How to Clean Tar Off of Your Car

How to Clean Tar Off of Your Car
Photo: rsooll, Shutterstock

Whether it happens on a newly paved road, or it was the result of driving on a hot day on a street with a patch job, you may, at some point, find yourself with tar splatted on your car. And this isn’t a problem you can take your time tackling: If the tar sits on your car for too long, it can damage the paint job.

And while it may take some elbow grease to make it happen, the tar does come off. Here’s what to know

How to remove tar from your car

As tempting as it is, don’t just jump in and start scraping the tar off of your vehicle. Instead, try one of these methods:

Peanut butter

Think of this as the automotive version of using peanut butter to get gum out of someone’s hair. Basically, the oil in the peanut butter penetrates through the tar, separating its molecules, making them easier to break down. Just dab some peanut butter onto the stuck-on tar, let it sit for 30 minutes, then wipe it off with a new microfiber cloth. You may need to repeat the process for extra-sticky situations.

WD-40 or Goo Gone

If you have one of these household products sitting around, you can use either to remove tar from your vehicle. Spray or pour either WD-40 or Goo Gone onto a clean microfiber cloth, and rub it into the tar. Let it sit for 10-30 minutes, then rub the tar off with a (different) clean microfiber cloth. If you’re using WD-40, take the time to wash off the section where the tar stain was after it has been removed, as residue from the substance could harm your car’s paint job.

Tar remover

There are also products dedicated to tar removal (as well as some formulated to rid your car of tar and bugs) that you can pick up at your local auto parts store. Follow the instructions on the bottle, which likely involve applying the product and rubbing it in with a microfiber cloth. It may take a few rounds to fully remove the tar.

Log in to comment on this story!