Cleaning your exhaust can make the rest of the clean bodywork really pop!
Credit to Discord user Jeyy for this contribution and the photos.
The pictures you’ll see in this guide are of my own car (7 years old at time of writing). I’ve had it around a year, but when I got it the paint was full of really bad swirls, so it clearly wasn’t looked after, from a detailing perspective. The exhaust tips were no exception, and were heavily caked in carbon deposits, with heavy pitting underneath.
Maintenance: Standard wheel cleaning kit
- Steel wool (0000)
- Metal Polish (an aggressive one, not something like a chrome polish)
- Abrasive drill brushes (I used nylon drill brush ones, but in hindsight, metal was required in my case).
- Give your car a clean.
- After you’ve done your wheels, give your exhausts a clean using wheel cleaner (not colour-changing, regular alkaline wheel cleaner is perfect). This will remove a lot of the loose carbon, and doing this every wash will help keep them clean.
- Rinse – a quick spray will do, don’t flood your exhaust with water as if it pools somewhere, will promote rusting. Rusted exhausts will need replacing.
- Place a generous amount of metal polish on the steel wool and work it into the exhaust. If your tips already have a brushed effect, work parallel to the existing lines.
- After sufficient work, wipe off the residue with a rag.
- If you’re happy with the results, then go ahead and apply a hi-temp sealant if you wish, or just admire your shiny tips.
- If you have remaining residue, then either repeat the above steps until you’re satisfied, or carry on reading as we step up the aggression.
- Use the drill brushes to abrade the stubborn deposits. With the nylon wheels, I noticed I had to apply a fair bit of pressure on the worst contamination. BE CAREFUL with rotating machinery – if the wheel catches, it could result in the brush flinging off and running over your paint. This will happen faster than your reaction time, so be careful!
- Repeat all the above steps until you’re happy with the results. You can switch between the brushes and the wool/polish. I’d advise finishing with the wool/polish as this will give a better finish than the wheel will.
The end results are below. I’m not 100% happy with the end results, but this was after around 1-2 hours of work, so I decided to end it here. Like I said, these tips were in terrible condition. Following the maintenance steps above will save them from reaching this state! If your original condition isn’t too bad, they should be easy to get back to 100%.
- Detailed Image posted an “Ask a Pro Detailer” blog article about how to properly detail exhaust tips that have been baked in fumes.