There are certain things on Earth that really don’t make too much sense. For example, why does the color of water depend on the color of the sky? Why does it always rain right after washing your car? And of course, why are bugs and birds attracted to a freshly detailed ride?
There are many things that just don’t make logical sense – but simply “happen.” Having your car covered with sticky stuff like road tar and bug guts are two of those unexpected and non-planned situations. With the dog days of summer quickly approaching, the potential of bugs and tar sticking to your car, truck, or SUV increases.
So – what’s the best way to remove bugs & tar from your ride? Are there natural or home remedies that work – or are you stuck to using harsh chemical agents? Finally, are there ways of protecting the front end of your daily driver, that will protect the paint, grille, and headlights from being damaged from road debris?
These are all questions we’ll explore in the information below.
Why Does Bug Splatter and Tar Damage Increase in Summer?
The winter season is great for car owners – especially for those that live in hot weather climates. When the weather is cold, bugs go away, either to more tropical climates or simply die off with a new crop ready to be born in summer. So, when the weather gets hot during summer, bugs are at their peak.
The reason is rather simple – more heat equals more food for bugs to consume. With more food equals more growth and spread. And with more growth and spread of bugs – the chances of bugs hitting your windshield or front end is exponentially increased.
But what about tar? Well, quite frankly, this is another example where heat increases the potential of tar hitting your car. Road tar is an ingredient of asphalt. It’s what allows the asphalt to bond together, and to the dirt surface below.
As the temperature increases and the asphalt is exposed to more direct sunlight, tar will seep up, causing it to splatter on the undercarriage or lower parts of your car’s body panels.
How Can Bugs and Tar Damage a Car’s Finish?
Most car damage like chips, stains, or scratches are sourced by contaminants that are acidic, strong base pH, and are hard. Bugs typically check all these boxes, which is why they can cause havoc on your paint, front grille, bumper, and headlights.
Bugs like flies, grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, and others typically strike your vehicle at speeds higher than 40 mph. The speed of the impact, plus the gentle nature of the bugs composition often leads to a splatter of internal acids, toxins, and other sticky stuff.
As these substances stick on your ride, the acids and toxins go to work on eating away at the clear coating, or other protective layers.
A bug’s internals are not as acidic as tree sap or bird waste, but they can be difficult to remove. The longer they remain on your vehicle, the more damage can be done. The same thing applies to road tar. Initially, it’s going to simply stick to your paint, but the longer it stays there, the aggressive chemicals in tar will start to eat away.
Whether due to the impact or being stuck on the surface, bug guts and tar stains can lead to the following damage.
Stains: Bug guts contain acids. So does road tar. When these acids stay on the vehicle for more than a day or two, it will go to work and begin to eat away at the surface area. With car paint, or specifically clear coats, the acids can leave paint stains, which basically etch into the paint surface.
Headlights and plastic parts (such as those on a bumper or grille pieces) can also stain. The only way to remove these stains is through paint correction using a cutting compound and polishing cloth.
Chips: There are some instances when a bug impact will cause a chip in the surface. This happens frequently on the bumper, grille, or plastic parts on the front end. This typically happens with large flying beetles, as they have hard shells that can chip the surface before splattering.
It’s also common for pieces of asphalt to come apart during the summer season (especially when thunderstorms are intense). This can create larger chunks of debris that can chip your paint, even dent your vehicle. Installing a high-quality paint protection film or a clear bra on the front end of your vehicle is a great way to protect it.
How to Remove Tar and Bug Guts
When a bug decides to prematurely terminate its life via impaling itself onto your front end or windshield, it creates a messy splatter. If you continue driving down the highway, it’ll take a few minutes to dry. Tar can likewise dry on your car within an hour. At this point, the bond is solidly connected to an unprotected surface.
If these sticky items annoy you, and you’re looking to reduce the potential of damage, there are some proven – and not-so-effective methods to consider.
A Clay Mitt or Clay Bar
When tar and bug splatters are dried, it’s very tricky to remove. To do so, you’ll have to find a way to slowly break away that bond and the substance to reduce the potential of scratching. A great and safe way to accomplish this is to use a clay mitt or clay bar.
The small clay particles on a clay mitt or a clay bar grasp onto the surface and do a great job of removing those hard to move and microscopic imperfections found in those hard to remove areas. You’ll use a lubricant spray in conjunction with the clay, which allows you to easily glide over the surface. It removes microscopic imperfections such as industrial fallout or brake dust at the same time.
Glass Cleaner and Degreasers
If you’re looking for a spray product that isn’t too harmful on your vehicle surfaces, consider using glass cleaner or a degreaser. In this case, instead of removal by breaking the debris into small pieces via clay and lubrication, you’re breaking the bond between the surface and the sticky stuff.
The main thing to remember is that if you use glass cleaners or degreaser, make sure it does not contain ammonia-based ingredients – or is too pH strong. This may cause some marring or damage on paint surfaces. Also, once you remove the sticky stuff, it’s crucial to wash your car – completely. This will remove any residual degreasers or fluids used in the clean-up process.
Bug & Tar Removal Sponge
There is a great product called a bug sponge that is a microfiber mesh product that are soft and has a hard time damaging or scratching the vehicle. It’s kind of like a clay mitt, but not as aggressive. The trick – however, is that you can’t use this product dry. For best results, you should use a lot of water or cleaning solution to remove the bug guts or road tar.
There is an old saying – if it’s stuck, use WD-40. If it’s broken, use duct tape. WD-40 is a miracle product, that can be used to remove bug splatters, bird droppings, tree sap, and even road tar.
The oil-based lubricant is great for breaking up sticky stuff, similar with the degreasers and window cleaners.
Professional Ways to Protect Your Front End from Bug Spatters and Tar
If you’d like to reduce the pain and frustration that comes with having to remove sticky bug and tar splatters, there are a few professionally designed products that you should consider.
Paint Protection Film or Clear Bra
Paint Protection Film is also called PPF. It’s an exceptionally durable and strong polymer material that is applied to the clear coat, headlights, even plastic bumper, or a grille. A PPF that is applied to just the front end of the vehicle is called a clear bra. They are applied by professional detailers and certified PPF installation centers.
The great thing about PPF is that it can protect your vehicle from small rocks, tree branches and other hard items that cause scratching or chip paint. There are some amazing PPF products that include nanotechnology that permits any scratches or dents to instantly heal in a matter of seconds. Most professional PPF’s have self-healing properties, but they require heat or professional detailers to repair.
However, the con of PPF is that it’s not very hydrophobic, meaning that bugs and tar can stick to the coating. There are PPF’s out there that include a top coating that makes it easier to remove that sticky stuff.
The other professionally-engineered product that makes removing bug splatters simple is a nano ceramic coating. For those not aware, a ceramic coating is a highly concentrated liquid that is infused with Silicon Dioxide or SiO2 and other ingredients. It utilizes nanotechnology to fill minor imperfections found in all porous surfaces – including the clear coat on your paint.
As it hardens, it produces an exceptionally flat layer of protection, that makes the surface ultra-slippery – or hydrophobic. This makes it difficult for things to stick – even bug guts and tar residue. There are two types of nano ceramic coatings – professionally-applied and DIY ceramic coatings. So, you do have options if you prefer to work on your own car.
Wrapping it Up
Bugs and road tar are just a way of life folks. There isn’t anything we can do to completely remove the potential of this sticky stuff from landing on our precious rides. However, being proactive by applying a clear bra or a DIY ceramic coating will help you improve the process of removing this stuff.
A properly applied DIY ceramic coating also helps to protect the surface materials underneath. Tree sap, bird droppings, and other stuff can stain paint, plastic trim, even glass windshields. And in most cases, the coating will last for a few years.