How To Clean and Restore Dirty Exhaust Tips On Your Car?

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exhaust tips on black car

Even though most car companies nowadays try to hide tailpipes underneath the bumper, most older vehicles and performance cars have them visible. If your car has visible exhaust tips, keeping them dirty would be a shame. Today, I’ll show you a quick guide on how to clean dirty exhaust tips on your car and make them look new again.

I know that many people don’t even bother cleaning exhaust tips, but if you like to keep your car clean as I do, you’ll never let them become full of caked-on carbon, looking black like coal.

So, without furder ado, let’s see the guide!

Step-By-Step Guide on Cleaning Dirty Exhaust Tips

Before we dive into the exact steps, I just want to tell you at which stage of washing the car I like to clean exhaust tips, and it’s just after I finish washing wheels. That way, you won’t need wheel brushes afterward since they’ll become pretty dirty.

1. Spray Wheel Cleaner To Exhaust Tips

To loosen all that caked dirt from your exhaust tips, you should first spray them with high-quality wheel cleaner. Wheel cleaners are strong enough to break up carbon deposits quickly.

So, just spray a significant amount of wheel cleaner and let it sit for a minute or two. You’ll see all those particles breaking up, especially when the cleaner starts turning red.

2. Brush The Inside and Outside Of Exhaust Tips

Removing all that buildup from exhausts will be impossible without brushing and agitating the area. Before you proceed to the following steps, you should ensure that all the dirt is softened.

I like to use a long, stiff wheel brush for the interior part of the exhaust tips. By using it, you’ll be able to properly agitate the exhaust’s interior, which is always the dirtiest part. Also, don’t hesitate to spray more wheel cleaner while brushing the exhaust. It’ll add some extra lubrication and cleaning power.

I like to use a kitchen sponge or steel wool for the exterior part of exhaust tips, depending on how dirty the outer part is. If you are using steel wool, make sure to use ultra-fine grade steel wool – that way, you won’t scratch the exhausts.

Spray the steel wool or a kitchen sponge with a wheel cleaner, and start agitating the area. Make sure to clean all sides of the exhaust tips thoroughly.

3. Rinse and Dry Exhaust Tips

Using a high-pressure washer, rinse exhausts, which should remove all of the dirt from them.

Avoid spraying too much water inside the exhaust pipes when washing exhaust tips. However, even if you do, nothing bad should happen. All the water will come out when you turn on the car.

If exhaust tips are extremely dirty, you may have to repeat steps one and two after the rinse step. That’s why it’s important to regularly clean exhaust tips. That way, they’ll never get too dirty.

After rinsing, take a clean microfiber towel and thoroughly dry exhaust tips. They must be completely dry for the next step, polishing.

4. Polish The Exhaust Tips

The last step is to polish the exhaust tips. Some people like to polish both inside and outside, but honestly, unless you’re going to some car show, it’s not needed. I usually polish only the outer part, which is the most visible one. The inside will become dirty in two days anyway.

metal polishing paste

Pour a bit of AM Metal Polish (check the price now) on the microfiber applicator pad and work it into the exhaust tips. Make sure to work in circular motions, which is the best way of hand polishing. Also, make sure to add additional metal polish paste if needed.

You should polish exhaust tips until they have that natural gloss or factory finish. If your car has chrome exhaust tips, you should then use some chrome polish products.

If you wish to polish the inner part of exhaust tips too, I suggest you use a foam polishing cone attached to the drill, pour some metal polish on it, and then polish the inside. That way, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and get much better results than you could when polishing by hand.

5. Buff Off With a Clean Microfiber Towel

Now that exhaust tips are looking new again, you should take a clean microfiber towel and buff them to remove any polish paste residue.

Later on, when doing a contact wash of your car, you can clean them once more with car wash soap and a wash mitt to get them even cleaner.

How Long Does It Take To Clean Exhaust Tips On Cars?

You can expect to clean car exhaust tips in 5-15 minutes. The time it’ll take you to clean and polish them depends on more factors:

  • The quality of products you’re using
  • Your experience
  • How dirty the exhaust tips are

If you’re using low-quality products, they won’t have enough cleaning power to remove all that carbon buildup from exhaust tips.

Personally, I like to use Sonax Wheel Cleaner Plus (check the price now), which is one of the best wheel cleaners, in my opinion.

It may take a bit longer when you attempt to clean tailpipes for the first time. However, even for inexperienced people, cleaning exhaust tips shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes.

Lastly, if you neglected exhaust tips for a few years, cleaning all the buildup and restoring that factory shine might take more than 15 minutes. That’s why I recommend cleaning exhaust tips every time you wash your car, and well-maintained exhaust tips require only 2-3 minutes of cleaning.

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