The Evolution of Tire Shine: Why Enthusiasts Love it or Hate It
No matter your taste in vehicles, the one thing that most street vehicle enthusiasts can agree on is that a clean car or truck is better than a dirty one.
Okay, there may be an exception for those 4x4 owners who wear their caked-on dirt and mud with pride, but for the most part—cleaner is better.
Yet when it comes to making a car clean, one area where you’ll find polarized opinions is tire shine. In my years of being in the car hobby I’ve known people who won’t settle for anything other than an ultra wet looking, shiny sidewalls and then there are those who despise any product at all on their tires.
Me personally, I’ve always fallen somewhere in the middle. A clean, black tire is nice in my eye, but I’ve never liked when the sidewalls are so shiny that they become distracting.
When cleaning my car I’ve typically refrained from applying any extra product to the tires unless they were unusually dirty or brown—but the last time I washed my 2016 Mustang GT I decided to explore tire shine solutions a bit more. This would be my first time applying anything to my Nitto NT555 G2 tires that I fitted onto my car a few months back.
To Shine or Not to Shine?
When I was a kid “Armor All” was like the word “Xerox” or “Kleenex” for tire shine—with the brand's rubber protectant formula being invented in the early 1960s and popularized by the early ‘70s.
The market for tire cleaning has since exploded in recent decades with multiple brands offering many lines of product.
When I stopped by the car care section of the local auto parts shop, the selection of tire shine and cleaning products was massive, almost to the point of being overwhelming.
While it can be hard to figure out which product to choose, it looks like the car care brands have aimed each product at a different type of person, including those who want an “insane” wet tire look and those who’d just like some protection from dirt and marks.
Of course there also some supposed DIY methods where you can use other household cleaning products to get the same or a similar result, but not wanting to start my own home science lab I stuck with the store-bought stuff.
I ended up going with two different products, Tire Wet Spray from Black Magic and Meguiar’s Hot Shine Tire Spray, with the idea to compare the look of the two on my Mustang.
Spray or Wipe, the Choice is Yours
After a quick wash and wheel cleaning, the Mustang was ready and its 20” NT555 G2 tires were ready to get their first coat of cleaning product after a few months of service.
First up I busted out the Black Magic no-touch tire spray and went at the the driver’s side. For convenience, it’s hard to beat a no-touch product where you can simply put a coat down and then walk away.
It should be said though, if you have a nice set of wheels like the RTR Aero 7s on this car, you’ll want to be careful with your aim to avoid getting tire spray all over your wheels.
After a minute or two waiting for the foam to dissipate, the Black Magic spray delivered a shiny, wet look just as promised by its name. For those who desire this look the Black Magic delivers.
On the passenger side I used the Meguiar’s Hot Shine. The directions say the Hot Shine can either be sprayed directly on to the tire or srayed on an applicator and put on by hand. I went with the latter method to have more control. And of course no matter which method or type of product you are using, never apply tire shine to the tread of the tire - only to the sidewall area.
After giving a coat to both the front and rear tires, the look clean, with just a bit of shine—and overall the finish matched up nicely with the look of a freshly washed car, although not one that had been detailed above and beyond the normal.
For me this look was just right. It was an improvement over the un-treated sidewalls. Enough to look clean and black without going too far into the super shiny, greasy look.
The "Wet" Look vs the "Clean" Look
Here's a comparison shot of the two sides of the car, Meguiar's Hot Shine on the left and Black Magic on the right. You can definitely see the difference in finish here.
It’s now been several days since I’ve applied to tire shine products, and the sidewalls on my NT555 G2s still look the same as they do in the photos—although I haven’t yet driven the car through any dusty dirt fields to see how the finish holds up.
With so many different products on the market, the amount of tire shine on your car is always going to come down to personal preference. I personally remain unswayed on my taste for a clean but not ultra shiny sidewall.
So, what say you? Big shine, some shine, or no shine at all?
More From Driving Line
- Learn more about our project Mustang GT's wheel and tire setup right here.