Tree sap from automotive finish

How can I safely clean off some tree sap that is on my car’s exterior? It has been on there for a while and seems to be stuck like glue. It must have fallen on my car when I was parked under some pine trees last autumn.

Tree Sap
Removing tree sap from a car’s finish is a bit more difficult than tar, as hardened sap can scratch your paint. I’ve found that by hand-rubbing the sap spots with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol, I’m able to easily remove the sap without damaging the finish. Mineral spirits and denatured alcohol acts as a solvent to break up and dissolve the sap.

If there is a large amount of sap on the car, or if the sap has been left on the finish for an extended period of time, it can be a lot of work to remove. For these cases, I discovered that hitting the affected areas with a light-duty buffing compound removes the hardened surface on the sap spots. Then I can hit the sap with the mineral spirits to remove it. The light duty buffing compound softens the sap so the mineral spirits or denatured alcohol can do its job. The goal is to use the least pressure possible to reduce the risk of scratching the paint. After removing heavy sap, I always buff the treated areas with a good polish to clean up any marks created during hand-rubbing with solvent. The treated area must also be re-waxed.

We have also had good success using orange based solvents and children’s plasticine (molding clay). Apply a bit of the solvent and rub with the clay – it is abrasive enough to scrub off the sap which has been broken down by the solvent.

All of the chemicals used to remove the aforementioned road stains also remove your wax or sealants. After removing tar, sap or bugs, plan to spot wax or re-wax your vehicle. If you don’t have time to wax right away, use a quick detailing spray that contains wax. Eagle One’s Wet Spray Wax, a quick spray wax, is great for this kind of spot waxing, too.

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One Reply to “Tree sap from automotive finish”

  1. My property is surrounded with pine trees…all kinds.
    I’ve cleaned more pine sap off my car than I care to remember…and lots of it…every year. In my situation, I remove as much as I have time to spend on it, a little every day.

    The easiest and cheapest for me, after trying several things, was to simply push my thumbnail under it. Your thumbnail won’t scratch the finish. If the sap is
    cold, some of it chips off easy. Some of it wouldn’t come
    off unless I let the sun soften it a little. When it’s soft, it smears, so just keep a little “goo gone” handy to clean your fingers along the way. I was tempted to just try the “Goo Gone” on the car but wasn’t sure it was safe for the finish because you have to let “Goo Gone” set awhile, and then you’d have to rub quite a bit. Then wash the car to get off the “goo gone”. As it was a daily chore for me, my thumbnail was my choice.

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