How to Remove Road Paint From Your Car

The road to nowhere
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Back in the old days, road crews painted stripes on the road without any care for who was going to drive through them, leaving a spray from their tires that peppered traffic for miles. Not to mention the tire-track mark that was left for miles. The stripers would spray the road without so much as a single orange cone or flag to tell unwary drivers of the paint damaging goop that lay on the road waiting to be spread. Thankfully, things are different now. The road striping truck is part of a parade of construction vehicles ablaze with yellow strobes and flanked by teams of flagmen. Still, some of us manage to get a smear of road paint on our car's shiny finish. If it's not paint, it's something else -- concrete, rubber, asphalt, tar.​

The good news is it's not hard to remove most of these from your car. Removing them gently will protect your car's finish.

The most important thing to remember about cleaning your car's paint job is to take it slow. Impatience is your enemy. Even if it seems like your cleaning method isn't working, stick with it a little longer and you'll get great results.

Time is of the essence if your car's paint job comes into contact with something nasty. If you drive through some road paint, you should rinse it off right away if at all possible. If you can rinse the paint off before it even begins to set your fix is quick and clean. Much less so if you wait until the end of your trip to Niagara Falls.

Let's Get Started

  • Soap. The first thing you should try is ordinary soap applied with a towel or sponge. Scrub as much as you can stand to, the soap will not hurt your car or truck's paint. This may seem like a mild start, but you don't want to risk any damage if you don't have to, and you'd be surprised what a good job plain old dish soap can do.
  • Cleaner Wax. You can get rid of a surprising number of foreign compounds using car wax. You'll notice on the labels of high quality waxes some additional information indicating how harsh the wax is. Cleaner waxes are fairly harsh, but this means they can remove things like paint and a light tar smear from your paint job. No body work necessary.
  • Bug & Tar Remover.I love this stuff. It's actually called Bug & Tar Remover. But it can remove more than just bugs and tar. Quicker than an oil change, you can buff off paint, tar, bugs and any other type of road grime you can imagine. The stuff is tough, but it can be used freely without damaging your paint. The trick is to not be afraid to add a little bit of your own elbow grease to the picture. Apply the Bug & Tar Remover, then rub it in a circular motion just as you would a wax. There is a wax-type compound in the mix, but this formula also contains some chemical solvents that really get busy on removing foreign matter from your nice paint job. I have been continually impressed by the simplicity of this product over the years. Sure, there are things that can do the job instead, but nothing that does it quite as well as the original Bag & Tar remover from Turtle Wax.

    With these compounds, you should never have to resort to things like sandpaper to remove some paint or gook from your car's finish. I advise people to avoid sanding and repainting at all costs. It's far more work than most people imagine and the results are often less than spectacular.  Shine it up and make it good as new!