What is Tire Sling: Phenomenon Explained

Tire sling is when tire shine or dressing, applied to the tires of a vehicle, gets flung onto the side, fenders, and even wheels of the vehicle because of the spinning of the tires.

Tire sling most often occurs because of improper tire dressing application, though many people place the blame on the inadequacy of the product itself. 

What is Tire Dressing?

tire shine application

Tire dressing is a detailing product, sometimes called tire shine that is applied to the tires of a vehicle to make them appear shiny and clean.

In most cases, it is the last step to be completed when detailing a vehicle. Though it is not essential, and as clean as tires can get, tire dressing gives them a shine that even soap or other cleaners cannot match.

Just like any other vehicle cleaning solution and process, tire dressing must be applied according to the instructions with which it comes; otherwise, tire sling could result and undo a large portion of your detailing job.

How Do You Prevent Tire Sling?

Even if you are not as concerned with detailing your vehicle occasionally, knowing how to prevent tire sling when you do detail it or when someone else does can save your potentially expensive and time-consuming detailing job from becoming undone.

For someone who details vehicles often, it becomes more important, especially if you are being paid to do so.

Follow the Instructions On Your Chosen Product

The general process for applying tire shine correctly is fairly consistent across brands, but each manufacturer still may have different formulas and specific nuances for application depending on the product.

Additionally, tire shine is offered in both spray and gel forms, both of which usually require slightly different application processes.

Drying times can also vary from product to product, an important part of preventing tire sling. It is very easy for a wet product that has not soaked into the tire to be thrown as the wheel spins. 

Clean up Any Extra Material Left on the Tire by the Applicator

Many tire shine products, especially those in gel form come with a foam applicator. It can be easy to use too much gel or try to use every bit that is left on the applicator.

Any excess product left on the tire can cause tire dressing sling. Even spray-on or liquid products can be applied too generously and the same result can occur. 

Use Liquid Dressing Instead of Gel Dressing

Because of its greater ability to soak into the rubber and its resistance to clumping like thicker gels, many experts recommend liquid dressing as opposed to gel dressing.

Both types of tire dressing have their own benefits and drawbacks, but liquid dressings tend to resist sling potential, given that it is applied correctly.

How Do You Apply Tire Dressing Properly?

tire dressing application

The proper application of tire shine does not always guarantee tire sling will not occur, but it will greatly reduce the possibility that it will happen.

It is important to observe and practice the entire application process in order to make sure the possibility of tire sling is all but eliminated.


Preparation is the key to success, especially when cleaning any part of a vehicle involved and time can be of the essence. Not only is it important if time constraints are involved, but it can also aid in your concentration levels, allowing you to focus on the task at hand without having to walk away and potentially miss steps.

Material and tool gathering should be the first part of preparation. Since tire dressing is usually part of detailing a car, you may already have most of what you need from what you have done so far. 

Tools and materials needed include the tire dressing product, an applicator, and a microfiber cloth. Any towel or applicator should be clean, and gloves are recommended but not necessary. Multiple microfiber cloths are also recommended in case one of the other ones falls or gets dirty.

Cleaning the Tires and Wheels

Even though tire shine might be one of the finishing touches you put on your vehicle detail, the wheels and tires should be the first things to be washed. Both the wheels and tires can and should be cleaned before applying tire shine, even if you do not intend to give your vehicle a complete wash and detail.

Regardless of whether or not you wash your entire vehicle, the wheels and tires should be completely dried before the application of any tire dressing. Tire shine should only be applied to the tires of the vehicle any residual water on the wheels could drip onto the tires and re-wet them.

Applying the Tire Shine

Once the wheels and tires have been dried, you can apply the tire shine. There are usually three different ways to do this: Spray-on, apply with a foam applicator, and wipe-on.

Spray-on dressings come exclusively as liquids. They are beneficial because they are liquid dressings and can be soaked into the tire easily and because they are the easiest to use and apply.

The downside is that they can be messy with the chance of overspray getting onto both the body panels and wheels of the vehicle. They can even be messy at the recommended spraying distance. It is especially important to follow directions for spray-on tire dressings to make sure the least amount of overspray occurs and the desired results are accomplished since many of these products allow for multiple layers if desired. Any spray that gets onto the wheel or body panels should be removed.

Dressings that come with a foam applicator as part of the package usually include a gel-type dressing. The applicator is usually shaped like a cube and contains a cutout that runs through the middle of one side.

This serves to hold the gel and help spread it over the tire. These types of dressings benefit from the easy application of tire shine with the possibility of only one layer of application to achieve the desired results.

The downside to these types of tire shine is that they can be messy from putting too much gel on the applicator. If too much gel is used on the tire or some drips onto the wheel, it should be removed.

Wipe-on, liquid tire shines are usually considered the best kind by experts. They can be applied precisely with the use of a cloth and soak into the tire faster and better than gels. The possibility of applying too much tire dressing still exists but the potential is greatly diminished.

Finishing Touches

The final step in the application process is mostly cleanup and drying. Cleaning up any excess material is important to make sure that not only tire sling can be eliminated, but also that other parts of the vehicle are not exposed to the dressing products intended for the tires. 

Drying times vary greatly between products, so it is especially important to read the instructions on each product. Times can range from five minutes to three hours, but erring on the side of caution and waiting longer than recommended can be beneficial.

Final Thoughts

Tire sling occurs when tire shine is thrown from the tire and onto the body or wheels of a vehicle because of the speed at which the wheels rotate.

This is most often because of improper application of tire dressing rather than a fault in the product. This can be avoided by following the instructions on each tire dressing product and adequately preparing your tools and products, washing and drying your tires, and allowing the tire dressing to adequately dry after proper application. 

Shawn Furman
I have been a vehicle hobbyist for as long as I can remember as well as a freelance writer for the past three and a half years. My clients have included Vehicle Scene, Autolist, CarGurus, and now The Vehicle Lab. In addition to my current clients, I also maintain my own blog where I am able to share my knowledge and experience through vehicle reviews, car-buying guides, how-to guides, and list articles.
The Vehicle Lab looks to cover all aspects of the automotive industry: News, Maintenance & Repair Guides, and Product Reviews
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