Whitewall Tire Care: Cleaning and Basic Maintenance

Who doesn’t love that brilliant contrast produced by a clean set of bright whitewall tires? It has a vintage look and one that just throws classic, retro vibes.

Beautiful as they are, whitewall tires take a little bit of extra maintenance than their carbon black counterparts. Scuffs show more readily on them, and whitewalls can start to fade and show yellowing faster than black tires.

Fortunately, with a little insider knowledge, you can keep your whitewalls bright and shining with the following tips.

Use a Formula Specifically Designed for Whitewall Tires and Clean Frequently

If you want your whitewall tires to stun, you need to keep them clean, which means actively cleaning them from time to time. Failure to periodically clean your whitewalls will allow road grime and oil to accumulate, causing black marks, or browning or yellowing of the whitewalls themselves.

When cleaning, however, it is important that you know what, as well as what not, to use. Never use a bleach-based cleaner on whitewall tires. In the short term, bleach will whiten them, but it will also cause irreversible damage to the rubber in the tire wall.

Our recommendation is to use a cleaner specifically formulated for whitewall tires, preferably a water-based cleaner. Before cleaning, park the car somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight.

Rinse the tires off with clean water before you apply any whitewall cleaner to them. This will rinse away any loose dirt before you start your deep clean.

Allow the tires to cool to the touch if they are warm, then spray on the tire cleaner, and allow it to sit for a moment. This will let it soak into the tire and help loosen and oil, brake dust, or grime on the surface.

Once you’ve let the tire cleaner sit for a little bit, scrub the tire with a curved tire brush. You can get these at most hardware stores or automotive suppliers. Make sure to clean the brush before you use it to clean the tire, as old tire dressing, oil, and other road grime can get trapped in the bristles.

Obviously, If there are any specific instructions that go with the whitewall tire cleaner you have chosen, make sure to follow the directions closely.

After cleaning, rinse the tire cleaner off with cool water, and allow them to dry.

Protect Your Whitewalls from the Sun

whitewall tire

One of the main factors that cause whitewall tires to break down and turn yellow or brown is actually not brake dust or road grime - it is the sun.

It’s ultraviolet radiation, to be precise. This radiation present in sunlight may be invisible to the naked eye but it still does a lot of damage to natural materials, including the rubber that your whitewall tires are made from.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation will cause a breakdown of the rubber that constitutes your whitewall tires. In the short run, it will cause your tires to become yellow or brown, but chronic exposure will make the rubber “dry out” causing it to become brittle.

Over prolonged periods of exposure, brittle, UV-damaged whitewalls will start to crack, and this damage is unfortunately irreversible.

There are two things you can do. The most effective is to limit UV exposure, which means keeping your car out of the sun. Park it in the shade or in a garage when possible.

We understand that there will be times when this is not feasible, however. When you must park your car outside, if you must do so for a prolonged period of time, consider using tire covers.

Another suggestion we have is to use a special whitewall tire dressing that’s specially formulated to shield against UV radiation. These are not as effective as keeping the tires covered, but they provide an additional, valuable layer of protection.

Apply this dressing only after you clean your tires.

Take Your Car Out for a Spin Every Once in a While to Prevent Flat Spots

One of the worst things you can do to your tires, and your car, actually, is to let it sit for a long time without driving it.

This damages the tires specifically as well. Tires that are left stationary for prolonged periods of time will develop “flat spots” where they were in contact with the ground. Flat-spotted whitewalls will ride rough, may not handle well, and can even potentially wear faster.

There is a simple solution - take your car out for a ride periodically. A good rule of thumb is not to let it sit for longer than a month between rides.

Here for New Whitewall Tires?

If you’re working on restoring a vintage vehicle and want to give it a retro look with a fresh set of whitewall tires, you’re in the right place. We carry whitewalls from American Classic, Coker Tire, BF Goodrich, and others, and we offer free shipping on all brands.

Just don’t forget these whitewall maintenance tips once you’ve outfitted your ride with a new set of tires!