How To Clean Exhaust Tips – 4 Simple Steps To Make It Look Like New

A dazzling exhaust tip gives the ultimate finishing touch to a vehicle, but those are often the ones getting dirtiest. So you need t know the simple process of how to clean exhaust tips.

Black soot, hydrocarbon, is the primary reason behind your exhaust tips getting dark. Hydrocarbon is a byproduct of engine combustion, which means you have to clean your exhaust tips from time to time. 

Vehicles that produce a handful of engine combustion are prone to having dark exhaust tips more often, such as sports cars or trucks. These tips usually get very hot and are exposed to flames. 

Taking care of your exhaust tips is very effortless and does not require a lot of investment. But hey, if you want to get the finest cleaning products, then nothing can stop you. 

However, below is mentioned a way elaborating how you can clean and protect dirty exhaust tips with products you can get at stores or online.

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Materials You Will Need

  • Running water and a hose
  • Wheel cleaning brushes
  • Car soap or wheel cleaner
  • Ultra-fine wire wool or steel wools
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Automotive metal polish and metal or wheel sealant


How To Clean Exhaust Tips With Following 4 Easiest Steps

Step – 1: Start with soap and water

It is important to start cleaning with soap or car shampoo and water. This removes any loose dust and grime that can be removed easily with these items only. 

You can use a wheel cleaner and a tire brush to clean inside the pipes. If you do not want to spend on a tire brush, then around, stiff-bristled brush, a common household item, will do the job. 

Keeping a microfiber towel or old wash mitt near you can be handy. 

Start with applying soap or car shampoo to the tips and let it dwell for a couple of minutes. Just don’t let the soap get dry. This helps with deep cleaning the tips. After the soap has settled in, use the wheel cleaning brushes to clean both inside and outside the exhaust tips. 

Then, rinse with water and dry using a towel. 

You will notice an adequate amount of dirt coming off, but that will not make a difference.

The first step is messy, so be careful of the black soot from the rag or brush from getting in contact with your vehicle’s paint or your hands and clothes. Black soot leaves stains. The microfiber towel used for cleaning should not be used for any other work.

Let us start with the most crucial step for cleaning exhaust tips now.

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Step – 2: Using wheel wool

This step is about working on the dirt and grime, which the first step could not budge. 

A good exhaust cleaner and wire wool are perfect for cleaning stainless steel or chrome exhaust tips. The cleaner should be non-corrosive. Automotive steel wool would be best suited for the job, but wire wool also works.

People who have never cleaned their exhaust tips before should start with quality steel wool. 

If the carbon buildup is heavy, you want to use automotive-grade steel wool along with a degreaser or wheel cleaner to scrub off the remaining dirt. 

At first, reapply the wheel cleaner and let it sit for some time. Then, start scrubbing just the tips with steel wool and slowly work your way in. The barrel of pipes is most likely to be clean, so just the front and tips need most work. 

Now, it is up to you how clean you want your exhaust tips to be. Working on each pipe for about 15 minutes is necessary if you want it to look spotless. But if you want a nice finish, then a few minutes per pipe is good enough to get rid of about 80% of contaminants. 

You can be as aggressive as you want with the scrubbing, given that neither the steel wool nor wire wool will leave big scratch marks. With light pressure, more time will be needed to get desired results.

Keep scrubbing as long as necessary for the grime to start breaking off. 

Rinse off the soap residue and pat dry using a microfiber towel. Once that is done, you can judge how much cleanliness you want. Take some time to make sure if both pipes have been cleaned equally or if one needs more attention than the other.

It is not entirely necessary to get automotive steel wool; wire wools can also get the job done. Wire wools are household items and can be found at any convenience store.

Something to note, if you have black painted exhaust tips, then you should avoid using steel wools. They have a high possibility of leaving scratch marks. In that case, only stick with microfiber towels to get rid of any stubborn dirt.

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Step – 3: Apply metal polish

Metal polish is vital after using anything more aggressive than steel wool as it helps to remove any feeble scratches. The abrasive steel wool might leave some very tiny scratches, and the metal polish helps with that.

After your exhaust tips are dried off, apply the metal polish using your fingertips to massage it onto the exhaust. Polish inside the pipes using circular motions with a soft microfiber cloth. Leave it on for some time.

Then, you can wipe the metal polisher off as leaving it on does not necessarily do anything special. 

Now, some things to consider while using a metal polisher. If your exhaust tips are painted or black, you should not use a metal polisher for chrome or stainless steel. Just go with car shampoo, water, and a degreaser and avoid using brushes or any equipment which can leave a scratch on matte or black finish.

An excellent inexpensive metal polisher is Never called Dull, made by Eagle One. This one is really good and can be used on any area of your vehicle which needs to be brightened up or polished. 

Borla exhaust cleaner and polish have excellent reviews and remove dirt and grime that soap and water cannot. It is for chrome or titanium surfaces and can be used for cars, bikes, or other metal surfaces.

As the metal polish is over with, on to the next step.

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Step – 4: End with a Wheel Wax

Wheel waxworks on any metal surfaces of your vehicle, chrome, aluminum, or stainless steel. 

Using a wheel wax is an optional step, but it can help protect your exhaust tips for as long as possible. The sealant adds a layer of protection to the surface. 

Take enough of the sealant in your hands and coat the exhaust, both inside and outside, without leaving any sparse areas. Make sure to go in as deeper as possible within the pipes.

Leave the sealant for about 15 minutes to cure the metal surface properly. After some time, the texture of the wax changes a bit, and that is when you need to remove it. The change in texture can be felt just by swiping a finger through the wax. Take off the wax using a towel.

If you want, you can repeat the process again immediately or after an hour or so. It makes sure that the metal surface has been appropriately protected. 

Collinite’s Insulator Wax No.845 is one of the best wheel waxes on the market. It is easy to use and also waterproof. This product has 4.5 out of 5 ratings on Amazon and is also available on Amazon. Also, this company ships worldwide. 

Another perfect wheel wax is Smartwax 10100 Rim Wax Ultimate Shine and Protection. It has almost 4.2 stars out of 5 and is currently available on Amazon. The product claims to shine, protect and repel brake dust. Even though this product is more expensive, it does the job nicely. 

Once this step is done, your cleaning of the exhaust tips is over. 

Now step back and look at the shiny and clean exhaust tips. Regular sealing and polishing are going to keep the pipes looking fresh for a longer time.

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Benefits of Cleaning Exhaust Tips

Cleaning exhaust tips are not just about the looks. There are many benefits to maintaining them on a regular basis.

  • Your vehicle releases harmful and contaminated fumes such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide. If the exhaust system does not work correctly, the engine will face some issues. Keeping the exhaust clean will also help the engine run smoothly and stop dangerous gases from leaking into the cabin. As the exhaust system release gases, some gases fuse inside the pipes, coating them black. This creates congestion and interrupts the flow of gases out of your vehicle. 
  • Rust forms from carbon dioxide and is more prone to forming if the exhaust tips are not cleaned often. Rust, along with corrosion, is one of the biggest enemies of the exhaust system. Holes will form due to it, which will lead to exhaust leaks. Over time, if the rust keeps developing and holes continue to form, it will put a strain on the engine. Not only that, but the engine will also suffer from loss of gas mileage and loss of power. Even though this is not a critical situation at first, it worsens. 
  • Consistent cleaning of your exhaust system will save you from some high-cost repairs. Consider it a part of your maintenance routine. A buildup of the unwanted junk in the pipes will totally damage your exhaust system’s condition, which changes the entire exhaust system.
  • Last but not least, a nice and spotless exhaust system is like the cherry on top. If your car is clean, but the exhaust system looks dirty, that ruins the entire look. 

Protecting the parts of your car is as important as keeping them clean. Even stainless steel can be a victim if exposed to harsh conditions. 

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How to Make Your Exhaust Tips lifelong

Here are some of the ways you can prolong the life of your exhaust system.

  • As the exhaust system is exposed to an intense heat level, painting them before installation will protect the surface from rapid damage. Using high-temperature resistant paint is going to last a long time.
  • If your vehicle does not have a plated exhaust system, you should plate it. It is going to keep rust at bay and also make it shiny. Some modern cars are already manufactured with chrome-plated exhausts. If your vehicle does not have this, you should take a specialist’s help to install it.
  • A rubberized spraying is sprayed on the vehicle’s undercarriage to keep off moisture and other forms of contaminants. It seals out grime, dirt, and moisture, which could corrode the car’s metal components. Although, there have been some reports of the product giving off a foul odor.
  • Washing and cleaning the exhaust tips regularly helps minimize the number of debris and grime collected over time on your exhaust system. It is essential to wash your vehicle at least twice every month.
  • Purchasing a high-quality exhaust system might seem extravagant but never a bad idea for some people. Those are made out of stainless steel, which has a decent rust resistance. The only downside is that these are expensive to maintain.

An important thing to note is that you cannot use the same cleaning products on different metal surfaces. 

Exhaust cleaners safe for chrome or titanium should only be used for cars that have chrome or titanium exhaust tips, such as the mk17 Golf R and Audi S3.

Cars with stainless steel exhaust systems such as BMW should be handled with care and only use cleaners safe for stainless steel for them.

In conclusion, using the simplest products such as steel wool and metal polish is sufficient to give you your desired results.

Keeping the exhaust system clean is one of the most neglected aspects of maintaining the car. Still, with a minimal amount of products, it is possible to keep them looking fresh and keep the engine running effortlessly.

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