Is Armor All the best tire shine? – Roadshow

Seven tire-shine products. Let's put them to the test. 

Brian Cooley/Roadshow

Believe it or not, there was a time when detailing your tires was strictly for hot rodders and low riders. Then, in 1979, a little known product called Armor-All was sold to medical giant McKesson (best known for opioids today) and, with a lot of marketing muscle, it convinced us all that we need to dress our tires after a wash.

Is Armor All the best tire shine?     - Roadshow

Now playing: Watch this: Is Meguiar's tire dressing better than Armor All?

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Much more than just Armor All

Today there are dozens of tire-shine products that overshadow Armor All, but are they better than the original? I set out to find out, acquiring a used set of Pirelli tires from our friends at Dependable Tire & Brake in San Rafael, California, and subjected each one to an identical scrubbing. Then I dressed half of each tire with a different leading tire-shine spray or gel and left them to sit in the California summer sun for a week, after which I gave each a quick identical wash and graded them on four criteria:

  • Initial application and appearance
  • Seven-day appearance
  • Post-wash appearance
  • Cost

Here's what I found. Note that Roadshow may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Best tire shines compared

Amazon

Original Armor All spray (not high shine or any of the other derivatives) went on easily, gave a great sheen that wasn't quite a gaudy shine, and looked barely changed after a basic wash. Overall, it still shines in the category.

Armor All

Armor All gel gives you a high shine but it also gives your tires a messy look you really have to want. Coverage was also uneven in our test, unless you really put a lot of time into detailed application.

Amazon

Trinova's spray tire dressing is among the more expensive ways to dress a tire, but its coverage was even and offered a couple variants of a high shine look, depending on your technique when applying it.

Amazon

Car Guys and Chemical Guys products were virtually identical in my experience, both in application ease and  shine results, but also in being near the top of the price range. Armor All is much cheaper than both, but doesn't deliver quite as high a shine.

Amazon

VRP is Vinyl and Rubber Protectant and hits to more bases than just tires, so it deserves your consideration in that it does a lot while taking up less space in your detailing drawer. We found it delivered a higher level of shine than some other products, and held up well in a wash. It's a lotion, not a spray nor a gel, and the only product we tried in that form.

Amazon

If you want a clean, natural look on your tires, but without the dry, splotchy look they would take on naturally, Griot's dressing is your pick. It makes your tires look supple and evenly fresh, but with virtually no shine. Know that it's also pricey, perhaps befitting its look -- it would be appropriate for a vintage Ferrari.

Amazon

We didn't have good luck with Meguiar's gel at all. Like the Armor All gel it went on unevenly, still looked that way a week later, and remained looking sloppy even after a wash. It had most of those unfortunate characteristics in common with the Armor All gel, but Meguiar's seemed to attract more dust and grime. 

Which tire shine is the best value?

There's a huge range of prices in the huge range of products to make your tires look good. From the cheapest (either of the gels) at 37 cents an ounce to the priciest (Car Guys spray) at almost a dollar an ounce, we found price doesn't correlate tightly with results. 

tire shine prices

The tire shines we compared differ widely in cost, with gels being the most affordable. Prices shown are from Amazon as of Aug. 17.

Brian Cooley/Roadshow

Aside from delivering very good overall results, Armor All Original spray came in at the lower end of the price scale. That made for a pretty compelling story that Armor All Original is the best overall tire dressing of the seven we tried, though it may disappoint you if you're looking for a very high or very low shine.

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