No matter what time of year it is, clean tires always make your car, truck or SUV look better. Running through the local automatic car wash does an okay job of tire cleaning, but there are better options out there. Plus getting down and giving your tires a good scrub gives an excellent chance to inspect each tire for wear or damage. If you are already washing your vehicle it isn’t much more work to make sure your tires look their best. So grab your hose and wash bucket and get rolling!
Garden Hose Sprayer
The most basic tool for cleaning tires is your standard garden hose with a sprayer. But if your hose kinks constantly and your sprayer has a mind of its own, then cleaning your tires will be something to avoid rather than get done. Pick up a good 50-foot long garden hose that is kink-resistant so you can move around to all four corners of the car without any sudden water interruptions. Then pick up a water hose nozzle that has selectable water patterns. This lets you blast off heavy muck and mud with a powerful stream, but then switch to a gentler mist for up-close rinsing during scrubbing. While these things seem simple, you shouldn’t be fighting your tools at the same time you are fighting tire grime.
While your yard hose and sprayer does a decent job, a pressure washer is a great tool for cleaning tires and wheels. Whether you choose a gas powered pressure washer or an electric powered pressure washer, either will have plenty of thrust to blast even the nastiest caked on mud right off those tires. Always wear safety glasses when using a pressure washer just in case any nooks or crannies decide to blast you back. You aren’t etching concrete, so something between a 25-degree and a 40-degree pressure washer nozzle should be fine for tire cleaning. If your rims are in good shape with no peeling paint you can give them a good cleaning as well. While a pressure washer isn’t the only wheel and tire cleaner around, it is a pretty good solution for a quick cleanup.
The one thing you need is a dedicated tire cleaning brush. Since this brush will be used to clean all kinds of mud, brake dust, grime and other road debris off your tires you definitely don’t want to use it on your nice polished hood. You want a good soft bristle brush so the tire itself won’t be scratched, but a large enough brush that you can scrub a large area at once. There are several handle types, so pick one that fits well in your hand and allows you to apply light pressure without fatigue. Depending on your type of tires, you may need more than one type of brush to get things really clean.
Tire Cleaner Spray
Tire cleaning spray is a great way to remove not only messy road gunk but also any other coatings or dressing that you may have used on the tires in the past. One enthusiast favorite best tire cleaner is 303 Tire And Rubber Cleaner in a spray bottle. This tire and rubber cleaner removes ugly brown coloring and gets tires ready for a new top coating. Just spray it on the tire and wait for it to change color. The color change means it is working to dissolve grime without scrubbing. If you want to save a step you can try 3M™ Wheel and Tire Cleaner spray. This tire cleaner spray works in a similar way with only needing to spray it on, no scrubbing required. But the 3M™ Wheel and Tire Cleaner goes one step further and leaves a nice shine on the tires.
Foaming Tire Cleaner
Once tire foam cleaner hit the market it seemed like the days of scrubbing tires by hand were over. The ease of use for foaming tire cleaner just cannot be beat. Simply uncap the can, spray a generous amount of tire foam around the entire sidewall and watch. As the foam works it actually dissolves and lifts dirt away from the tire surface. As the nasty stuff melts away the second act begins. The foam will disappear and as the tire dries the spray will leave nice shiny sidewall. Decades of science and research have made tire cleaning and tire trim cleaner into a single product that is so simple there is almost no excuse to not use it at every car wash.
Final Tire Cleaning Touches
Once your tires are squeaky clean the final touch is to put a nice shine on them. If you went with an all-in-one cleaning product then this step is already done for you, so sit back and enjoy. Some tire shine products don’t just look good, they actually protect the tire rubber from cracking and fading. Application type is up to your preference. Most tire shine products are spray-on either from an aerosol can or from a spray bottle. You can choose to give the tire a good coating and let it smooth itself out, or you can help things along with a tire shine applicator. Both methods are acceptable, but the main decision factor comes down to your tire type and what it takes to get the tire shine worked into every surface.
Picking the best wheel and tire cleaner should be based on your individual needs and your vehicle. You may need to experiment with different methods until you find the one that best matches your vehicle and personal detailing goals. But there is no denying that a clean set of shining tires looks good on any vehicle.
Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on shopping for the best tire cleaning products, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of pxhere.
With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.