There are few things more frustrating in detailing that cleaning your car and ignoring your exhaust tips. This guide on how to clean exhaust tips means you no longer have an excuse! 

For one reason or another, car exhaust tips are often overlooked when it comes to detailing a car. Overtime, residue from the exhaust gases exiting the car build up, leaving you with black, tough-to-clean exhaust tips. Unfortunately, your regular car wash won’t cut it when it comes to removing this built up dirt. Its tough to remove without using the right products; a snow foam, shampoo combination won’t be enough here. You’ll need to get your hands on a few items to make cleaning them as easy as possible.

In this guide on how to clean exhaust tips, we’ll take you through what items you need as well as how to apply them correctly to leave you with spotless exhaust tips.

What items do you need to clean exhaust tips?

There are three primary products you’ll need to clean your exhaust tips aside from your regular car cleaning kit. First, I like to use an alloy wheel cleaner to lift off some of the dirt initially. As it’s safe to use on your wheels, it’s also safe to use on your exhaust tips. This is true even if you have titanium tips. You’ll need some wire wool to scratch away the dirt. Don’t worry about creating scratch marks, as long as you’re using an ultra fine, grade 0000 wire wool, you won’t damage your tips. The next product you’ll need will bring about some shine; some metal polish and a microfiber cloth.

applying wheel cleaner on exhaust tips

How to clean exhaust tips

1. Apply wheel cleaner and agitate

Firstly, make sure that the car has had sufficient time to cool down. A hot exhaust could cause the wheel cleaner to dry on to the surface quickly.

It seems odd using a wheel cleaner on your exhaust tips, but given how brilliant wheel cleaner removes brake dust and dirt from wheels, it would be silly not to apply some to your dirty exhaust tips. You’ll notice when it starts to work, as the color will start to turn purple and start drawing dirt off the exhaust tips.

Next you’ll need a wheel brush to agitate the dirt and product. This will start to lift off the tougher, stuck-on dirt. After allowing it to dwell for five minutes, use a pressure washer to remove the leftover product and dirt.

Check out our guide to the best alloy wheel cleaners

2. Use wire wool

Wearing gloves, tear off a piece of wire wool (less than $7/£6 on Amazon), reapply some wheel cleaner, and get to work. The wire wool works alongside the wheel cleaner to lift off the remaining dirt. You’ll need to scrub hard, so don’t be afraid to apply pressure. Given its fine material, you won’t leave scratch marks on the exhaust tips. Depending on how dirty the exhaust tips are, and how clean you want them looking, you should spend at least 5 minutes scrubbing at each tip. I’ve spent more than 10 minutes on one tip alone in the past…

Once you’re happy, rinse away the dirt and product and assess whether it needs another round of cleaning or you’re happy. Dry off the tips for the next step.

Metal polish on exhaust tips

3. Apply metal polish to exhaust tips

Now you’ll need your metal polish. Choose a product that is safe to use on exhausts, so something that has high heat resistance (like this one, from $20). Simply apply the product to the exhaust tip covering all of it. Then leave for a few minutes before wiping away the excess product and buffing.

That’s it. Yes, the process can take a while, but the results speak for themselves. Plus, once you’ve got into the routine of cleaning your exhaust tips each time you detail your car,  the time taken to achieve the same results will decrease.

Be sure to check out our guide on how to polish metal on a car for more advice.