How to zap tree sap: top tips for shifting marks on car paintwork

How to remove tree sap from a car's paintwork

If you’ve ever left your car parked under trees on a hot day you’ll know just how tough it can be to remove sap from its paintwork.

If left in place, sap can damage bodywork, eat through the wax and clear coat finish that sits on top of the coloured paint, and leave unsightly blemishes that look a little like a water stain.

Sap transports vital water, nutrients and hormones through a tree, and can leak from the tree naturally or be produced after pruning. Given that many trees are pruned in the autumn and winter, it means that sap isn’t only abundant in hot weather, when pressure builds in trees.

So drivers who find the sticky goo on their car should roll up their sleeves and use a spot of elbow grease to get rid of it. Here’s how.

Removing fresh sap from a car

If the sap fell onto the car relatively recently, then it’s unlikely to have hardened and bonded to the car’s paintwork. In that case, get a hose or a watering can filled with clean water and rinse the area around the sap. Then get a bucket of warm soapy water – ideally using car shampoo, never washing-up liquid – and wash the sap away.

The thrifty guide to removing tree sap with WD-40

It’s hard to imagine how there can be over 2000 uses for a humble can of WD-40. However, that’s exactly what’s claimed by the manufacturer of the distinctive red, blue and yellow cans of lubricant and water-repellent spray. And one of those uses is to remove tree sap.

You can buy WD-40 at any hardware or car care store. Give the can a shake then spray a small amount on to the sap. Allow the fluid to soak in, then cover the sap with a small piece of paper towel, and spray again. The paper helps prevent the WD-40 from running away, meaning it can do a better job of breaking down the sap. Leave it for five minutes, then use the moist paper to rub it away. Job’s a good ‘un.

How to zap old tree sap

A clay bar can remove tree sap stains from paintwork

A clay bar can remove tree sap stains from paintwork

Let’s say you left your car parked under trees and went on holiday for a couple weeks. The sap is likely to have had time to harden and bond to the paintwork and will be more difficult to remove. But don’t panic.

There are all manner of car cleaning products dedicated to helping drivers zap sap. For example, Autoglym offers Intensive Tar Remover for around £6.99; Turtle Wax has Intensive Tar & Sap Remover, for about £5; and Muc-Off Bug & Tar Remover is about £10. All advise that they are left to soak on sap for a short period of time, before being wiped away with a soft cloth.

Clay bars remove the most stubborn sap stains

Even a dedicated sap removal product may struggle to remove all trace of stains from sap. So to leave paintwork looking spotless and feeling smooth to the touch, arm yourself with a clay bar.

These are a bit like Blu-Tak for paintwork, and function by pulling contaminants away from the surface of a car’s paint. After washing the car and rinsing it clean, you can run a clay bar over the paint and it will get rid of all the nasties stuck to your car – including tree sap.

One of the best is Bilt-Hamber Auto Clay. This topped a test of a dozen clay bars in Auto Express motoring magazine, and costs about £10.

Read more: Easy to follow car care tips

One comment on “How to zap tree sap: top tips for shifting marks on car paintwork

  1. norma October 19, 2016 8:07 am

    Nice post thanks for the sharing this with all your fans

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