Oh Yes, Talking About Proper Tire Dressing

Tire Dressing on a Ferrari

Back in the 90’s when I first got into cars, tire dressing was a matter of who’s tire’s looked most like goo.

Tire Dressing
A bit too shiny, but just about right for a classic.

Yep, the more wet, sticky, gooey and gross your tires looked, the better. This sticky mess equaled shiny, and shiny was good. Not anymore.

The problem with shiny gooey tires is that not only do they look kitsch in 2012, but all the sticky stuff gets your tires dirty again in 2 seconds. That stuff is like a sticky mouse trap for road grime. To make matters worse, after you’ve spent 10 hours detailing your car and 5 minutes making your tires look like they’re covered in dinosaur sperm, all that goo splatters all over your fenders and the size panels in front of your doors on the first drive. Trust me. I know. I’ve done it.

There’s another problem. Many tire dressing product manufacturers are still listening to Nirvana, wearing Vision high tops and enjoying the 90’s with their shiny and sticky tire dressing formulas. Last year, when I had my XB, after a full weekend of detailing I covered my tires in dinosaur goo, also known as Armor All Extreme Tire Shine. I should have noticed the bottle read, “Extreme Tire Shine” and not “Mellow and Classy Tire Satin.” That was 2011. I should have known.

Tire Dressed Too Shiny
Unfortunately, this tire is way too shiny, sticky and gooey.

I drove my XB to the top of a hill 2 miles away to get some photos in before the sunset. I look down and see there’s this crap splattered all behind my wheel wells and on the freshly waxed paint. I then realized how much of a dumb-ass I had been.

That bottle of Extreme Tire Goo sat in my garage unused for a whole other year while I spent the end of my detailing sessions either simply cleaning the tires and adding nothing afterwards, or adding a more mellow tire dress. One day I decided to give the old bottle of Extreme Tire Goo another try. But this time, the application was going to be different. After making sure my side-walls were super clean, I applied a VERY THIN coat of the stuff and immediately proceeded to buff it all off with an old microfiber towel. That took all of the shine out, removed the gooeyness and left my tires with an understated black satin finish that could hardly be called gloss. Yes! That looks more 2012!

Perfect Tire Dressing
Now this is how you want your tires to look! Satin, subtle and classy.

So, it turned out the bottle of Armor All Extreme Tire Goo (Shine) was simply named incorrectly and included instructions on tire dressing from back when the Ferrari F355 was the coolest car in the world. Extreme?

So… Here’s what you need to look for when dressing up your tires:

  1. Clean ’em well. Covering dirty tires in tire dressing is just like sweeping dirt under the living room rug.
  2. Don’t spray the stuff directly on the tire. This should be common sense.You’ll get the stuff on the tires alright. But also on the wheels and the paint. No bueno. Use a rag.
  3. Look for products that are not SHINY. I know, most are. You want black semi-gloss or sating finish. Not porno-shiny.
  4. With most products, wiping and buffing down the dressing right after you’ve applied it works the best. You want that coat to be as thin is possible.
  5. Make sure not to get any on the rims. If you do, wipe it off good.


With years of experience come a few tricks of the trade. Basically, I stopped trying to get those “wet look” tire dressing chemicals to work for me. Firsty, the wet look is cheesy. Secondly, it’s cheesy. Thirdly, it never really dries well and oftentimes will fling the stuff onto the sides of your clean car when you go drive it.

Since then, I have discovered 303 Aerospace Protectant. That is now my favorite tire dressing chemical. It’s not glossy, so if you’re in the glossy thing then it’s just not going to work for you. What 303 does do is it makes your tires nice and black. The finish is slightly matt to satin. Not only that, but it actually protects. It’s also incredibly good for just about any plastics or rubber, from the interior to the exterior of your car.

Below is a link to buy 303 Aerospace Protectant from Amazon:

If you want to try it, I HIGHLY recommend it. It is now my favorite chemical for plastics and rubbers.

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