Some situations can seem more harmful for a car than being parked under a tree in early spring. When parking under a tree, you must not only be concerned about bird poop, but also about sap drops damaging your car’s paint or tinted windshield.
Although a little tree sap on your car may not seem like the end of the world, if left to dry, it can quickly become a problem. When exposed to the sun, tree sap hardens like epoxy, and the longer it remains on a vehicle’s exterior, the more likely it is to strip away the paint and eat through the clear protective coat.
However, tree sap will not ruin the paint on your car overnight. If your car was recently hit by a rogue maple tree, there’s still time to fix the problem.
Here are some pointers to help you get rid of tree sap without damaging your car’s paint.
Hand Wash as Soon As You Can
Automatic car washes are convenient, but they rarely help to remove old tree sap from the exterior of your vehicle. In fact, automated carwashes may exacerbate the problem by spreading the sap!
Handwashing is the best option, especially if you can get a sponge to your vehicle before the sap has a chance to dry.
- First, gather your materials: a couple buckets of hot water – hot water is essential for cleaning tree sap – a hose or power washer, sponges, carwash soap, and a microfiber cloth.
- After that, park your car somewhere shady (but not under a tree). The sun will prematurely dry water, leaving water stains and increasing the likelihood of scratching it.
- Then, thoroughly rinse your vehicle, making sure to get into every nook and cranny. If you choose to use a power washer, make sure the nozzle is set to a wider setting to avoid damaging the paint.
- After rinsing the vehicle, scrub the sap and the entire vehicle with a clean sponge or washing mitt and soap. Again, hot water makes a significant difference because it softens any dry sap.
- Rinse and repeat until there is no more sap visible. Scratch away any leftovers with your fingernail.
- Finally, thoroughly dry the car and apply a thick coat of car wax and for good measure, polish it up.
Most people will find the hand-wash method effective, though stubborn tree goop on a car may necessitate additional steps. Check out these other sap removal methods:
Rubbing Alcohol or Mineral Spirits
Soak a clean cloth or rag – be sure it’s clean! – in mineral spirits or isopropyl rubbing alcohol* until thoroughly dampened.
Apply the soaked cloth directly to the tree sap, allowing it to sit for approximately 30 seconds. (Note: Alcohol can strip away auto paint and clear coats, so don’t leave the rag on your vehicle for too long.)
Check the sap – has it softened? Can you rub it off with the cloth? If not, repeat step 2. If the sap is more pliable, continue to step 3.
Gently wipe away the sap, using a circular “wax on, wax off” motion. If needed, pour a steady stream of piping-hot water directly on the tree sap for 15 seconds, then wipe any leftovers away.
Finally, rinse and wash the area with hot water and soap to remove any remnants of alcohol.
This is a last-resort method because using a sharp blade on your vehicle can severely damage the paint if done incorrectly. Although it is an effective method for removing tree sap from windshields and windows, using a blade on your paint is dangerous.
- First, use a commercial product, rubbing alcohol, or an oil-based lubricant to loosen the sap.
- Grab a clean razor blade/utility knife* and try to scrape the sap off very gently and safely.
- Wiggle the blade slowly beneath the sap to give yourself the opportunity to “peel” it away.
- Any mistake can strip away or leave a dark gouge in your paint, necessitating a trip to an auto body shop for repairs.
- Allow WD-40 to soak in for 5 minutes after spraying it directly on the sap stain.
- To increase penetration, place a wet cloth soaked in hot water on top. (Optional)
- Rub the sap away with the cloth, repeating steps 1 and 2 as needed.
- Once the sap has been removed, wash the affected area with hot water and soap.
- Purchase a commercial cleaning or adhesive removal product designed to assist in the removal of sticky substances. Goof Off, Goo Gone, Turtle Wax Bug and Tar Remover, and 3MTM Adhesive Remover are all good choices, but there are many others.
- Follow the product’s directions for use or apply the chemicals to a clean cloth and leave it on top of the sap for a few minutes.
- Wipe away the sap and repeat step 2 as necessary.
- Once the sap is a goner, wash the area with hot water and soap.
- Warm water and baking soda should be combined to make a thick paste.
- Apply the paste to the tree sap on your car, gently spreading it around without scratching the paint.
- Allow for a few moments for this to sink in.
- Stream some boiling water over the sap and baking soda.
- Wipe down the area with a clean, damp rag.
Inspect Your Windshield for Damage
Safe driving requires clean, clear windows. Now is an excellent time to inspect your front and rear windshields, as well as your passenger windows, for cracks, chips, or issues with sealing. Small chips or cracks can quickly grow into large, unsightly, and potentially dangerous problems.
If the tree sap damages your car, you should check to see if your car insurance covers it. You can find out by reading your policy or calling your provider.