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Does Tree Sap Damage Car Paint?

A car parked under the tree.

Yes, you will damage your car’s paint if you let tree sap sit on it, especially if it hardens into an amber-colored resin. I know from experience. You do not want to have to get a new paint job because of tree sap.

It’s expensive to repaint a vehicle and you never do get it right back to the exact way it was originally. To avoid tree sap damage to your car, here are some tips on protecting a car from tree sap.

Whether you park your vehicle under trees regularly or you live somewhere where pine trees are super drippy, this information can save you thousands on a new paint job.

Does Tree Sap Damage Car Paint

A tree sap on a tree branch.

What is going on with tree sap and how does it damage car paint? According to Consumer Reports, “Sap can damage your car because of how it bonds with the vehicle’s surface. Tree sap drops shrink over time, and as they shrink they create stress on your car’s finish because of that strong bond with the paint.”

Tree sap is itself a very hard varnish or surface agent. When you cover anything with tree sap, the resin works much like an artificial epoxy resin varnish or polyeurethine finish. The tree sap serves to protect whatever it covers, and it does so by curing and hardening with sun exposure and over time.

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The harder the tree resin becomes, the less likely you are able to remove it from a car’s surface without doing some lasting damage. If you are parking under pine trees that drip sap on a regular basis, this can really start to pile up on your car.

That’s never going to be easy to remove, and you most likely will have to get a paint job to deal with the damage. Otherwise, the paint on your car will be beaded with hard amber-colored resin.

This resin will look bad and create an undesirable textured finish on the exterior of your car. That will be detrimental to the shine and the finish of a car. Tree sap also ruins the value of the vehicle if you plan on selling or trading it in.

More importantly, if you brush up against a car that has tree sap or resin on the paint, you may get that sticky substance on yourself as well. This stuff is like super glue and it is super difficult to remove and will ruin fabrics or leathers.

A car with tree sap.

A detailed explanation about tree sap damage to car paint comes from Cars.com. “Sap will not immediately damage a car’s paint, but it should not be ignored. After some time, the sap can etch through the paint’s clear coat, leading to [discoloration] and staining.”

From here, the car will begin to rust from paint loss. Rust eats away at the very metal used in fabricating a vehicle. In other words, tree sap is directly associated with destroying vehicles. 

It is not just the paint that you have to worry about–it is the vehicle itself. Rust destroys metal and leads to holes that allow rodents and snakes to enter a car when it is parked.

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Furthermore, you may not be legally able to drive such a vehicle if it is not safe on the roads–all due to rusting related to tree sap exposure. You buy a car to be able to safely operate this mode of transportation on the roads. Therefore, removing tree sap and resin is the only course of action to take here.

What is the best way to remove tree sap from the paint on a car?

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Use a commercial spray or liquid cleaner that is formulated to remove tree sap from the paint on a car. This is the most effective and safest way to do this job at home. You can also visit your local auto-dealing service provider and have them remove the tree sap for you. 

The sprays for tree sap remover on the market are economical and easy to use. You simply spray the solution onto the tree sap and let it sit until the cleaner has become effective. Then remove the tree sap that is softened with the chemical treatment. 

Also, consider pretreating your windshield using a liquid wash. The bug spray that is used to protect against bug splatter from sticking to the windshield is also good for keeping tree sap from sticking.

Regularly wash your windshield using a high-quality windshield wash. This is a liquid cleaner that is added directly to a tank made within any vehicle’s engine. 

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As a result, you are able to pre-treat the windshield glass to ward against sticky tree sap. The wax surfactant that is part of a windshield wash formula serves its purpose for tree sap as it does with bugs. Everything falls right off, especially when a light mist of water is applied, such as during a light rain shower. 

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The pre-treatment with the windshield wash helps remove tree sap while it is still pliable and before it hardens. Be careful about using windshield wipers on tree sap that is not treated with windshield wash.

This can cause the wiper blades to be stuck in the tree sap and unable to work anymore. Tree sap is, after all, a very sticky substance!

How do I remove tree sap using no cleaners?

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If you do not have a cleaner for tree sap, try peanut butter as an all-natural and eco-friendly solution. The oil in peanut butter can work to lubricate the tree resin after it is hardened into sap.

Just like getting chewing gum out of your hair with peanut butter, you can use this food to remove sap from a car. Start with all-natural creamy peanut butter, or at least use creamy textured peanut butter even if it contains sugar and salt. 

In fact, the sugar and salt may serve as a texture agency in rubbing up the tree sap turned to resin. Rub a teaspoon of peanut butter over and around the tree sap or resin until it begins to give way. Keep working with the concoction until the resin is released completely. 

Wash the area where you remove the tree sap using hot, soapy water. It is recommended whether you use peanut butter or a chemical spray to remove tree sap, as these can damage your car’s paint and varnish the paint as well.

Cold weather can work, too. If you go from a warm climate to a cold place and have a sudden drop in temperatures, see if the tree sap will pop off now. Sometimes the sap will freeze and remove itself if it is not overly cured on the car’s paint.

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Do not force the frozen tree resin to come off if it is not ready–it’s practically like a scab for a vehicle and you can lose more varnish or even paint this way. Instead, try another technique!

Is there a way to scrape off tree sap on a car’s paint?

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The most efficient way to clean off tree sap from a car without any cleaner is using a razor blade. However, you do not want to use just any razor blade as this can prove dangerous.

Instead, search for a tool that features a razor blade embedded in one end, and has a comfortable handle on the other. This will allow you to scrape directly underneath the tree sap after it has started to harden into resin. You can find a sticker remover for windows that will work well for this purpose.

Push the tree sap up and allow it to come away from the paint or glass with ease. This is best if you try the technique on slightly fresh and hardening resin. Work with the resin from the beaded end where there is the greatest concentration of the substance.

From here, push the resin up with the blade until it begins to release from the car’s surface. If you notice the bead of resin starts to leak with a liquid substance, stop and let it sit for 24 hours. This will allow the tree sap to be hard enough to come up with force but without leaking and making a huge mess.