Here is Why Your Exhaust Tips Turn Black & How to Clean Them

Its not as hard to clean as you might think!

Chrome exhaust tips are fun, and they look really cool. Unfortunately, they also get dirty quite easily. For some reason, it seems like the chrome tips on my 2015 Volkswagen GTI get particularly dirty. This had been bothering me for a long time, so I wanted to find out two things. What exactly causes the exhaust tips to turn black, and what is the best way to clean them?

[Photo: Michael Curtis]

What Causes Dirty Exhaust Tips

I know that GTIs are particularly bad about getting exhaust tips fouled up. And I’m sure it has something to do with the byproducts of a combustion cycle. However, I wanted to really understand what is going on here. So, I paid a visit to our friend Harvey who owns a tuning shop called The Boost Creep.

exhaust tips
The fouled-up exhaust tips on my 2015 Volkswagen GTI. [Photo: TFLcar]
Harvey works closely with Turbocharged engines, and understands a lot about the chemistry going on in our engine. Harvey told me that the black soot collecting on my exhaust tips is comprised of hydrocarbons, which is a normal byproduct of the combustion cycle.

Why was it so bad on the GTI? It’s because small displacement turbocharged engines tend to run rich. My GTIs 2.0-liter turbo is naturally going to be in boost more often up here at altitude. So, all that black stuff is unburnt fuel.

Small turbo engines run rich as a method of cooling. Manufacturers tune the engine to use more fuel to ensure that the engine doesn’t overheat and blow itself up.

Clean exhaust tips! [Photo: TFLcar]

How Do You Clean Them?

I did some digging online to see what people recommend for cleaning chrome exhaust tips. By and large, the recommendation I found on the GTI forums was a light abrasive cleanser used for stainless steel kitchen appliances.

The method is simple, use a damp sponge or towel with a little cleanser and get scrubbing. Normally the buildup should clean off in 10 minutes or so. It took me quite a bit longer since I had let the soot build up for a few years.

To see how the cleaning process goes, and to hear about why the tips get dirty, be sure to watch the whole video. Seriously, Harvey does a really good job explaining why the tips get so dirty.

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