Waxing your car is not equilivant to detailing it. No matter how much you wax and polish it, if you don't also worry about two other parts of the car, it won't look good at all. Those two other parts are the windows and the tires. If they are dirty, the car looks dirty.
I had some free time today between classes, and i've been borrowing my mom's Explorer while my civic is at the body shop, so i decided to do something nice for her and clean up her tires. She uses it to go skiing and stuff, so they were pretty bad.
First i washed the tires using a bucket with water and dawn. To wash them i used an old dirty wash mitt. This is very important. The wash mitt you use on your car makes a HUGE difference (i'll say more on this later). Once you use a wash mitt on your tires, or the underbody, or the lower part of your car if it's verry dirty, that's it for that one. From then on you ONLY use that mitt for that job or something worse. Never take a mitt that has been through that and use it on your finish.
Ok so the cleaning was basically just to remove the salt and mud and all that stuff. For the rims, it's best to use a nice wheel cleaner that is safe for your wheels. Safe usually means water based, most you find are acidic, which can hurt clearcoats and mag wheels. The best water based cleaner i've found is made by P21S. You just spray it on and all that breakdust and everything else comes right off (with the help of a good wheel brush, oxo makes some nice ones). Once they were clean i let them dry, this is a very important step.
Once they are dry they are still brown. There is actually nothing black about the ruber used in tires, i'm not sure what color it normaly is, but it's not black. They use a black dye in the tires to give them that color. That black changes to brown when it's exposed to certain conditions (ie sunlight). The tire dressings are to remove that brown and replace it with black, then in addition add to the black to give it a nice wet or silky look. Tire dressings are quite popular know, you can find them just about everywhere. They even make ones that put different colors on you wheel incase you feel so inclined. In general the gels work much better than the spray. Since the tire is rotating at a very fast speed, the cintripital (sp) force forces everything towards the edge. Light liquids have a much better chance of 'slinging' off than gels do. The one i used was Eimann Fabrik Black Opal Saphire Tire Gel. http://www.properautocare.com/blacsaptirge.html I applied it using some simple applicator pads.
The trick is to go over the tire very thouroughly, getting into all the little cracks. On those tires you knotice they have white writing, this product doesn't turn that black, but many will so be carefull. If you do end up covering that with black, try buffing it off with a rag, if that doesn't work go to an auto parts store to where they have their tire stuff and pick up a little white crayon looking thing that you can use to rewrite the white lettering.
I applied the dressing to as much as the tire as i could, but couldn't get the bottom because of where it hits the ground. The solution is to let the dressing sit for about 10 minutes, then roll the car back/forward about 1/2 a rotation of the tires so that then ends up at top. Dress them again getting the spots you missed, and let it set for another 10 mintutes. Once that is done grab a rag (Those terry cloth towels you can pick up in packs of 10 work good. I use those for this kind of stuff), and buff off the excess so there is no gel or liquid left on the tire. The longer you leave it on and more coats you do, the wetter the tires will look. You have to buff off the excess, or else it will sling off onto your paint just behind the tire the first time you drive it.
You can only get the sides of the tires, which some people don't like because it leaves a little dark side, with a usually lighter color around the tread, this might not look the best, but isn't avoidable. Most good products work fine if you get them just to the edge of the tire. Then after driving around for a little bit it will usually settle and leave a nice gradient of darkness. There is still a color difference, but it's not as noticible.
Finally, here are the results. The pics didn't come out to well, (a lighting thing i think) but here is one. I'll get some more tomorrow in the afternoon.
If anyone actually read all this, i hope it was of help. If you think it's crazy that i can type this much just on doing your tires, just wait till i cover washing, drying, waxing, polishing, buffing and so on.