Splat! Of course, it had to make its impact right there in your line of sight. And without thinking, you turned on your windshield wipers to clear it away. Instead, you now have an arc of smeared bug goo to peer through. Bug residue on your vehicle is a fact of life, especially if you tend to take long road trips or drive through areas with heavy insect populations. That slimy remnant of a once-winged creature is bad enough on your window, but when it splatters on your paint, it can be not only tough to remove but harmful to the finish as well.
Once bug residue dries on your paint surface, it becomes very difficult to remove. While it is drying, the acidic nature of its insides eats into the paint. If left in place, what is left of the bug (bugs) will decompose and produce enzymes and proteins that bond to the surface and etch the clearcoat. So, bug residue needs to be dealt with. But how? What can you do to remove the displeasing and destructive remains of the bugs that found your vehicle?
For many drivers, the first inclination (as long as they are not inclined to ignore the problem) is to clean off the bug residue themselves at home. Certainly, there are consumer products aimed at the DIYer and made for removing bugs and other deposits on a car. But the car wash process can be time-consuming, and the results are less than satisfactory. In fact, it is easy to cause more damage than the bugs ever could when you try to remove them yourself.
For instance, excessive force can mar or scratch the paint. So can caustic cleaners that were not meant for use on paint, not to mention the all-too-common use of abrasive materials. Scrapers, sandpaper, and scouring pads all add damage to your paint finish. Even a cotton cloth can leave behind scratches. Care must be exercised any time you try to remedy the paint on your vehicle.
If you do plan to clean off bugs on your own, do so before they have a chance to dry completely. Use a designated cleaner formulated to remove bug residue and be gentle. Removing bugs is time-consuming – hasten the process and you will harm your paint. Let those bugs sit too long and you might want to solicit outside help.
Find a full-service auto wash
An alternative to the do-it-yourself approach is to take your car to a high-quality full-service car wash that offers a treatment for bug residue. Simply driving through an automatic car wash will not automatically remove the insect remains; additional measures are generally needed. A top-notch soft-cloth car wash business will have a means of cleaning off the bugs, a pre-treatment that is applied before you enter the wash tunnel. Sometimes a business will supply customers with a bug removal product to apply in the parking lot before driving through the wash. But you will need to ask for the service. And an additional charge is usually applied as well.
Of course, besides the availability of professional automotive products made for removing bug residue, there are other advantages of an auto wash. Driving through an automatic car wash is far less time-consuming than washing your car yourself. In addition to removing the bugs with an add-on service, you can have your whole car cleaned, even the undercarriage, and remove all of the bugs and dirt and debris. It also costs less when you consider the materials and equipment needed to properly wash your car yourself.
If you happen to be enrolled in a car wash club, you can drive through any time you notice bugs appear on your vehicle, before they dry out, and avoid the tedious work (or damaging effects) of dried-out bug residue.
Professional Hand Car Wash
An even more suitable alternative (though maybe not the time and money saver that an automatic wash might be) is professional hand washing. You would not choose a cheap car repair when getting your brakes replaced, so why cheap out on your expensive paint finish? Unlike the abusive actions of many (most) DIYers, a professional has the training and experience to protect your paint – and the tools and materials to do the job right.
When you schedule a professional hand car wash you can expect that only high-quality products formulated specifically for your car’s paint finish are used. A trained technician will make sure that every part of your vehicle’s exterior, including the door jambs, is cleaned. Additional services might include cleaning the engine compartment, interior, and application of protective coatings. All these things take time – time to grab a coffee and a bagel and relax while your vehicle is given professional treatment.
Naturally, the highest level of cleaning service your car will receive is from a professional detailer. Auto detailing entails everything that can be done to clean and condition the exterior (and/or interior) of your vehicle – including minor paint correction – without actually repainting it.
Exterior detailing goes far beyond bug residue removal, but it will certainly get rid of the bugs. Detailing service begins with pre-washing the exterior to clean off dirt and debris. This is when special chemicals are applied to dissolve road tar, brake dust, tree sap, and (you guessed it) bug residue. A clay bar is then used to remove contaminants from the paint and glass. The tires, wheels, jambs, and more are carefully cleaned with appropriate chemicals and the entire vehicle is re-washed with a multiple-bucket approach and chamois dried. Finally, the windows are cleaned and a durable sealant or wax is applied (maybe both) to the paint surface.
Detailing takes longer than a simple car wash. And it costs more. But this is not a weekly or bi-weekly service. Professional detailing is usually sought out when the paint begins to fade or show signs of age. An expert detailer can restore the luster of your vehicle to near-new condition.
Prepare for bugs before they arrive
Perhaps the best way to take care of bug residue is to ensure that it does not hold fast to your paint in the first place. You cannot completely avoid bugs dive-bombing your car, but you can lessen their impact.
One of the reasons that bugs (any contaminants, really) stick to your car is that it is not smooth. Time and wear create microscopic scratches in the paint and tiny pits in the glass. Dirt, bugs, and even water use these imperfections as handholds to grab onto your paint. The contaminants are, in a way, “absorbed” into the paint.
On the other hand, surfaces that are incredibly smooth repel water and other substances. That is, in part, why water beaded up and ran off of your car when it was new, but now it just seems to sit there. The paint was smooth and shiny. Now the elements and cotton terry cloth towels have taken a toll and the paint is not so smooth. Paint correction done by a professional detailer can even out the finish again.
Whether or not your paint is perfectly smooth, it can benefit from an application of sealant or wax. Paint sealant is a synthetic product made up of polymers that chemically bond with the paint surface, whereas wax comes from natural sources, such as the leaves of the Carnauba plant. Each product when carefully applied acts as a barrier against contamination. And it makes the paint even. Both sealant and wax increase surface tension and allow water to bead up and run off easily, taking dirt along with it. And they prevent bug splatter from sticking. If a bug does dry on your car, it is not embedded into the paint, it has a barrier of sealant or wax keeping them separate.
Nothing compares to a carefully-applied coat of Carnauba wax or polymer paint sealant for reducing the effects of bug residue. That said, automatic car wash extras, such as Rain-X Complete Surface Protectant and Armor All ® Extreme Shine Wax are an excellent option for “in between” waxing. When selected every two weeks or so, these car wash add ons can provide extra protection for your paint.
Bugs are inevitable; bug residue damage is not. Make sure to have your car cleaned as soon as possible after bugs arrive. And maintain a coating of protective product on your paint at all times.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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