Is Tire Shine Bad for Tires? Best Tire Shine for You

Tire shine isn’t bad for tires as long as you know what product to pick. There are two types available on the market – water-based and solvent-based tire shine. Both are available either as a gel or spray.

Solvent-based tire shine contains the harshest chemicals. It can cause significant damage to your tires and wheels over time. However, unlike what most people think, tire dressing does not cause browning or cracking. This is usually a result of bad tire maintenance.

In this post, we’ll list the pros and cons of each type of tire shine and tell you why you should go for water-based as opposed to solvent-based products. We’ll also highlight the best tire shine currently available on the market.

Types of Tire Shine and What to Pick

Water-based tire shine

Water-based tire shine contains the actual shine product diluted in water. When you spray it on your tires, it transfers from the bottle via water droplets. You can always dilute it further to make it less shiny or alter the mix to make it shinier.

Water-based tire shine is better for the following reasons.

  • Easy to remove: All you need to do to remove the tire shine from your tires is to wash it off using soap and water.
  • Environmentally friendly: Products under this category have a significantly lower environmental impact thanks to the fewer VOCs they release into the air.
  • Protects rubber: Water-based tire shine contains naturally occurring oils that protect and nourish the rubber on your tires.
  • Less susceptible to tire sling: The polish dries faster and does not fling everywhere when the tires are rotating.

Unfortunately, being water-based, these products are susceptible to rain and do not stay on very long. They do not provide a long-lasting finish on the tires like solvent-based alternatives.

I recommend the Chemical Guys VRP Dressing as the best water-based tire shine overall. VRP stands for Vinyl, Rubber, and Plastic.

It is a water-based product that does not contain any harmful chemicals like silicone and petroleum. It comes with a formula that lasts long and is available on Amazon. Dealers use it all the time to improve the appearance of car tires.

Solvent-based tire shine

Solvent-based tire shine contains either petroleum or silicon distillates. Most have been proven to harm your tires if they are over-sprayed. Despite them being able to provide a higher gloss, they are the products to avoid.

Below are the disadvantages of using a solvent-based tire shine.

  • Harmful to the environment: Petroleum and silicon distillates are a major source of toxic and hazardous air pollutants. They can contaminate rivers, waterways, and storm drains because they are toxic to aquatic life.
  • Flammable: Products such as Blue Magic Tire Wet and Amour All contain petroleum which is highly flammable. They are highly combustible liquids that should be handled with caution.
  • Ruin rubber: The petroleum penetrates the rubber and removes natural oils from it. This can cause it to dry and crack.
  • Water-resistant: Silicon distillates are water-insoluble. This makes it hard to wash them off using water. You need a degreaser to remove the tire shine from your tires.
  • Health hazard: Some products cause both chronic and acute health conditions when exposed to the eyes, respiratory tract, skin, etc. Others aggravate pre-existing medical conditions and can cause skin irritation.
  • Ruin paint and rims: Those available in form of an aerosol spray can destroy paint and wheel finishes when sprayed incorrectly. Others are harmful to your brake components and will affect their performance.
  • Attract dirt: These products attract dust and dirt, causing the rubber to degrade more quickly. This happens a lot if you drive the car before the product dries completely.

Solvent-based tire shine products aren’t completely bad. Some of them provide UV light protection and prevent the rubber compounds from breaking down. Furthermore, if you use them conservatively without “painting” your tires, they will not cause a lot of harm to them or to the paint and brake components.

What makes them a bad choice is the number of harmful chemicals they contain. These chemicals are harmful to the environment. When comparing water-based vs solvent-based tire shine, the former wins. It achieves the same results with less effect overall.

Related: Why Tires Are Bad for The Environment

Does Tire Shine Cause Tires to Crack?

Car Problems You Can Fix Yourself

Many people use tire shine to provide that new and shiny look on their tires. Car dealers and detailers use it all the time to preserve and protect the rubber as well as enhance the appearance of the car.

This is often known as tire dressing. Dressings are also referred to as protectants or renovators. They help to expose the deep color of your tires. One of the most common questions that people ask is whether tire shine will cause tires to crack. The answer is NO, if you know what to pick. Tire shine causes tires to crack if it contains petroleum products.

Tires are a product of petroleum. What these shines do is break down the petroleum in the tires, causing them to dry and crack. The degradation takes place faster where tires are often soaked in tire shine. Too much of it will definitely affect the composition of the rubber and cause damage.

Most products are available in several forms. This includes gels, aerosols, sprays, solvents, foams, and concentrates. Sprays, aerosols, and foams are the most convenient. All you need to do is depress the nozzle to apply the product.

However, it’s easier to waste and misuse them due to overspray. Gels take more time to apply but provide better and more consistent finishes. The idea here is to be conservative and not use too much of the product on your tires.

Does Tire Shine Cause Browning?

Tires turn brown due to an additive called antiozonant. This is an element added during the manufacturing process to prevent the tires from cracking or drying due to oxidation. As you drive, the antiozonant pushes out of the rubber casing and reacts with oxygen.

The reaction leaves a brown residue on the tire. This is also referred to as blooming. It helps reduce the rate of deterioration in tires and helps them to last longer. Tire shine does not cause browning.

The reason why your tires appear brown when you use tire shine is because the product creates a coating over the antiozonant residue and causes it to shine. It’s common where the tires have not been thoroughly cleaned.

Furthermore, tire shine that is still wet and sticky tends to attract dust and dirt on the sidewall. This causes the tires to turn brown. Tires are designed to release the antiozonant continuously to protect the rubber. In this case, however, they will not bloom.

The best way to prevent the browning effect is to clean your tires and rims with a brush to eliminate debris and dirt. Use a dedicated wheel and tire cleaner and rinse the wheels before applying your tire shine.

How to Apply Tire Shine On Your Tires

What you’ll need:

  1. Wheel and tire cleaner
  2. Tire shine
  3. Applicator

Cleaning and shining your tires

  • Start by cleaning your wheels and tires using a good wheel and tire cleaner. This helps to remove all the dirt and debris. Don’t splash the cleaner on the paint or brake components. You can use soapy water and a good brush instead.
  • If you have old tire shine on your tires, remove it. You may need a degreaser in the case of a solvent-based product. Leave the tires to dry.
  • Apply your choice of tire shine following the instructions provided on the bottle by the manufacturer. Use an applicator to prevent wastage.
  • Leave the tires to dry for a few minutes. Wipe away the excess shine with a cloth or microfiber towel.

Use tire wax

Tire wax helps to lubricate your tires and fill pores. Clean and degrease your tires before applying the wax. All you need to do is to buff it on the tire sidewall, the same you would when waxing your shoes. Waxes last longer and are easier to remove.

Use tire sealant

A tire sealant is a coating that uses a mix of polymers to cover the tires. It binds to the tires and acts as a flexible coating that will last up to a year. Sealants usually need more work to apply and cost more than tire shine and wax. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer when using it for the best results.

Tips When Using Tire Shine

  • Avoid applying new tire shine over old tire shine. This can cause browning on tires. Remove each tire dressing when washing before reapplying.
  • Never leave your tires out in the sun for prolonged periods as this will accelerate cracking and dry rot.
  • Do not use tire shine if you’re storing your tires for a long time.
  • Allow your tires to dry when applying additional coats of tire shine to prevent tire sling. This occurs when the shine gets thrown everywhere while the tire is rotating. It ruins the shine.
  • Do not spray or apply any of the tire shine on the rims or brake components. This can ruin the wheel finish and affect the performance of your brakes.
  • Applying tire shine works best in cool and dry areas. Warm environments may require you to apply more product than you need to.
  • The best tire shine will typically last longer. A lot of times, the best means the most expensive. If you’re not on a budget, go for a higher-quality product.
  • Do not use tire shine or dressing on motorcycles or any two-wheeled vehicle. It will negatively impact traction, which is very important in these types of vehicles.

Final Note

There’s an endless number of products available for your tires. The trick is to stay away from tire shine that is based on petroleum products. The bottom line is that whatever you use shouldn’t affect the quality and functioning of your tires. Having a car that is aesthetically appealing should not come at a cost. Get the Chemical Guys VRP Dressing recommended in this article for the best results.


How long does tire shine last?

The best tire shine on the market will last up to 4 weeks on your tires. This depends on a variety of things, including the type of tire shine used and the external conditions your tires are exposed to.

A water-based tire shine will not last as long as a solvent-based tire shine. This is because the former is easily washable and will wash away when exposed to water. Solvent-based products last longer and are water-resistant. It’s best not to drive your car in any pools of water to help the tire shine stay longer.

Is tire shine bad for paint?

Yes, the chemicals found in tire shine can cause damage to your car’s paint once they land on it. This is why you should wipe down any shine that lands on your paint when working on your tires.

Can I use cooking oil for tire shine?

Yes, you can use cooking oil, such as olive oil, to shine your tires. Typically, any vegetable oil should do the trick. The only downside to this is that it attracts dirt and dust. Some oils may make the compounds that bind the rubber to fall apart, causing the tire to dry rot.

Others degrade when exposed to UV radiation from the sun. Cooking oil will only make your tires look shiny for a short while. You’re better off going with a high-quality tire shine that provides extra protection.

What can I use instead of tire shine?

Other common household products that you can use in place of tire shine include caster oil, lemon oil, brake fluid, and baby oil. Natural oils tend to nourish rubber without causing it to dry, but it’s often not easy to distinguish what oil to use.

Can you use WD40 as tire shine?

WD40 is safe to use on a variety of things, including rubber. The only products it seems to harm are clear polystyrene and polycarbonate. According to the US Material Safety Data Sheet information, WD40 contains 60 to 70 percent petroleum distillates. Research also shows that it can cause tires to degrade over time when used often. It’s best not to use it as a tire shine.

Will tire shine hurt rims?

Generally, you do not need to apply any gel or spray on your rims. Most products will affect the finishing on the wheel and ruin it in the long run. Once you apply your tire shine on the rubber, wipe down any of it that sticks to the rims. Your rims are better off without any product.