is tar, sap and bug season. In the summer months, bugs are at full
population, trees produce more sap, and the heat softens the asphalt,
producing tar balls on tires. While tar and tree sap can be
difficult to remove, they do not present a threat to your paint's finish.
Bug stains, like bird droppings, are very acidic and represent a
significant danger to the beauty of your paint and trim. This
chapter discusses the proper way to deal with these common detailing
As you drive, your car is bombarded with small specks of asphalt, tire
rubber, grease and oils kicked up by the cars and trucks in front of you.
Left on your car's finish, these petroleum based contaminants will firmly
affix themselves to every exterior surface. Soap and water washing
will do little to remove these ugly black spots.
To remove road tar you need a solvent. Most commercial tar removers
contain kerosene, mineral spirits or another petroleum distillate combined
with lubricants to surround and buffer the road tar from your paint.
I'm not fond of these products, as they are bad for the environment.
The petroleum distillates go right down the storm drain. I
prefer to use surfactant cleaners where possible. If you have a
stubborn tar problem, I recommend Autoglym
Removing tree sap from a car's finish is a bit more difficult than tar, as
hardened sap can easily scratch your paint. I've found that by
hand-rubbing the sap spots with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol, I'm
able to easily remove the sap without damaging the finish. Mineral
spirits and denatured alcohol act as a solvent to break up and dissolve
If there is a large amount of sap on the car, or if the sap has been left
on the finish for an extended period of time, it can be a lot of work to
remove. For these cases, I discovered that hitting the affected
areas with a light-duty buffing compound removes the hardened surface on
the sap spots. Then I can go back and use mineral spirits to remove
it. The light duty buffing compound softens the sap so the mineral
spirits or denatured alcohol can do its job. The goal is to use the least
pressure possible to reduce the risk of scratching the paint. After
removing heavy sap, I always buff the treated areas with a good polish to
clean up any marks created during hand-rubbing with solvent. The
treated area must also be re-waxed.
What's the last thing that goes through a bug's head when it hits your
windshield? His rear end, of course! All joking aside, the
head-on collision of that juicy June Bug on your car's beautiful paint and
trim is far from one-sided. As the bug's exoskeleton explodes,
acidic fluids are firmly imbedded in the surface of your car's paint.
Did you know that shellac is a bug byproduct? Think of it, that
beautiful, old antique table you love is covered with dried bug juice
(yuck!). Bug splats on your car amount to little more than shellac
mixed with nasty bug parts. Any attempt to remove the catalyzed
remains without the use of a special cleaning solution could result in
The secret to removing insect remains is to loosen and dissolve them with
a solvent that will cut through the shellac. Most surfactant insect
removers work best if you spray the insect spots liberally and allow the
cleaner to work for a few minutes. For bugs with a little extra
grip, use an insect sponge.
Here I'm using an insect remover and bug sponge
sponge and spray to remove tar and bug specks from the front of
this Porsche Boxster. Be sure you use a bug sponge that
If you have a particularly large bug
mess, I have discovered a trick that seems to work pretty well. If
you use a pre-wax cleaner, such as Sonus
Paintwork Cleanser, apply a small dab to the offending bug splat.
Next, cover the spot with a wadded-up tissue. Let it sit for a few
minutes, then pinch up the mess and give it a soft wipe with the back side
of the tissue. Voila! The bug mess is gone.
AFTER REMOVING TAR, SAP &
Most of the chemicals used to remove the aforementioned road stains also
remove your wax or sealants. After removing tar, sap or bugs, plan
to spot wax or re-wax your vehicle. If you don't have time to wax
right away, use a quick
detailing spray or a spray wax.
While tar, sap and bugs are not immediately harmful to your paint like
bird droppings, if not removed they will deteriorate your car's paint
finish. When regular washing does not remove the tar, sap or bugs
from your car's paint, use the methods described above. If your
paint is damaged from tar, sap and bugs, use a good polish to restore the