shine to tires after they are mounted and inflated. Applying the tire shine before inflating them leaves unexpanded areas unshined, causing a “cracking” effect in the tire.


Generally speaking, any soap can be used to wash your tires beforehand. But professionals know the difference between a soap that works, and a soap that performs.

A great soap to use on your tires is Dawn Dish Detergent. This soap can actually be used as a tire shiner on its own right. That’s because the soap is made to penetrate hard surfaces.

Dawn Dish soap not only cleans the tire, but cleanses the top layers of the sidewall rubber itself.

While Dawn is the brand name, mainly any soap that’s used on dishes will do, since their penetrating power is somewhat unmatched.

Tire shining can either be a mundane task, or an artform. Either way, applying tire shine will make vast improvements to the overall appearance of your tires. Even if you apply the shine in a simple way, the look will be improved. But for the maximum look, use the information listed above. Shining your tires using the methods mentioned above will ensure your tires uniformly look great. But if you’d like to just “spray and pray”, that’s ok too. Although, you will be missing out on about 30% of the performance the tire shine has to offer.

Ugly tires can make even the coolest cars look like junk. I’ve seen tires on a Corvette with the sidewall less than an inch thick undressed, and it brought the whole style of the vehicle down. Especially since they were mounted on shiny rims.

Now go shine your tires with insider knowledge, and let us know how it turned out!

How To Apply Tire Shine

About The Author

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.

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