The Four Auto Paint Stains You Shouldn’t Ignore
Even if you’re picky about your vehicle’s appearance, as many of us are, you can probably live with a few blemishes on the paint between car washes. After all, you can’t babysit your car or truck’s appearance every second of every day. We drive through water, slush, mud, and probably a few other things best left unmentioned, but most of them can be washed away days or weeks later with no ill effects. That’s not true of the Big Four Stains: road tar, bug guts, tree sap and bird droppings. These should always be cleaned immediately or they may cause deeper damage to your vehicle’s clearcoat.
And no matter how tempting, never use an abrasive sponge or steel wool on auto paint; it will scratch. Also note that you can pick up commercial products to get rid the Big Four Stains at your nearest automotive store, but you may already have what you need in your garage or tool drawer. Read on to learn how to remove these nightmarish boogers without making things worse in the process.
How to Remove Road Tar
Road tar is no fun to clean off after it hardens, but it’s the easiest of the Big Four Stains. The key is to surround it with a thin, greasy substance that can find its way under the edges of the tar and separate it from the paint surface. The best product is WD-40, a very thin, petroleum-based oil, but you can also us Goo Gone, peanut butter or a commercial tar remover. The technique is simple: Apply WD-40 to the stain and beyond its edges, so the liquid can work its way in and under the sides. Wipe off the loosened tar with a soft cloth. Repeat until the stain is fully lifted. Now wash the car to remove the residues of the cleaner. Off you go on the highway of life, free of unsightly tar stains. Note: keep the WD-40 away from auto glass; it’s no fun to wash off.
How to Remove Bug Guts
Bug guts should be removed as soon as you see them. A bug body contains acids that can damage your finish in as little as two days, wreaking cruel vengeance on you for its untimely death. WD-40 works for this stain, as well, and the technique is similar to tar removal: Wet the spot past its edges with WD-40 and let it soak for 10 minutes.Wipe off the stain with a soft cloth using circular motions. Repeat as needed. Again: don’t use WD-40 on auto glass. It’s a pain to remove. Wash the vehicle to remove the oily mess you’ve left, and you’re back on the road, ready to hit more bugs.
How to Remove Tree Sap
If you catch this nasty mess as soon as it happens, you can usually wash it away with soap and water. But after it dries, be very cautious because dried sap is like dried glue, and it’s possible to lift paint as you scrub it off. The solution is rubbing alcohol, often used in combination with WD-40. Neither will harm your vehicle paint. Wet a soft cloth with alcohol, press it against the sap and leave it for 10 minutes. Wipe the stain away with a microfiber cloth. Repeat as needed. Dried sap may take several passes to fully remove. If alcohol isn’t cutting it, soak the area for 10 minutes with, you guessed it, WD-40.Wipe again. Once all the sap is removed, wash the car to remove the chemicals you’ve used.
How to Remove Bird Droppings
If you haven’t figured it out yet, WD-40 has a lot of uses. And yes, it also works great for bird droppings. Spray it on the area and leave it for about a minute, then rinse or wipe it away with a soft cloth. As with the other tough stains on this list, it may take more than one pass, but you’ll get there. You can find other methods for removing bird droppings, but this is the most effective one we’ve found.
A Note on Removing Tough Stains from Auto Glass
Tar shouldn’t be a problem on auto glass unless you drive through a river of it. Here’s how to remove the other three stains from glass:
- Bug guts: Water and dish soap should do the job here, but if you have stubborn spots, you can buy commercial remedies at an auto parts store.
- Tree sap: This can be a tough one. If soap and hot water doesn’t budge it, use a window scraper or box knife blade to scrape it off. Be very careful around chrome and painted areas. Be even more careful with your fingers.
- Bird droppings: Again, start with soap and water. If it doesn’t do the trick, seltzer water or club soda may help. Let the the drink of your choice soak into the droppings for five minutes, then wipe away.
If you run into a stain that just won’t come off, or you’ve removed a stain only to find out it’s damaged your paint, contact APR. We have a few other tricks up our sleeves that may help. Good luck!