Thar's Tar on my Car!

I had a small problem recently and I thought I would share the solution with you. We were out driving and turned off the highway onto a county road. The county had just recently put down fresh tar and gravel on this road, but did not put up any signage to warn drivers about this. Needless to say we wound up with tar stuck to the paint of our minivan. It was also stuck to the wheel well, and possibly on some of the undercarriage and suspension parts.

My wife did an internet search to see if she could find a solution to this and found a video on Facebook for how to deal with this. The solution was to apply WD-40 and wipe with paper towels. I tried this. I put a liberal application of WD-40 on the tarred area and went inside to get a roll of paper towels. When I came back outside, the tar was actually turning runny. It wound up taking several applications, but I was able to get this stuff removed without doing any damage to the paint. This was absolutely amazing! I’m beginning to think that WD-40 might actually be some kind of a wonder chemical!

Now my question is this. I did get the tar off of the paint, and I also removed some chunks of tar and gravel from the wheel well. Do I need to worry about any of the tar and gravel that might have gotten onto the suspension or the undercarriage?


People don’t realize how much stuff actually gets kicked up from the road and sticks to the underside of a vehicle.

As long as there’s no strange noises from the brakes/suspension, drive on.


I wouldn’t worry about it on the bottom of the car at all. One other option is Turtle Wax Bug and Tar Remover, it worked for me.

Don’t forget to wax it after you remove the tar. Any of that stuff that csn remove tar also strips wax.

Yep +1 on the wax. I would take a look at the tread of the tires to make sure tar is not sticking to the tires and throwing the balance off is all. I use Turtle Wax Bug and Tar remover because it doesn’t strip the wax but it doesn’t work as good as NAPA’s does, but does strip the wax. Sounds like WD40 is similar to NAPA.

@Bing; is that NAPA or Naptha


Kerosene works well and I always have some on hand for a kerosene lantern I have.

The tar on the undercarriage, if anything, it might help prevent rust, so don’t worry about that.

Concur with comments above on the importance of washing with soap and warm water followed by a thorough rinse with a hose, to remove the WD 40 remnants from the paint, then re-waxing those areas. Don’t delay as the WD 40 may already be softening the paint.

@yosemite That’s NAPA brand as in NAPA stores. Its more of a solvent than the stuff in the five and dime stores.

WD40,is what I use,actually its a bit overrated,but works well for certain things,dont worry about,what you cannot see-The WD,stands for water displacer,the 40 stands for formulae 40.

If you removed all the wheels and looked at the backside, you would be surprised at how much gravel is stuck to the wheel. Chip and tar gets everywhere! Unless it causes a vibration, don’t worry about it, most of it will fall off over time.

I’ll second the WD40, though. It works better than most of the commercial tar removers I’ve tried. Not too useful on bugs though. Wash it off with a little soap and water after and re-wax.

Odorless mineral spirits (aka paint thinner) is one thing I buy by the gallon for jobs like this.
Much cheaper in the long run than cans of WD40 (which I also keep on hand).
You can also get it by the quart at a hardware store.
Equal parts denatured alcohol, mineral spirits and lacquer thinner (acetone) make an aggressive solvent for parts cleaning and also a pretty good paint stripper.

Another miracle cleaner is a dryer sheet and plain water. I put a dryer sheet in a spray bottle filled with H2O and then use another dryer sheet to wipe with and VOILA! You can get cheapo dryer sheets at the Dollar Store for a buck a box (of 50?) and you cannot believe how well this works. Yes, I am a cheapo. Cheaper than WD-40. cheaper than bug and tar remover, and it works great! Rocketman

I use Bug & Tar Remover, which is basically mineral spirits with some detergent added.

Gasoline also works nicely, but use it sparingly and wash it off immediately. Then wax the car.

I remember when they repaved our road in 1953 when I was in 7th grade. My dad put me to work removing the tar from the car with gasoline. I spent the better part of the day getting the tar off. The next time I had to remove the, I found that tar and bug remover worked a lot better. With today’s auto finish, I think I would stay away from the gasoline.

Bug and tar remover works better than gasoline? That surprises me. I’ve never used a commercial tar removing product. I’ve always thought commercialized bug and tar remover was just a safer product to use, but am surprised that it actually removes tar better than gasoline. Good enough. I’ll give it a try next time I get tar on the 'ol Corolla rocker arms. The biggest problem with using gasoline - I mean if you ignore that it is serious fire hazard and it takes the paint off if you are not careful – is the odor. Gasoline isn’t a pleasant chemical to work with.

Gotta be careful with gasoline, explosive vapors.

It’s also tough on the skin. But, besides what @Texases mentions, it’s the odor that I dislike the most about gasoline. Whenever I fill up my Corolla with gas, I set the little automatic gizmo, then I stand far back from the fuel pump to avoid the gasoline odor.

A while back, some years ago, Calif requires an additive be put in gasoline, forget what it’s name was, an oxygenator, and I discovered I was really allergic to it. I’d get coughing and wheezing spells like crazy after fueling. For a while I though I might have to move from California. Then a bunch of citizens started to complain about that, and that is was getting into the ground water. So Calif stopped using it, or reduced how much is allowed. Don’t know for sure. But at least I don’t get those allergy symptoms now.

Onward to bugs. I cleaned the bugs off the front of two cars tonight using the Turtle Wax stuff and I have to say it really is not that great. I let it soak quite a bit and use a bug sponge but still it takes quite a bit of scrubbing. Plus its really hard to get all of the bugs off and water seems to work as well on the really tough ones. Plus, if you leave any residue, it turns white so you get white spots on a black car. When I wash the car I usually just soak them, then use the bug sponge with the car wash solution and that seems to do ok but I hate those bugs.