Tip Sheet

How to clean your car’s exhaust tips

It’s important to keep the tip clean, too, you know
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Exhaust tips have got to be one of the most overlooked parts when it comes to car cleaning. Have you ever said something along the lines of “time to clean my car’s exhaust tips” at least once in your life? No? Neither have most of us.

They require some TLC every now and then, though. Definitely not as much care as your car’s paint or windshield, but it also needs some regular cleaning. To get an idea just how awful an exhaust tip can look after years of no cleaning, you can check out the photo below. This one is a stainless steel exhaust tip on a two-year-old car. It’s still a relatively new car, but that tip’s looking pretty darn old already.

car exhaust

All that stuff on the tip isn’t simply dirt that you can wash away with just soap and water. Most of it is carbon buildup, and it gives your car a bad look. Take note that this is just the tip we’re talking about, so skipping this one most likely won’t lead to any performance issues. However, no amount of waxing on the car’s body can hide that one, my friend.


Now, even if there’s already years’ worth of gunk on your car’s exhaust tip, it’s still fairly easy to clean provided you have the right tools, so don’t worry. What you’ll be needing are car shampoo, a soft-bristle brush, a bunch of microfiber towels, a degreaser or all-purpose cleaner, and metal polish. You can also opt for a sealant in the end, but more on that later.

First off, you’ll want to clean the exhaust tip thoroughly using car shampoo and the soft-bristle brush. Some people recommend using steel wool to penetrate the dirt on the metal better, but the safest way to avoid scratching the tip is to use a tire brush with soft plastic bristles, so let’s stick with that. Keep brushing and scrubbing until you’ve taken care of the easy-to-remove gunk on the exhaust tip.

After the initial wash, you can proceed to applying a degreaser. Using a degreaser is fairly straightforward—all you’ll need to do is apply it on the exhaust tip then wipe it down with a clean microfiber towel. Repeat this process until you’ve noticed that most of the gunk stuck on the tip have been removed and you’re starting to see the original shine on the stainless steel or chrome. For older cars with much dirtier tips, you might need to scrub harder and repeat the application more often.

The next step here is to apply the metal polish. This is where you’ll see the exhaust tip actually ‘restored’ to its original state, as the metal polish will bring back the shiny finish. As with the degreaser, you may have to apply more of this on dirtier tips. After you’ve applied the polish, wait for a few minutes before you buff it out.

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At this point, the exhaust tip should be nice and shiny already. You can now go the extra mile with this one and apply an added layer of protection. You can either use a wheel sealant or a paint sealant, as we’ve seen most people recommend using both of these online. Our guess is you can pick which one’s more accessible to you.

Again, remember that these, er, tips are simply for maintaining your car’s exhaust tips, not the entire exhaust system. Also, this tedious deep-cleaning process isn’t something you need to do often, especially if you clean your tips regularly. A good practice would be to clean your car’s exhaust tips with soap and water every time you give it a wash. It won’t take too much time, but it’ll go a long way.

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PHOTO: Shutterstock
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