How to Get Sap Off a Car – A Detailed Guide

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How to get sap off a car

Trees in the Pacific Northwest help the country produce some of its best tree syrups, but no one wants to deal with sticky sap dripping onto their cars. But, unfortunately, during the spring in Washington, that’s exactly what happens to many drivers. 

Tree syrup season in our state usually runs from the middle of January to late April. During these months, any local resident knows that parking under a tree poses a slight risk. The sticky sap runs down tree branches and can easily drip onto your vehicle.

Whether the sap is from a pine tree or a pecan tree, a sycamore or a palm, it’s a challenge to get off any vehicle. Sap can quickly harden and stick to the car, compromising the paint quality and window clarity. 

Once the sap lands on your vehicle, the longer it stays there, the harder it is to get off. That’s why it’s important to research how to get sap off your car immediately. 

To help you out, we’ve compiled a detailed guide right here. We’ll talk about why you need to act speedily and how to best remove the sticky substance.

Why It’s So Important to Remove Tree Sap Quickly

Tree sap damages car paint and window

Just like bird droppings and bug residue, tree sap is terrible for your car’s paint job and windows.

Get the sap off as soon as possible because it will eventually eat through the paint, especially as the days warm up,” says John Ibbotson, chief mechanic at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.

Heat accelerates how the sap sticks to the paint. That’s why it’s especially important to remove tree sap when it drips during the late spring, summer, and early autumn when the sun is shining, and temperatures are higher.

Although sap predominantly appears during the spring season, it can technically drop during any temperature. So keep an eye out for the dark, sticky stains and tackle them ASAP to prevent long-term eyesores on your vehicle.

Begin By Thoroughly Washing Your Car

Car wash

The first thing you want to do is wash your car as your normally would. Don’t immediately zero in on the sap – wash the entire vehicle with soap and water so that you’re starting with a clean slate. 

This might be an excellent opportunity to get your car detailed. A thorough wash with the right products can work wonders for your car, as well as help remove any hardened sap spots.

If you wash your car on your own, remember to wet the surface before applying soap thoroughly. Otherwise, you risk rubbing dirt, grime, and sap into the paint rather than removing it.

Apply Some Elbow Grease to the Spot

Inspect and rub sap spot

After you’ve washed your car, inspect the sap spots on the exterior paint. Are they still sticky, hard, or discolored? Then you may have to work a little harder to get rid of them.

Work as quickly as possible to firmly (but not harshly) rub at the sap with soap, warm water, and microfiber towels. Don’t let the stains sit in the sun and dry – that’s the fastest way to bake them into the paint.

If the sap stain is relatively new, soap and water should be enough to do the trick. However, if the sap is really stubborn, you may need to apply a dab of isopropyl alcohol to the spot. Let the alcohol sit for 30 seconds, then rub at the spot with a clean towel. Repeat if necessary.

You can also use a tar remover, although it should be applied very lightly and carefully. But, again, we’d recommend using harsh products like this as a last resort. 

Sap removal is often about using your muscles and some elbow grease when it comes down to it. So don’t give up right away – keep rubbing at the spot with soap, and if that doesn’t work, give some heavier products a try.

Removing Tree Sap From Your Windshield

Remove sap from your windshield

Removing tree sap from a windshield is pretty similar to removing it from a vehicle’s paint. First, use a sap remover, soap, or alcohol – let it sit for 30 seconds. Then, rub the area with a microfiber towel until the sap is gone. You may need to repeat this step up to three times.

If the sap is really stuck on the windshield, as it might be if it’s weeks old, you can use a razor blade to scrape it off gently. This requires a careful, steady hand to avoid scratching the window permanently.

Once you’ve removed the sap, we recommend going over the windshield with an automotive glass cleaner to remove any last bits of residue. Even ammonia-free Windex will help make the window look shiny and new.

What to Do If You’ve Already Tried Everything

If you’ve already tried soap and several products to remove the hardened sap, you may need to take more drastic measures. Tree sap sitting on a vehicle for days, weeks, or even months can bake into the surface, making it nearly impossible to remove.

Pine sap is especially sticky, so if you live or park around pine trees, you may be dealing with sap that’s more difficult to remove. The key to removing tree sap from pines? Acetone. 

Soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and rub at the spot in a circular motion. You may need to do this for a few minutes to see results.

For other stubborn sap spots, you can try lighter fluid or bacon grease. Both are good at loosening sticky substances. 

Once you’ve treated the sap spot with a heavy-duty cleaner or material, make sure you re-wash the spot with soap and water. You don’t want acetone or lighter fluid sitting on your car any more than you want sap baking into the paint. 

Ask for Professional Help If Necessary

Sometimes, tree sap stains are just too stubborn to remove on your own. If you don’t have the time and materials, or if you’re worried the stain has been around for too long, you should consider seeking professional help.

At Big’s Mobile, we offer high-quality car washes and detailing services. The best part? We come straight to you. So if you’ve just discovered an ugly sap stain, give us a call. We’ll drive to your office or home and bring all of the necessary cleaning supplies with us.

The sooner you tackle nasty stains from bugs, trees, and birds, the better off your car will be. Call 425-243-9155 or schedule your appointment online. If possible, you can even schedule a day-of appointment to tackle the sap stain as soon as it appears. 

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