How to Detail Your Car’s Tires & Trim

In this video episode, John Crothers of Stoner Incorporated is here to talk about detailing your car—and, very specifically, your tires and your tires’ trim. Theoretically when you go through a car wash, your tires will get a good wash, and for many people that’s sufficient. But if you want a deep clean and you want the tires and the trim pieces to shine, then you have to have them detailed. The good news is that you can do it yourself.


So we’ll start with the necessary products. To detail your tires and tire trim pieces, you’ll need one of two kinds of cleaners: either a good, all-purpose cleaner (Simple Green is fine: it works well and is good for the environment) or a special wheel and tire cleaning product. In addition to the cleaners, you want a trim shine protectant or a trim shine product, and a wheel shine or protectant product; these seal in the clean and keep it looking good. And, naturally, you’ll also need some clean rags (that won’t stay clean for very long!) and a tire brush.

Clean first

Start by assessing the current state of cleanliness of your wheels and tires. If they’re particularly dirty, then probably the rest of your car is as well, and it’s frankly easiest to clean them when you’re washing the rest of the car. Crothers puts on an all-purpose cleaner wheel and tire cleaner. He’s going to let it sit there for a while (depending on how dirty the wheels and tires are). One word of warning: it’s important not to get any cleaner on your car’s paint! Why? Because it will strip the wax right off. So just always be careful. But Crothers likes this approach because it means that the cleaner is doing the work, not you. Just let it sit.

When you’re applying your cleaner, don’t use too much pressure: ironically, you can lose the luster on your wheels. So start by rinsing your tires and wheels down with water so that everything is wet. Then you can apply your all-purpose cleaner (or, alternately, your specialized wheel and tire cleaner). If you let this sit for a few minutes, you’ll be surprised at how much dirt will simply fall off on its own! This is what he meant when he said let the cleaner do the work.

Use your rag then rinse

Come back after a few minutes and see if all the dirt fell off. If it didn’t and anything is still sticking, then that’s the time to use the soft clean rag (you can also use a soft sponge) and gently wipe it down. After you’ve gotten all the direct, bring back the hose and rinse everything down thoroughly. Don’t think that if you go away fro a few hours leaving the cleaner on the wheels and tires this will make your job easier—you really only want it to work for a few minutes. Leaving excess cleaner on for a long time will etch the tires and remove the luster from the wheels. If you drive the car with the cleaner still on, some will get flung upward and will damage your paint and strip your wax. So make sure that you rinse completely.


It’s not difficult to use today’s tire shine products. In some cases, all you have to do is spray them on and then wipe them off. Some are even what Crothers calls “spray and walk away.” If you’re going to use a shine product, though, be careful not to operate your vehicle immediately afterward because of what he calls “sling,” when excess product is flung up onto the body of your car. What it does is create greasy marks on the car’s bodywork.