Tire dressing is a broad term that describes any type of substance designed to give the tire sidewall a glossy shine. This is a regular part of vehicle detailing; DIY tire dressing, however, may cause more harm than good to the tires.
Tire dressing should not be confused with tire cleaning. 2-in-1 tire dressing and cleaning sprays do exist. However, tire dressing by itself does not clean the tires. It is purely aesthetic. Some variants, though, do contain compounds with UV protection.
Dressing sprays come in two varieties: solvent-based and water-based. Both contain silicone as a key ingredient. This is what provides the gloss and shine.
Silicone dissolves easily into solvent, creating a more pronounced and longer-lasting shine. Solvent dressing, though, may also contain petroleum, which can prematurely dry and crack the tire surface. Solvent can also be tacky, allowing dirt and grime to accumulate on the surface.
Water dressing is made from synthetic polymers and natural oils. This produces a finish with a satin-like quality. Water-based dressing is also more environmentally safe. Most also contain surfactants, which keep the emulsion stable, but also causes the shine to wear off easily. Expect the need for more frequent applications with a water-based dressing.
Regardless of the type you use, never spray on the treads. Dressing sprays are intended for the sidewalls only. Spraying on the treads reduces the tires’ traction. This advice is mainly intended for motorcycles, but we believe it should extend to cars.
Has your car seen better days? Bring your vehicle to Henry’s Auto Detail for a complete restoration. We often dress the tires as part of a full wash and wax package. We use commercial grade tire dressing that produces long-lasting shine while also protecting the rubber.
Edited by Justin Vorhees
Serving Lynnwood, Edmonds, Mill Creek, Woodway and south Snohomish County