How to Clean Exhaust Tips? Regular Cleaning Guide!

Exhaust tips tend to get filthy without even the driver to notice it. If this car part isn’t taken care of regularly, it gets extremely difficult to clean. Still, not all is lost when it comes to a super filthy exhaust tip with tons of carbon buildup in it. There are some products and cleaning techniques that will help you to rid your tail pipe of unwanted soot. Here is a guideline on how to clean exhaust tips.

Step 1. Soap and water

For starters, use a mixture of soap and warm water to remove the mild dirt. Mix the soap and water in a bucket. Soak a wash mitt in the solution and start wiping. A wheel cleaning brush will also do the trick and help you to reach even further down the pipe. Wipe until you notice that the soot refuses to come off. Stubborn carbon buildups require something more powerful than soapy water. While rubbing, make sure not to touch the car paint, driveway, and your own clothes with the mitt containing black soot. Otherwise, you will have to spend another 15-20 minutes on cleaning the paint and driveway.

If your clothes get dirty with soot, just toss them into the washing machine and take them out clean. Even if the washer solves the problem quickly, we don’t recommend you to wear new or expensive clothes while cleaning exhaust tips. You are best of wearing clothes meant for garage work.

Step 2. Iron remover

If you have chrome exhaust tips, you should decontaminate them with iron remover. During the ride, iron fallout from brake discs ends up on the chrome, making it look rusty. Add the road tar that sticks to the exhaust tip, reducing its efficiency. To get rid of these culprits, use an iron remover. Wet the tail pipe tip, then spray the iron remover onto it. Let sit for as long as the product’s instructions say, then wipe with a microfiber cloth. A tar remover has similar properties. You can use it to tackle both iron fallout and massive tar splatter.

Step 3. Wire wool

If you wonder how to clean exhaust tips covered with lots of old soot, wire wool is the answer. Wire wool’s abrasive power claims a better effectiveness against stubborn carbon buildups. Start by spraying some wheel cleaner or degreaser onto the exhaust tip. Let it sit for two minutes. Grab the steel wool and get down to rubbing the tips in and out. Choose ultra-fine wool to minimize the risk of scratching the tail pipe. While this type of wire wool is not super abrasive, it can still go a long way in scrubbing the tough soot off. To compensate for the low abrasiveness, rub the tips repeatedly. Keep rubbing until the soot finally gives up to your insistent efforts.

Since the wool has a fine texture, you can indulge in some aggressive rubbing to improve the results. The extra pressure applied can force more soot to come off. If you want to remove all soot so that your exhaust tips look like new, you will need to scrub for about 10 minutes. You may need to change the wool halfway through, as it disintegrates quickly. If your goal isn’t to remove absolutely each particle of soot, and you are ok with getting the tips 70-80% clean, you can rub only for 5 minutes or so.

Step 4. Polish

Now that you have tackled the filthy carbon buildups, it’s time to polish the exhaust tips. Polishing helps to remove the minor scratches left by wire wool and restore pipe’s luster. If you have chrome or stainless steel tail pipes, a metal polish is what you need. If you have painted tips, avoid metal polishes, as they may damage the paint. Use instead soapy water and degreaser to bring the shine back. Don’t use brushes, as they can scratch and peel the paint off. If you choose metal polish, apply it to your hand or a wash mitt and spread it over the exhaust tip. Let it sit for at least an hour before starting the engine.

Step 5. Wheel sealant

This step is optional, but it can prevent soot from building up inside the tail pipe fast. Apply a wheel sealant onto the exhaust tips to cover them with a protective layer. In this way, dust, soot, and other contaminants will not stick to the pipe walls. This saves you cleaning time and efforts in the long run. Don’t apply the protective agent immediately after the metal polish. Let the latter sit for an hour or so, then proceed with the next step.

How often to clean exhaust tips?

If you want to prevent exhaust tips from turning into a rusty and filthy mess that is hard to deal with, you should clean them on routine basis. Your best bet is to clean them every time you wash the car. Just grab the wheel cleaner and the brush and give the pipe a 5-minute clean. For times when there is little to no soot buildup in the pipe, use soap, water and wash mitt. It’s important not to let the soot accumulate and set onto pipe’s walls. Else, you will have to spend much more time on scrubbing the dirt off. If you use the car wash service, they may not give the exhaust tips the special care they need. You will have to do it on your own after each wash using the products mentioned above.

To sum up

While overlooked by most car owners during the car wash, exhaust tips require regular cleaning. Learning how to clean exhaust tips helps you to prevent them from getting too filthy. The thicker the layer of soot inside the pipe, the worse it does its job. Hence, the need to remove the carbon buildup and debris on routine basis. For light soot traces, a mixture of water and soap will be enough. For serious buildups, use wire wool and wheel cleaner in the initial stages of cleaning, then polish and apply a sealant for protection.