How to get bugs, sap and other gunk off your vehicle

Spring and summer are prime seasons for sap, bird poop and insects. We tend to see an uptick in road work as well, and that can contribute to damage caused by loose asphalt, gravel and tar. Here’s how to keep your car or truck looking pristine.

Tree sap

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According to, tree sap won't cause immediate damage to vehicle paint, but it should not be ignored. Over time, sap can become more difficult to remove, etch through the clear coat on the vehicle and cause discoloration. When the temperature is hot, damage from sap can accelerate.

Drivers may be able to gently remove dried sap on windows and windshields with a razor blade. But use cleaning products on more delicate paint. Automotive stores sell specialty sap and tar cleaners. Or try rubbing alcohol. It may take a few attempts to remove sap entirely.

Bugs, bird droppings

Splattered bugs and avian surprises from above can be a messy, unsightly nuisance. Their acidic composition may cause them to damage paint over time. And because they can be sticky, you will need to work with something that removes the splatter without removing the paint in the process.

A product like WD-40 may help. This oily liquid is normally used on rust and hinges. When applied with a cloth and allowed to penetrate the stain, it can loosen difficult-to-remove sticky substances.

Always test any product you use in an inconspicuous spot first to make sure it doesn't damage or discolor the paint.

(Insects or droppings that are fresh may come off relatively easily with a good washing or hosing off.)


Soap and water won’t do much to remove tar and other petroleum-based products from vehicles. Commercial tar removal products use a strong solvent or detergent to loosen it.

This may include kerosene, mineral spirits or another item mixed with lubricants. Go slowly and use caution so that you remove the tar and not the paint.

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