ADDRESS THE DRESSING 101
A prerequisite prior to delivery, dressing a tire will provide your client with a polished end product. In my professional opinion, without it is a "cardinal sin". Rather than sinking further into the rabbit hole, tire dressings are compartmentalized into two basic forms: water and solvent-based. So what exactly are tire dressings comprised of? Well, solvent-based dressings primarily contain hydrocarbon silicone, which in turn acts as a "static charge" against the wall of your tire. When applying, this variety can look like a gel or a cream.
Additionally, dressings of this nature tend to have a longer term of durability versus water-based. Unfortunately, solvent-based tire dressings have received a lot of scrutiny over the years, partly due to this variety containing (VOC) or Volatile Organic Compounds. Over time, manufacturers are constantly being monitored to stay in compliance so as not to exceed these silicone-based additives. Thankfully, there are a handful that are virtually VOC-free and improvements continue to be made.
On the other hand, water-based dressings are manufactured with synthetic polymers that leave a milky-white residue when initially applied and will typically lose its luster faster than that of its counterpart. As to which variety performs better is always up to conjecture, but that's the beauty of my business. At the end of the day, I'm always seeking a dressing that outperforms its competitors. Moreover, water-based dressings are just that, a "water-based" dressing.
So what about aerosol sprays and other dressings that operate via a trigger? Well, this is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the dressing(s) that I use by default are properly diluted into a spray bottle, which are then distributed evenly onto an appropriate applicator pad on larger vehicles like SUV's, lifted trucks, etc. Methodically speaking, it's best to either precisely spray onto the wall, while in other cases I'll spray that same dressing into a dedicated brush, which in turn will expedite the application process.
Unfortunately, many of these aerosols are notoriously difficult to apply, resulting in an uneven application. If I were to pitch my two-cents, I shy away from aerosols because they're generally categorized as over-the-counter products and consistently produce substandard results. More importantly, many of these have inactive ingredients such as petroleum-distillate. When manufactured, this ingredient is highly concentrated and is then separated from other inorganic compounds, resulting in a dressing that doesn't perform as an actual dressing. If used over time, this variety has a tendency to leave unwanted browning and residue which can be notoriously difficult to clean.
Now, on to the "sling" factor. If you're well-versed in the way of dressings, you'll know that either category has the ability to produce "sling". So what exactly is "sling"? Sling is simply any excess tire dressing that gets indiscriminately thrown onto neighboring parts of your vehicle (rocker panels, fenders, lower door panels, etc.
At the end of the day, it's an eyesore and can be challenging to remove if left on your paintwork for an extended period of time. In order to avoid it, it's absolutely vital that you let any dressing cure onto the rubber for a period of 10-15 minutes before driving. Often times, I'll find other enthusiasts cake a dressing on like foundation, and this only invites future problems. Once you initially apply any dressing, let the solution sit and then wipe off any excess with a clean microfiber towel. Below you'll find an example of "sling".
Professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike could have an ongoing debate as to which dressing(s) reigns supreme, but holistically speaking, the entire category only enhances the look of your vehicle and keeps premature blistering, cracking, and fading at bay.
Believe it or not, tires already have UV inhibitors and antiozinators built into the tread and wall, but if gone unnoticed for a long period of time, the susceptibility of future damage can skyrocket if not properly cared for. I don't simply mean indiscriminately caking on a variety of dressings at a moment's notice, but just doing your due diligence and purging the tire of any contamination (industrial fallout, road grime, salt, tar, dust, debris).
As I mention to all of my clients, a dressing is only as good as the surface that had been prepped prior to application. Logically speaking, adding an additional layer of protectant gives you a peace of mind, so as not to shorten the lifespan of the tire. Always err on the side of caution, and stay ahead of the curve by applying some form of a dressing. Any dressing is better than no dressing. Car and Driver magazine suggests that any new tire will generally have a lifespan of 5-6 years or (30-50,000 miles). If properly maintained, I've seen tires last all the way up to 7-8 years and beyond.
Along the same token, I had a conversation with an RV chain out east, and they had a customer specialize in UVI radiation and the affect it has on our bodies in comparison to other sensitive areas of our vehicle (paintwork, vinyl, plastic, and of course tires). Much like that of a detailing technician using a paint gauge to determine paint thickness, this gentleman used a UVI meter, which determines how much light (UVA/UVB) is penetrating through any given surface.
Without any form of protection, you'll most likely read a 9, which is at the top of its scale. If that same area is shaded or covered, it's dramatically reduced to almost a 1 or 0. Subsequently, a dressing will certainly keep your tire healthy, regardless of which variety you choose. When the same device is used on a newly-dressed tire, you'll produce a reading of anywhere between 4-6. Is it ideal? No, but it certainly decelerates the aging process. Below you'll find an example of a tire that has already begun the cracking process.
There are, in fact, semi-permanent dressings which are specifically formulated to adhere to the wall of the rubber for an extended period of time. Depending on which manufacturer you choose, these dressings can last anywhere from a few weeks all the way up to one year. Again, some will perform better than others, and another "At a Glance" series will shortly follow showcasing the pros and cons of each.
The durability and overall efficacy will obviously vary from consumer to consumer, but the same concept rings true with any form of dressing that's offered within the detailing world. At the bottom of this article, you'll find a comprehensive list of dressings which have performed well for me throughout the years. When it comes to judging one dressing from the next, I like to follow a rubric of criteria that includes durability, shine, and overall aesthetics. If you would like to submit a special request, feel free to contact me and I'll add it to my queue of products to review.
Optimum Opti-Bond Tire Gel
Meguiar's Hyper Dressing
Chemical Guys VRP
IGL Ecoshine Tyre Coating
Trinova Tire Shine Spray
Adam's Pro Tire Hex-Grip Applicator
Lake Country Tire Dressing Applicator
Kraft Tool PL600L Turtle Back Sponge
Shur-line 2006701 Interior/Exterior Paint Brush