How to Remove Bugs, Tar, and Sap From Car Paint

Bugs, tar, and sap can become hard to remove if left unchecked. With regular washes and certain cleaning solution, removing bugs, tar, and sap is easy.
Written by Denise Koenig
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Retail cleaning products or WD40 are some of the best tools to clean bugs, tar, and sap off of your car.
Bugs, tar, and sap are common foils to anyone who likes his or her car to look its best, especially those without a covered place to park in the summer months when it’s hotter and stickier. But these substances do not have to mean the end of your car’s shiny, clean look.
By properly and regularly engaging in the tasks outlined by
below, your car can easily beat bugs, tar, and sap and keep your
car paint touched up

How to remove bugs from your car

Regularly washing your car and trying to remove any bugs you notice as soon as possible are some of the best ways to ensure bugs don’t build up and turn into stuck-on stains. That being said, some bugs will get past you, so these steps will help you remove those that require a little more elbow grease to remove.
Clean any glass surfaces. Your windshield is probably one of the most vulnerable areas to bugs. Start by hitting the windows and windshield with a good glass cleaner or even just dish soap and water. If you need something stronger, you can check your local auto store.
Let the cleaning solution soak for ten minutes, then wipe away any bugs with a towel. If the bug spots prove more stubborn, use something tougher like a scrubbing sponge.
Apply a bug removing product to the body of your car. These can be found at your local auto store and often come in the form of bug and tar removers. Follow the package directions for how to apply and how long it should sit.
An alternative bug remover is
. You can apply this all over your car instead and leave it to soak for around ten minutes.
Wipe off any bugs. Using a gentle towel, such as microfiber, wipe or scrub any bug spots in a circular pattern.
You may also find insect or road-kill sponges at the auto store that would be helpful on particularly stuck-on spots, but be sure that any product you use is safe on paint. Do not use anything too abrasive, like a scrubbing brush.
Wash your entire car. In order to remove any leftover product residue or loose bug parts, give your car a full, normal wash or put it through an automated car wash.
Repeat process as needed. Hopefully, one application of bug remover or WD-40 will do the trick, but if there are still bug spots left on your car after you’ve washed it, you may need to try the whole procedure again.

How to remove tar from your car

Tar is the dark, sticky substance you can get on your car from driving on asphalted roads, especially in the summer when it heats up. Fortunately, tar happens to be the easiest of these three residues—bugs, tar, and sap—to remove from your car. What’s more, you may even already own one of the products that can be used to remove it.
Loosen the tar. There are a number of household products that can be used to easily loosen tar from the body of your car. These include:
Or, you can always buy a commercial tar remover. Whichever product you choose, cover the tar spot in it and let the product sit for about a minute.
Wipe up the tar. Using a soft towel or cloth, such as a microfiber cloth, wipe off the product and tar from your car. As mentioned before, a more abrasive tool could hurt the paint, so be sure to use some gentle.
Repeat as needed. If the tar spot does not come up on the first try, add more product, leave it on for another minute, and then try to wipe it away again. Continue to repeat this as many times as necessary, though luckily with tar, it should come up within the first few tries.
Wash your entire car. Once again, to get rid of any excess product or tar residue, you’ll want to wash your car.
Wax your car. A final optional step would be to wax your car. This seals in and protects your car’s paint, which can help prevent damage from future tar spots. Be careful not to get any
wax on your plastic trim

How to remove sap from your car

Tree sap can form a hard layer on your car which gets more and more difficult to get off as time goes on. As with bugs and tar, regular washing and sap removal every couple of weeks will help keep your car clean and sap free.
Apply rubbing alcohol or a sap remover. If you happen to have any rubbing alcohol on hand, this can be used to loosen and soften the sap by soaking a towel in it and then laying the towel onto a sap spot. Let this sit for about ten minutes.
You could also buy a commercial sap remover from an auto store. Apply this to any sap on your car according to the package instructions.
Wipe off the sap. Use a soft towel or cloth to wipe off the sap once it has soaked in the product. You should be able to rub it off with the cloth.
Repeat as needed. If a spot is being stubborn, try soaking it in your preferred product again for about 10 or 20 minutes, and then try to rub it off again. Repeat this process until the sap comes off completely. You can also employ your fingernails if needed, just be sure not to damage the paint.
If you think you need some extra power, you can also try soaking the sap in WD-40, though this should only be used on the body of the car. For windows, difficult spots can be scraped at with a razor blade or box cutter.
Wash your entire car. As you’d expect, you should give your car a good wash afterward to rinse away any leftover product or sap.


Will WD40 hurt car paint?

WD40 won't hurt car paint, so long as you use it as instructed and make sure to wash and rinse it off of your car properly.
Though bugs, tar, and sap are the bane of every driver’s existence, there are some tried and true ways of removing these annoying and unsightly substances from your car. If you follow the guidelines laid out above, you should be able to get your car back to its clean, gunk-free state.
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