Parking under the trees might result in drops of sap all over your car. Tree sap, just like toxic bird poop, will eat through the layers of paint if left on the vehicle. The sun can make things even worse.
It warms up the surface and expands the paint allowing for the sap to get in. After the area around the sap cools down, it is very hard to remove. The longer it sits, the more it hardens and adheres to the surface. Try to remove sap as soon as possible.
Since not every tree sap is the same, it might require a different method to remove it. Pine tree sap is one of the hardest to get rid of. When using one of the methods below, make sure not to damage the paint.
1. Mineral Spirits. It is used for cleaning and degreasing machine tools and for thinning oil-based paints, stains, and varnishes. It is less flammable and less toxic than turpentine.
Soak a soft microfiber towel with some mineral spirits liquid and hold it for 30 sec over the sap. You want to avoid rubbing the paint around it. Mineral spirits will break up and dissolve the sap. After the sap is removed wash the spot and re-apply wax/sealant.
2. Rubbing Alcohol. Like mineral spirits alcohol is also used to dissolve sap. This method is much safer for the car’s paint. Keep in mind that alcohol will also remove the wax, so you will need to re-apply it after the sap is gone.
Damp a soft microfiber towel with alcohol and rub the spot. I would use smaller and less expensive microfiber towels for this project since there is a good chance you might not be able to get rid of the sap stains on your towel.
3. Nail Polish Remover. Hardened sap can be very difficult to remove. If alcohol didn’t work, try nail polish remover. Soak the cotton ball with some nail polish remover and carefully rub the sap trying not to damage the paint around it.
Nail polish remover can help soften the hardened part of the sap. Use alcohol to remove the rest. Next, rinse off the area with a mix of 1 cup of baking soda to 3 cups of warm water. Dry it with a microfiber towel and reapply the wax.
4. Tarminator Grease and Sap Remover. Tarminator is a product that removes tar, wax, grease, bugs, and tree sap by breaking down complex molecules and dissolving sticky materials. It is easy to use and works very fast without harming the paint. This product got 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Spray Tarminator into a soft microfiber towel and place it on top of the sap for 30 sec. Then easily wipe off the sap from the surface. For difficult sap, spray it directly onto the surface and let Tarminator penetrate for a few minutes before wiping. After the sap is gone, wash the surface and re-apply the wax.
5. Automotive Clay Bar. Clay bar is used for removing grains of metal, tree sap, bird droppings, airborne environmental deposits, and paint overspray. It instantly sticks to and pulls-off contaminants stuck to the surface.
I like this great Mothers California Gold Clay Bar Kit that comes with 2 clay bars, a quick detailer, and a microfiber towel. It is very inexpensive and paint-safe. Over 100 consumers gave this product 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
After removing the clay bar from its wrapper, knead and flatten it in the palm of your hand. Spray the sap area with a quick detailer. Glide clay over the lubricated area using light even pressure. It might take a few rounds before the sap is completely removed.
Knead and fold the clay bar back onto itself after each round. Make sure to provide plenty of lubrication. Use a soft microfiber towel to wipe off clay residue. Re-apply wax or sealant.
6. Goo Gone. This is a liquid adhesive that removes grease, gum, sap, stickers, crayons, and tape. It is great for removing fresh sap. Apply some of the Goo Gone to the microfiber towel and hold it over the sap for 20-30 sec.
Gently wipe off the sap. If it is hard to remove, apply a small amount of Goo Gone directly to the sap and let it sit for a few minutes. Then remove it with a microfiber cloth. Wash the area and re-apply wax.
7. WD-40. This is a purpose lubricant that is used for protecting metal from rust and corrosion. It is also used to remove grease, grime, water deposits, adhesives, bugs, tar, sap, and much more.
WD-40 product is really amazing and I think is a must-have for each household. Spray a soft terry cloth with WD-40 and rub the sap area. It might take you a few rounds. When all sap is gone, reapply the wax.
Repairing The Damage
Like with the bird droppings, if the sap sits on the surface for too long, it will eat through the clear coat layers and then through the paint. If the clear coat is damaged, you can just buff it with some rubbing compound.
I like to use Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound. You can use any rubbing compound you want, just make sure it is clear coat safe. Place a few drops of rubbing compound on the application pad and rub the area using a circular motion. After the damage is not visible anymore the area might be a little dull. To restore the shine use a clear coat safe polisher.
If the paint layers have been damaged, you will need to use touch-up paint. You can easily touch up a small spot but if a panel of the car is covered with a lot of small spots you might have to re-paint the whole section.
At this point, you probably need to think if this is something you want to do yourself or leave it to a professional who will charge you hundreds of dollars.
Protecting Your Car From Sap
- Don’t leave your car under trees. I know that it is easier said than done. But if there is a sunny spot with no trees around available, park there.
- Every few months wax your car. I know that wax will not completely protect your car, but it will slow down the etching process.
- Get a car cover. This is the easiest way to protect your car from sap, bird poop, snow, and sun. Get a good quality one that is easy to use.