How to Remove Rust Spots from Your Cars Exhaust Tips

How to Remove Rust Spots from Your Cars Exhaust Tips

There’s really nothing that grinds your gears more than polishing your car’s exhaust tips only to discover those pesky orange spots tarnishing the shine of your tailpipes. This is a little misadventure I found myself in recently, and I gotta tell you, seeing it for the first time on the exhaust surface was quite the unwelcome surprise.

Without missing a beat, I sprinted to my laptop and fired up Google, typing in everything from “how to get rid of rust from your exhaust” to “Cashing in my Milltek Warranty for my exhaust.”

About a couple of years back, I splurged on a Milltek Sport exhaust for my Scirocco. If you’re in the loop with the German car world, you’re probably nodding your head already knowing Milltek’s reputation as one of the top dogs for exhaust systems, especially when it comes to upgrading your VAG car. One of the sweetest deals about this exhaust is the lifetime warranty that comes with it.

Rust spots Exhaust tips

So, you can imagine my surprise, given this exhaust is top-shelf type 304 aircraft-grade stainless steel, and considering it wasn’t exactly a bargain, I wasn’t expecting to see any rust spots. One fine morning, while giving my car a good clean, I spotted this…

And let me tell you, I wasn’t a happy camper! (Even though stainless steel isn’t completely rust-proof, it’s supposed to put up a better fight against rust compared to other typical exhaust metals.)

rust spots on exhaust

I knew I had to kick this rust to the curb pronto (all my washing and scrubbing attempts were as good as zilch, which was super frustrating), so after a bit of online detective work and some good old-fashioned elbow grease, I managed to get those exhaust tips gleaming like new again. But before I spill the beans on how I did it, let’s first take a closer look at what’s causing these tiny orange villains on your stainless steel exhaust

What Causes (Orange) Rust Spots on Your Cars Exhaust Tips?

Rust, or iron oxide, is the result of a chemical reaction called oxidation, which occurs when iron or an alloy containing iron (like steel) comes into contact with water and oxygen. This process is accelerated in the presence of elements like salt, which is why cars in colder regions where roads are often salted can be more susceptible to rusting.

Now, let’s talk about your car’s exhaust tips. Despite being made of stainless steel, which is more resistant to rust than other types of metal, they’re not completely immune. Stainless steel contains chromium, which forms a protective layer to prevent rust. However, this layer can break down over time, especially when exposed to harsh environmental conditions.

Car exhaust tips, in particular, have a rough life. They’re exposed to the high heat of exhaust gases, moisture from the combustion process, and various corrosive compounds. Over time, this can cause the protective layer on the stainless steel to break down, leading to the formation of rust spots.

rust on exhaust pipe

Furthermore, exhaust tips can accumulate deposits from the exhaust gases. If these are not regularly cleaned off, they can trap moisture and accelerate the rusting process. In particular, if you often make short trips with your car, the exhaust system may not get hot enough to evaporate all the moisture in the system, creating a perfect environment for rust to form.

Why You Should Clean Your Exhaust Tips

Cleaning your exhaust tips might seem like a minor detail in the grand scheme of car maintenance, but there are several compelling reasons why you should make it a regular part of your routine.

First and foremost, keeping your exhaust tips clean enhances the overall aesthetic of your vehicle. Let’s face it, nothing screams ‘well-maintained car’ quite like a shiny, spotless exhaust system. It’s one of those small details that can make a big difference, especially if you’re someone who takes pride in the appearance of your car.

Moreover, cleaning your exhaust tips can also aid in preventing corrosion and rust. As we’ve already discussed, the exhaust is exposed to a number of corrosive elements that can lead to rusting over time. Regularly removing these deposits can help slow down the corrosion process and prolong the life of your exhaust system.

Lastly, regularly cleaning your exhaust tips can help you keep an eye on the overall health of your exhaust system. By getting up close and personal, you’re more likely to notice early signs of issues, such as rust spots or holes. This means you can address problems before they escalate, potentially saving you from more extensive repairs down the line.

How to Clean your exhaust tips

Lastly, regularly cleaning your exhaust tips can help you keep an eye on the overall health of your exhaust system. By getting up close and personal, you’re more likely to notice early signs of issues, such as rust spots or holes. This means you can address problems before they escalate, potentially saving you from more extensive repairs down the line.

How to Remove (Orange) Rust Spots on Your Cars Exhaust Tips

Discovering those irksome orange spots on the exhaust tips can be quite a downer. I remember when I first encountered this issue, I was determined to banish them right away. So, I did some extensive research online, consulted with friends, and solicited advice from a buddy who’s a whiz at detailing. The consensus was to employ #0000 grade steel wool and some exhaust or metal polish. I had some Autosol handy at home, which served well for this task.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to restoring your exhaust tips to their former glory:

Step 1: Preliminary Cleaning

Start with a basic clean to remove any superficial dirt. A car shampoo and water combo works great for this. I prefer to use an older wash mitt that’s not as delicate as what I’d use for the paintwork. However, if you don’t have a wash mitt, an old, clean microfiber cloth or similar will do just fine. The goal here is to get rid of surface grime without scratching the metal.

Step 2: Drying the Exhaust

Once you’ve eliminated the surface dirt, it’s time to dry off the exhaust. Again, an old (but clean) microfiber cloth or a microfiber drying towel would be ideal for this. Ensure the exhaust tips are completely dry before moving on to the next step, as water can dilute the polish and hinder the rust removal process.

Step 3: Apply Exhaust/Metal Polish and Scrub with Steel Wool

Now comes the rust-fighting part. Apply a moderate amount of the metal polish directly onto the exhaust tips. If you’re using Autosol, just squeeze some directly from the tube onto the tip. Remember, a little goes a long way, so don’t go overboard.

Next, grab the steel wool and gently work the polish into the exhaust tip. You’ll soon see those bothersome orange spots start to fade away. Continue scrubbing until all rust spots have vanished. If the rust is stubborn, don’t be afraid to apply a bit more pressure, but always be cautious not to scratch the metal.

Step 4: Buff to a Shine

After you’ve eliminated the rust, it’s time for the final polish. Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth for this last step to buff off any residual Autosol (or similar product) from the tips. This will leave your exhaust tips with a mirror-like shine.



how to clean exhaust tips

When done right, this process should restore the gleam to your tailpipes. It’s a relatively straightforward procedure, and here’s the proof – my own tailpipes, now shiny and new, completely free of orange spots!

Tips For Keeping Your Exhaust Looking Its Best

Maintaining the cleanliness of your exhaust tips isn’t just about aesthetic appeal; it can also help prolong their lifespan and functionality. Here are a few tips to keep your exhaust tips spotless and rust-free:

1. Regular Cleaning: Regularly cleaning your exhaust tips is crucial to prevent the build-up of grime, soot, and rust. Depending on how often you use your car and the conditions you drive in, you might want to do this weekly or at least every month.

2. Use the Right Cleaning Materials: Ensure you’re using non-abrasive tools and cleaners that are suitable for the material of your exhaust tips. Microfiber cloths, soft sponges, or a soft brush are great for this. Use a car shampoo or a dedicated metal cleaner for the best results.

3. Proper Drying: After washing your exhaust tips, make sure to dry them thoroughly. Leaving moisture on the metal can lead to the development of rust. Use a microfiber cloth to dry the exhaust tips and remove any remaining water spots.

4. Polishing: Polishing not only enhances the shine of your exhaust tips but also adds a protective layer that can guard against rust and grime. Use a high-quality metal polish and follow the application instructions on the package. Remember to buff off any excess polish for a perfect finish.

5. Regular Inspections: Make it a habit to inspect your exhaust tips regularly for any signs of rust or damage. Early detection allows you to address these issues promptly, preventing further deterioration.

7. Protective Coatings: Consider using a protective coating or sealant on your exhaust tips. These products can provide an extra layer of protection against the elements, reducing the risk of rust and corrosion.

By following these tips, you can keep your exhaust tips looking shiny and new, and ensure they stay in top condition for longer

In Conclusion

No need to worry if your exhaust tips are looking in a bad way, you are almost guaranteed to be able to bring them back to an excellent finish using the above method.

If they are in a REALLY bad way, you may need to look into buying a drill attachment for polishing which will have a bit more polishing power for really tough spots and contamination, but I may save that for another post.

Until then

Happy Detailing

About the Author – Darren O Hara

Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out out new products.

Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.

You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork

If you have any other suggestions or methods of your own for cleaning your exhaust tips, please let us know in the comments.

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