Removing Tar, Sap and Bugs From Your Car’s Paint

Summer is tar, sap and bug season. During the warm months of summer, insects are at full population, trees and large bushes produce more sap, and the heat of the sun softens the asphalt, producing tar balls. Although sap and tar are a chore to remove, they do not present an immediate hazard to your automobile’s paint finish. However, insect remains are acidic and will quickly damage both paint and trim.

Cleaning Road Tar

While driving, your vehicle is constantly being speckled with small bits of asphalt, tire rubber, grease and oils that is being kicked up by the cars and trucks ahead of you. If allowed to remain on your automobile, these petroleum-based particles will become firmly attached and soap-and-water washing will do little to remove them. Over time the ugly black spots build up and ruin your vehicle’s appearance.

To remove road tar, you need a solvent. Most automotive tar removers contain kerosene, mineral spirits or another petroleum distillate. Don’t worry, though, as they are combined with lubricants to surround and buffer the road tar from your paint. They are quite safe to use.

Of the petroleum distillate products I’ve tried, I like Autoglym’s Intensive Tar Remover the best. A more modern solution for tar removal is the detailing clay bar. If the contamination extremely stubborn on your painted surfaces, use a paint cleaning polish. I recommend Klasse All-In-One. It’s a fine polish, paint cleaner and wax in a single-step process.

Cleaning Tree Sap

Cleaning tree sap off of your vehicle’s finish can be a little more difficult than removing tar or bird droppings. When removed in haste, hardened sap can scratch your paint. I discovered that if I hand rub the spots with a small amount of mineral spirits on a soft cloth, I can easily remove the sap without scratching. Mineral spirits acts as a solvent to break up and dissolve the sap.

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. In these extreme cases, I learned that polishing the affected areas with a fine paint rubbing compound removes the hard shell of the sap spots. Once the hard shell is gone the mineral spirits will clean away the remainder with ease. The light-duty rubbing compound softens the sap so the mineral spirits 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.

Cleaning Insects

The head-on collision of between an insect your car’s paint and trim is a disaster for both the bug and your car. As the insect’s exoskeleton explodes, acidic fluids leak onto your car’s paint. This may seem like a small thing, but did you know that shellac is a byproduct of insects? The bug splats on your car are basically shellac mixed with a bunch of nasty stuff. When allow to stay for a few days in the baking sun, any attempt to remove the calcified remains without a proper cleaning solution results in scratched paint.

The secret is to loosen and dissolve insect remains with a solvent that will cut through the shellac. Autoglym Intensive Tar Remover does a great job. For those flying friends with a little extra grip, agitate with soapy water and a paint-safe bug sponge.

If you have a particularly large bug mess, I discovered a Paint Repair Clinic trick that seems to work pretty well. If you use a pre-wax cleaner, such as Klasse All-In-One, apply a small dab to the offending bug splat. Next, cover the spot with a wadded-up tissue and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Then pinch up the mess and give it a soft wipe with the back side of the tissue.

After Cleaning Tar, Sap & Bugs

All of the chemicals used to remove the aforementioned road stains also remove your car’s wax protection. After cleaning away tar, sap or bugs, spot wax the affected areas or re-wax your whole vehicle. If you don’t have time to wax right away, use a quick spray wax like Meguiar’s Ultimate Spray Wax. This product is great for touch-ups or a quick waxing after the weekly wash.

Insider Secret To A Show Car Paint Finish

Have you tried polishing a car by hand lately? If you have, you might think your car polish is defective when the real issue is your vehicle’s paint. That’s because automotive paint finishes have become much harder in the past few years, allowing them to last longer and resist scratching and chipping like never before.

The changes in paint technology, while very beneficial, have introduced a new problem for car owners. While it was possible to maintain automobile paintwork by hand just a few years ago, today’s new paint finishes make it nearly impossible. If your vehicle’s paintwork has minor scratches, swirl marks or water spot etching, you will need a buffer polisher to correct the problem. The good news is that the number one buffing machine for both home and professional use, the Porter Cable 7424, is very effective on even the most modern paint finishes, including the latest ceramic paints used by Mercedes-Benz.

The original Porter Cable Polisher and the new 7424xp are dual-action polishers. What this means is that the polishing head rotates (free-spins on its spindle) and orbits (powered by the motor) around the center spindle. A mass counterweight mechanism on the spindle dampens vibrations. This polishing action, often referred to as “random orbital” or just “orbital,” totally prevents symmetrical buffing marks, paint burns and the other types of automotive finish damage that people associate with high-speed buffing machines. That means if you use the polisher as intended it’s virtually impossible to damage your car, even with no experience.

This type of electric polisher closely mimics the motion of circular hand polishing. Imagine being able to make 2,500 to 6,000 tight hand circles in a single minute. That should give you a pretty good idea of how this machine does its job. Basically it works just like you do, only at super-human speed. Plus, it never gets tired!

If you have previously owned a car waxing machine that made a lot of racket, but did little else to fix the damage and restore shine, you will appreciate the brilliance of one of these buffing machines. It has all of the power needed to get the job done, yet it’s small enough and light enough that it’s easy to use.

The secret to using a dual action polisher with shining results is choosing the right polish and polishing pads for the job. Basically polishing pads come in three grades: cutting, polishing and finishing. A cutting pad is coarse and used to remove damage. A polishing pad has a bit if coarseness, but not much. It’s used to remove very minor damage and restore full gloss. A finishing pad is very soft. It’s used to polish without cutting and to apply waxes and glazes.

You must use an appropriate polish with each type of pad. Like the pads themselves, polishes have different grades of cut. A compound, for example, is a cutting polish. Compounds are rated by the level of sanding scratch they can remove. A compound designed to remove 2000 to 2500 grit sanding scratches will effectively remove swirl marks and water spots, whereas a product that can remove 1200 to 1500 grit sanding marks will remove fine scratches. If you can feel a scratch with your fingernail, you should remove it with 2000 grit wet and dry sandpaper before polishing.

If you’re confused about which polish to use to remove swirl marks, fine scratches and water spots, let me recommend Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound. It’s probably the best consumer grade product available today, and it’s easy to find at your local auto parts store.

After compounding to remove damage, you might think the finish looks great, but I recommend finishing off the job with a fine polish. Most compounds, including the new Meguiar’s product, will leave just a touch of hazing in the clear coat. All it takes to remove the hazing and restore a brilliant shine is a fine paint polish. I prefer and recommend Klasse All-In-One. It’s an amazing product that will produce a final finish that blows you away.

New automotive paints may be too hard to maintain by hand, but the solution is easy. A Porter Cable 7424xp gets the job done faster that you ever could by hand, and it’s a quality machine that will last a lifetime.