There is absolutely nothing worse than cleaning your cars exhaust tips, only to find ugly orange spots on the surface which completely ruin the shiny appearance of the tailpipes. This is something that has happened to me recently, and when I first noticed it on the exhaust surface I got a bit of a shock.
I quickly ran to google and searched for everything from “how to remove rust from your exhaust” to “Return my exhaust on Milltek Warranty”
About two years ago I bought a Milltek Sport exhaust for my Scirocco. If you are familiar with the German car scene, you are probably already aware of the company Milltek, who is regarded as one of the best quality exhaust systems when upgrading the exhaust on your VAG car. One of the best things about the exhaust is that they come with a LIFETIME warranty.
So given that this exhaust is high-quality type 304 aircraft-grade stainless steel and was not cheap, I was not expecting rust spots on the surface. When I was cleaning my car one morning I came out and it was looking like this…
I was pretty pissed off! (Although stainless steel is not 100% rust proof it does resist the rusting process much better than other types of metal that exhaust systems are commonly made of )
I knew I had to get rid of the rust ASAP ( Washing and scrubbing the tips made no difference whatsoever, which was quite frustrating ), so, a bit of research online and a bit of elbow grease and I finally had the exhaust tips looking like new again. Before I give you my tips ( no pun intended ), lets first look at what causes these little orange spots on your stainless steel exhaust.
What Causes (Orange) Rust Spots on Your Cars Exhaust Tips?
Other than your car’s exterior there are few parts on your vehicle that are exposed to the elements as much as your car’s exhaust system. This can be hard on the appearance of the exhaust because exhaust systems are almost always made of metal and it’s a fact metal rusts easily when exposed to such things as salt, mud and other high moisture substances.
People have a hard time keeping their exhaust system from rusting because your exhaust gets attacked both from the inside and outside by moisture. The rusting process is accelerated when this excess moisture is trapped by such things as mud, dirt, tar and other common types of crap that are kicked up onto the bottom of your vehicle as you drive along a roadway.
Why You Should Clean Your Exhaust Tips
The exhaust tip of a car is also an often overlooked item when it comes to detailing. Cleaning and polishing it properly can be the final touch that gives your car a professional-looking finish while neglecting it can take away from the overall appeal of your otherwise gleaming car.
If you are anything like me, you HAVE to have that final touch. I have spent many mornings lying on the (sometimes wet) floor, down underneath the car, trying to get the best finish possible.
Also – the more often you give your exhaust a good clean, the less chance rust will form on the surface.
How to Remove (Orange) Rust Spots on Your Cars Exhaust Tips
As I mentioned above, when I first noticed those orange spots on the exhaust tips I knew I had to get rid of them immediately. I searched on google and asked some friends for advice. One of my good detailing buddies suggested some steel wool (#0000 grade steel wool preferably ), and some exhaust/metal polish should do the trick. I usually keep some Autosol at hand anyway around the house, so this is what I used for this job.
Steps for Removal
Step 1: Clean your exhaust pipe with car shampoo and water.
The first step in getting a tarnished and corroded exhaust pipe looking as good as new again is to wash off the superficial dirt with car shampoo and water. I use an older wash mitt which isn’t as suitable for the paintwork on my exhaust, but if you don’t have one of these around you can use an old clean microfiber cloth or something similar, does not have to be anything fancy.
Step 2: Dry your exhaust off
Once your exhaust is clean and free of any superficial dirt, you can then go ahead and dry it off. For this again you can use an old ( clean ) microfiber cloth or a microfiber drying towel if you have one that you don’t mind using on your exhaust. Make sure the exhaust tips are fully dry before proceeding to the next step.
Step 3: Apply Exhaust / Metal Polish and start using the steel wool
Apply some of the metal polish directly onto the exhaust tips, if you are using Autosol just squeeze some directly out of the tube onto the tip. ( You won’t need too much of the product to get a good finish so don’t go overboard with it.
Take the steel wool and begin to work the polish into the exhaust tip. You should see those orange spots start disappearing from the surface of the tailpipe. Keeping working the polish in until the orange spots are completely gone.
Step 4: Buff clean
Once you are happy with the result, you can take a clean/dry microfiber cloth for the final polishing step and buff all the Autosol( or similar product ) residue off of the tips.
If you have done this correctly, and it’s not easy to go wrong…you should end up with your tailpipes looking shiny and new. Here was my result. No more orange spots!!!
I was delighted with this result and could not believe how easy it was to bring them back to a finish like this! It made me feel a bit silly for panicking and worrying about it. This whole process took about 10 minutes maximum, and it was worth it. My Milltek was looking as good as new again.
I still use the above steps now and again even when there are no orange spots on the surface, it is a pretty surefire way to an ultimate shine on the pipes, which gets pretty addictive.
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.
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.