NASCAR may have been founded around moonshine, but those early days of running “white lightning” are long gone. Nowadays, auto enthusiasts prefer to run a different kind of shine, and unlike those hot-rodding bootleggers, this stuff won’t force you to run from the fuzz.

Homemade DIY alternatives are as numerous as crashes at Talladega, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of car detailing, with liquid car detailing solutions leading the pack. So is it possible to concoct homemade tire shine with a bunch of random ingredients you’ve got lying around the house? It’s not like you have to worry about a peeling clear coat or hard water spots when caring for tires. So why not get play “mad scientist,” and mix-up a potent shine of some sort?

Now before we get too “antsy in the pantsy” over talking tire shine, let’s get one thing straight: There’s a reason why the tire dressing business is so fucking profitable. For decades, the world’s wealthiest chemical companies have spent an asinine amount of cheddar on researching and testing tire shine products, just to guarantee that they work.

That being said, please don’t get all hot under the collar when your homemade tire shine solution isn’t lasting nearly as long, or bringing the thunder like a $1 billion dollar investment from 3M. You are here because your cheap ass is trying to make due with what you’ve got, and you’re curious to see if all those post-apocalyptic survival supplies you’ve been hording in your auntie’s garage will cut the kimchi.

Well fear not good citizen! The following three, relatively decent, super simple homemade tire shine recipes are here to make your quest for frugality a reality. While we’re at it, I guess we might as well address some of the common issues associated with homemade solutions of this caliber, and maybe even throw in a brief FAQ section, just for shits-and-giggles. Onwards!

3 of the Best Homemade DIY Tire Shine Solutions

Always use protective equipment when blending homemade tire shine solution

While a lot of people have their own homemade tire shine recipe (tortoise saliva and turpentine anyone?), the following three oddball entries are generally accepted as the best, and safest solutions. However, just to err on the side of caution, we strongly suggest using protective gear such as nitrile gloves and eye protection when concocting an automotive “tincture” on one’s own. The last thing we want is for you to end up in the hospital because you just discovered that you are allergic to any combination of the following ingredients.

Tire Shine Option #1: Castor Oil & Alcohol

Castor oil and alcohol can be used to bring out the natural shine of tires

It may sound like a frilly Hipster highball, but when you combine castor oil and alcohol with a little auto shampoo and water, the natural shine of the rubber and synthetic materials contained within modern tire compounds really pops. Here is what you’ll need to make this oddball “cocktail.”

  • Castor Oil – 25 ml
  • Automotive Shampoo – 10 ml
  • Rubbing Alcohol – 75 ml
  • Water – 2 liters
  • Tire Brush for Scrubbing
  • Tire Applicator Pad or Microfiber Towel for Application

To whip-up this magical mixture, you’ll first blend the automotive shampoo and water to wash the tire. Use a tire brush to get into all of those little grooves and textured surfaces on the outer sidewall.

After scrubbing the rubber, use some rubbing alcohol to further clean the tire. The alcohol essentially acts as an extra step to further remove contaminants from the tire’s sidewall, and should be used sparingly, as it can dry out rubber rather quickly. A modest splash of rubbing alcohol on a microfiber towel or applicator pad will be all that is needed to wipe the entire tire clean.

Once the tire has dried, splash some castor oil on a different microfiber towel or applicator pad, and hit every square centimeter of the tire’s sidewall in a circular motion until a sheen can be seen from every angle.

Tire Shine Option #2: Baby Oil

Baby oil is the cheapest homemade tire shine formula

Out of all of the products on today’s list of homemade tire shine formulas, baby oil has to be the cheapest and slipperiest. Not only does this slick mineral and aloe-based oil add insane amounts of shine to anything it touches, but the infusion of Vitamin E has caused it to become prized for its ability to nourish cracked and drying surfaces, and that includes automotive rubber.

Here is what you’ll need:

  • Baby Oil – 1 cup
  • Water – 1/2 cup
  • Automotive Shampoo – 3 drops
  • Tire Brush for Cleaning
  • Fresh Microfiber Towels

First, pour the 1/2 cup of water into a bucket, add the baby oil, and mix with three drops of automotive shampoo. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and shake it up. Spray the homemade tire shine directly onto the tire , as well as onto a clean microfiber towel. Once the tire is completely covered and slick-looking, allow the solution to sit for a minute or two before wiping it away with a separate microfiber cloth.

Tire Shine Option #3: Lemon Oil

Lemon oil is an optimal homemade solution to reduce exposure to UV rays and to make tires shine
Have you sniffed your tire sidewalls lately? Yeah, neither have we. Perhaps we should try applying some lemon oil to our vehicle’s tires to both freshen-up their appearance and aroma.

While the smell of burning rubber may excite fans of drag racing, most people abhor this pungent automotive aroma. Try laying a citrusy smackdown on UV damage and cruddy contaminants with the dry-rot-reducing power of a lemon oil tire dressing solution. When blended properly, this concoction acts as both cleaner and conditioner.

  • Automotive Shampoo – 30 ml
  • Lemon Oil – 15 ml
  • Borax – 50 ml
  • Warm Water – 2 gallons
  • Tire Brush for Cleaning
  • Fresh Microfiber Towels

First, pour the automotive shampoo into a bucket and then add the water along with the Borax. Stir the concoction until fully mixed, adding the lemon oil last. Once fully blended, dip the brush in the solution and clean the tire, reapplying fresh amounts of solution as necessary. Rubber thoroughly scrubbed, break out a clean microfiber towel and conduct a final, dry wipe down.

A Few Other “Unique” Homemade Tire Shine Options

NEVER BUY TIRE SHINE AGAIN! Cheap DIY Homemade $1 Tire Shine for $1

Naturally, there are a ton of other homemade tire shine options out there, most of which rely upon common household products. The issue, is that from a shiny tire’s viewpoint, most of these ingredients really aren’t all that great when it comes to durability and visual appeal. So take the attached video with a glob of grease, because the aforementioned DIY tire shine solutions are about as good as it gets.

Why It’s So Important to Protect Your Tires

A shiny sidewall is way more than just a glossy appearance. It's a protected rubber surface. Photo Credit: Discount Tire Direct/Facebook
A shiny sidewall is way more than just a glossy appearance. It’s a protected rubber surface. A rubber surface that can spell the difference between arriving home safely, or losing complete control of the vehicle. Photo Credit: Discount Tire Direct/Facebook

In order to help you remember the core components of routine tire care, we suggest following the classic T.I.R.E. acronym, for it still rings true today. This will not only help keep those sidewalls looking spiffy, but potentially prolong the life of the tire compounds themselves, and therefore make your windshield time all the more safe.

“T” is for TIDY

Tires should be cleaned regularly to keep them in good shape

The easiest way for someone to keep their tires in good shape, is to clean them regularly. Washing away tire contaminants like grime, brake dust, pollution, and road salt helps remove the risk of this crud embedding into the rubber.

By keeping your tires tidy, and routinely applying a protectant, contaminants and UV rays alike become far less of an issue, as both are the core cause behind premature cracking and blowouts.

“I” is for INSPECT

"Penny Test" is a proven method for testing tread depth which tells us when to replace tires
The old “penny test” may be a proven method for testing tread depth, but on many tire compounds this means you have reached a dangerously low level of grip. The top of Lincoln’s head on the US penny measures about 2/32nd’s of an inch, which traditionally means it’s time to replace a tire. Don’t wait until your tires reach this level, because your traction at this point will likely border on being dangerous.

Automotive tires should undergo monthly maintenance checks, especially when routinely driven. This includes checking tire pressure levels, which should be done every other week, especially since these numbers fluctuate when there are dramatic changes in ambient air temperature.

Inspecting tires for cracks, bubbles, or odd wear patterns should also be a routine, with a monthly, or bi-monthly basis being the norm. This will not only help you keep an eye on the condition of the tire compounds themselves, but by detecting uneven or unusual treadwear patterns, you will shine a spotlight on any suspension alignment issues. There is also the issue of improper tire inflation, which can lead to premature wear and potential blowouts.

“R” is for REPLACE

Tires should be replaced if there is more than 2/32nd tread depth or when sidewalls are showing signs of damage

Many car owners assume that if there is more than 2/32nd tread depth left on a tire, they’ll be totally fine. This is one of those outdated, shade-tree mechanic recommendations. By the time a tire’s tread pattern has worn this low, traction will have been reduced to a dangerously low point. Play it safe, and replace your tires when the rubber reaches Lincoln’s forehead on the US penny.

“E” is for EASY

You should maintain correct load weight with your vehicle and the tire's max capacity
For those of you who are unfamiliar with tire lingo, this guide will help explain what all the numbers and letters on the sidewall of a tire means.

Having the right tires on your vehicle is just as crucial as routinely inspecting and maintaining them with a tire dressing cleaner. Keeping an adequate load weight, and not exceeding the tire’s maximum capacity is a core way to maintain tire integrity, as is ordering the appropriate tire size.

Overloading a vehicle, or specific areas of a vehicle (like the trunk or truck bed), puts a ton of strain on tires, as every tire compound on the planet comes pre-engineered to withstand a certain amount of pressure. So shop wisely, and know that any tires with the letters “XL” on their sidewall won’t be “extra large,” but strong enough to hold extra air, thus allowing them to carry “extra loads.”

Quick Tip: Don’t forget to check your spare tire every month. Nothing is worse than having a flat tire, and realizing that the doughnut is also low on air or damaged in some way.

Parting Shots

Car owners should inspect their tires for premature wear and tear which may lead to possible blowouts
Dry rotting tires or tire sidewall cracks are a commonplace, and often avoidable tire malady. If your tires look like this it is time to replace them ASAP.

While these homemade tire shine solutions are rather good at improving appearances and protecting sidewalls, extending longevity really boils down to protection, not enhancement. That is why the lemon oil shine option remains the preferred homemade method for accomplishing this vital step.

Just remember, automotive tire care is more than just applying a product or some homemade solution to a piece of rubber. In order to safely enjoy the joys of the open road, one must first inspect and then protect their tires. This rubberized consumable product is the only part of the vehicle that comes into contact with the ground. So take good care of these rolling pieces of rubber, and they will take care of you…

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