How To Clean Exhaust Tips At-Home Guide

How To Clean Exhaust Tips

What Is Exhaust Tip Grime?

As your car exhaust pipe cleaner comes out covered in that dark stuff, you’ll probably wonder what exactly you’re cleaning off your exhaust tips.

Combustion is simple on paper. But in your car, the fiery process that makes all those horsepower is much more in-depth. Air density (such as cold vs. hot days) and a nearly uncountable number of fueling factors play their part. But the key thing here is that fuel rarely gets wholly burned. The unburned stuff, as you’d expect, gets sent out through your exhaust tips. This slight amount of incomplete combustion takes the form of soot, which is a residue composed of the gasoline’s hydrocarbons.

In other words, “how to clean exhaust tips” can be looked at as “how to remove the byproduct of an engine’s fuel-burning complexities.” Avoiding the buildup is impossible unless you never drive the car or drive an electric vehicle (in which case, of course, you wouldn’t need this guide).

Don’t Fret. Follow the Steps

Now that you know what you’re cleaning and have all of the mandatory materials, you’re ready to begin getting dirty (and getting your tips clean). This is how to clean exhaust tips:1

  1. Set the stage for your maiden voyage into learning how to clean chrome exhaust tips by first cleaning what you can with soap, a bucket of water, and a rugged towel. We recommend gloves, rags, and/or washing mitts for this first part. If you happen to have a tire brush, it’s a helpful tool for this initial stage. You’re going to want to take great care that as your towels and mitts collect dirt and dark gunk from the surface level of the tips, they don’t come into contact with your vehicle’s paint. Wear clothes you won’t mind ruining or relegating to solely mechanical situations. Wash your area after you’re done to avoid staining the garage or driveway.
  2. Once soap and water have done all they can, it’s time for your wheel cleaner to take things to the next level. Apply the wheel cleaner with your tire brush or towels just as you did the soap, brushing the insides of the pipe with vigorous force. The fallout remover should break all of that soot down, and piece by piece, scoop by scoop, you should see a gradual re-emergence of your exhaust tips’ original condition. Even if it’s not exactly shimmering, you’re ready to grab your wire wool and move on.
  3. Start the polishing process by rubbing your automotive-grade 0000 steel wool throughout your freshly cleaned exhaust tip. This is especially good for stainless steel or chrome exhaust tips.
  4. Follow up the power of the fallout remover and abrasive steel wool with a metal polish that will remove any faint scratches accrued by the steel wool, as well as shine up your final product. If you have painted exhaust tips (not chrome), you should just use a degreaser meant for tailpipe use, soap, and water.
  5. The final step is optional and will make sure all your hard work doesn’t quickly go to waste. Use a wheel sealant to keep your tips polished and protected for the maximum amount of time. Consistent polishing and sealing can help keep you from having to redo the entire process.

Cleaning Used Cars

It’s important to know everything about the condition of a used car before you buy it, particularly cars under $15K. You don’t want to spend a ton of time and energy planning and executing a cleanup or rebuild of a car that isn’t worth it. You also need to know about the materials the car is made from, how and where it’s been driven and stored over the years, and how often the owner has serviced said vehicle. Go through each point on our used car buying checklist before you go any further down the path towards a new vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you clean your exhaust at home?

Knowing how to clean exhaust tips at home starts with high-quality metal polish, wheel sealant, ultra-fine wire wool, and a wheel cleaner with a fallout remover. Aggressively scrub the tips with soap, water, and a rugged towel. Vigorously scrub the exhaust with your wheel cleaner and towel. Rub the wool on the exhaust tips. Polish them with metal polish, then use the sealant to lock in that shine.1

Does WD-40 clean exhaust tips?

WD-40 is not the best way to clean exhaust tips. It’s essentially a temporary solution that’ll burn away with the heat of your exhaust and sometimes do more damage. The best answer to “how to clean exhaust tips” is a combination of soap, water, metal polish, wire wool, wheel sealant, a wheel cleaner with a fallout remover, and some elbow grease. Check out our guide for the full process.1

Why do exhaust tips turn black?

Exhaust tips naturally turn black over time due to incomplete combustion. It’s an inevitable part of any combustion engine. The gasoline rarely gets 100% burned up, and the remaining hydrocarbons are sent out the exhaust tips as soot. This carbon buildup is black-colored and sticks to the exhaust as you drive. Learning how to clean exhaust tips is easy, though, and can get your tailpipes shining like new again.

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1This web page is not intended to replace this service that is to be performed at an official dealership. It is your sole responsibility for any injuries and damages incurred as a result of performing such actions contained in this webpage. Contact our dealership for complete details.

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