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Is Tire Shine Bad for Tires? It’s Effect on Cracking & Browning

Getting your tires that sexy, glossy black color is the goal (unless you like a matte finish, which I personally like), but is there a price to pay for those tire shine products?

The short answer is probably not, assuming you apply these products in the correct way.

However, there are people that have varying thoughts about to what extent certain chemicals can accelerate the aging process of your tires.

In this blog, I’ll break down what to know when using tire shine in either the aerosol or liquid forms, what these products are made of, and what factors can potentially cause tires to brown or crack over time.

It depends on how you use the product

The best way to accelerate cracking and aging is to never wash your tires, and leave your vehicle out in the sun all day (which you’re probably not doing anyway).

Driving is actually a good thing when it comes to limiting cracking/rotting. When using products in general, it’s important to follow the instructions on the bottle of the product you choose, you should be fine.

Some people swear against using aerosol (petroleum-based) products, but the most important factor I’ve found is that to make it a priority to remove tire dressing after every wash before reapplying. Some are easier to remove than others, but I haven’t found evidence of any significant problems with these products if used properly.

There are dozens of different products that you can apply to achieve the shine you want, but not all are made equal. They pretty much fall into two categories of water-based or non-water-based (oil or solvent-based).

Each type has its pros and cons, but most products do a pretty decent job (some better than others), and shouldn’t have damaging effects.

Water-based tire dressings are generally the safest

Water based tire dressing

You can pick these up just about anywhere online, but I’m becoming a fan of Chemical Guys products.

 Their VRP product (Vinyl, Rubber, Plastic) is an ideal professional-grade multipurpose product that is water-based you can pick up on Amazon. There are also some other pretty good water-based options pictured above you can check out too.

Chemical Guys VRP Dressing

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These are much easier to wash off as compared to oil-based products, so you don’t have to worry about it interacting with the paint if you accidentally overspray some of it on a trim piece or fender.

If you really care about babying your car, I’d probably opt for these water-based professional products vs. the Armor All tire foams and sprays you see all the time. These higher-quality products simply do a better job, and usually, last a lot longer.

Using oil and solvent-based products

If you choose to use an oil or solvent-based product, the benefits are that the shine usually lasts much longer on your tires, and sometimes offers a little more protection when rolling through dirty rainwater, for example.

These can be broken down into a few different categories:

Petroleum Based Dressings

Out of all the products I’ve read up on, petroleum-based products contain the harshest chemicals, and will probably do the most damage to painted wheels or surfaces if applied incorrectly.

Many of these are cheaper aerosol-based foams, but not always. Amour All, Blue Magic Tire Wet, and several others contain petroleum and are also highly flammable.

They are also a lot cheaper most of the time, and like always, you get what you pay for.

Silicon-Based Dressings

When it comes to silicon, the good news is that many of these compounds can provide a pretty good layer of protection to your wheel in between washes.

The key to silicones is making sure you remove the product when washing since they won’t wash away as easily.

Not to get too fancy, but silicons can be water-based (usually milky white) that don’t contain petroleum, while others are solvent-based (clear, greasy, containing petroleum solvents), that leaves behind a silicon oil after the solvent evaporates.

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So why are my tires brown?

Tire browning usually has less to do with tire dressing than you may think. Tires are made with an anti-ozonant substance that can make it to the surface (sidewall) of your tire as your tire ages, causing them to turn brown.

This article by explains the process of ‘tire blooming’ (tires turning brown) if you want to read up on it.

The good news is that with proper cleaning and scrubbing you can usually remove this brown appearance before dressing them if you’d like.

It’s almost like exfoliating dead skin cells, and something that becomes more important to do as a tire ages.

Preventing tires from turning brown when using tire dressing

Much of the time, the brown appearance is just due to the fact that your tires have dirt trapped on them. This can accelerate if you don’t let your tire dressing dry before taking your car out for a spin (which I’ll admit I’ve done a time or two).

Keeping dirt off your tires

Dirt and brake dust can stick to some silicone-based products even when dry.

Solvent and silicon-based products can create a very tacky surface for dust to stick to, so a good water-based dressing (that also repels dirt) may make more sense if you drive in a pretty dusty area as I do.

Can tire dressing cause cracking?

In terms of cracking, this is usually accelerated by prolonged UV exposure from the sun, and the gradual wearing out of the anti-ozone and anti-oxidation layers that tires are built with.

Prolonged use of degreasers and other harsh acids used for cleaning are more likely to contribute to premature cracking than a dressing will.

So it’s typically nothing to worry about.

If you’re curious about the difference between waxes, sealants, glazes, and other products used on a vehicle’s clear coat, check out my post Compounds vs Clays, Polish and Glaze – 7 Products to Understand.


In conclusion, just be sure to read product reviews of certain products, as well as the label if you decide to use water-based or petroleum-based tire shines.

When used properly, tire shines shouldn’t accelerate rotting, cracking, or browning to the degree acids or other cleaning products will. Just avoid letting your car bake outside, clean your tires regularly, and you’ve really got nothing to worry about.

Have any thoughts, comments, or suggestions? Let me know in the comments.

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