10 Things That Can Seriously Mess Up Your Car’s Paint


Cars are tough, but that colorful coating on the outside isn’t as durable as you may think.

Car paint is actually quite brittle and sensitive to the elements. Everyday things your car encounters can seriously damage your paint’s finish if left untreated. Here’s a quick list of what kind of things can screw up your paint and why.



The sign of a true spring and summer road trip is to see some bug splatter on your car’s windshield and bumper. Some of the acids in bugs can seriously eat away at your car’s paint if left for too long. Acids found in the blood of insects can permanently damage your car, and needs special attention in terms of removal. Most experts agree that lathering up the bug guts as soon as possible will help lift it off the car without further damaging the paint, while any stains left behind will need to be dealt with in a different manner. If you’re worried about bugs damaging your car’s paint, a representative mentioned that Scotchguard offers a number of products along with 3 to 5 year service guarantee, that protects not only from bugs, but from some of the other issues mentioned below including tree sap, acid rain, bird droppings.

Tree Sap


Tree sap can bake onto a car’s paint and can leave a noticeable stain that takes serious effort to remove. Sap can also react with the surface of your car and leave a rough patch on the paint. You can’t remove baked in sap using just a wash. It requires special treatment like a polishing or rubbing compound or use of a clay bar.

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Kids egging houses and cars on Halloween is just a harmless prank, right? Not when it hits your car! Eggs can damage your vehicle’s paint in two significant ways. First, the whites and yolk of an egg are acidic and can eat away your paint’s clear coat. It can also leave a nasty stain if it’s baked in, and can go so far to damage your base coat, too.

Beyond that, the eggshells can also scratch your paint pretty significantly. Wiping it off with a cloth can make it worse, so you’ll need to get a solution that lifts the debris so you can wipe it off easier.



Snow is fluffy and fun, but when it turns into hard ice, it can be problematic for your shiny paint. Consider a car encased in ice after a rough winter storm. Sometimes you have to chisel your car free like an arctic archeologist. Doing this carelessly can certainly damage your car, as can the hard ice sliding off your car with no lubrication. Fortunately, by the time most people have to free their car, there is a thin layer of water between the ice and paint, which can help the ice slide off with less risk. A coarse snow brush can also scratch your paint.



On a hot day, other cars can fling up tar from the asphalt onto your car. Tough to get off, stubborn tar can take some of your car’s paint with it when removed improperly. Special treatments require a product to be placed on the tar so it can separate it from the paint and ensure you can remove it without further damage.

Bird Droppings


Bird droppings left on your car can leave a gross mark in your paint. An interesting study by Autoglym showed that it’s not the actual bird droppings on their own that can damage the paint, but that in addition to the hot sun, which expands the paint and metal while drying and hardening the bird’s business. When it cools, it leaves a hard-to-remove stain on the car’s paint. Experts recommend that you remove droppings with a damp cloth as soon as you can to prevent permanent damage.



Sometimes, a few drops of gas spills out of the pump and on to your car. If left behind, the gas can evaporate and leave a stain on the paint or damage the clear coat. If you had your car thoroughly waxed, it may eat through the wax first. Cleaning gas residue isn’t too difficult, and if your car was waxed, your car should be well protected.

“The damage created is typically “below Surface” as in etching the top coat,” explained a representative from Megiuar’s. “While keeping a good quality coat of wax may not buy you 100% protection against the elements, it does buy you some time to use a spray detailer to wipe them off before they have chance to bond or etch the surface.”



Sometimes we leave our coffee or soda cups on the hood of our car while getting in. Take care not to spill that stuff, because there’s some nasty, paint-eating stuff in both coffee and most soda. Coffee and cola are both acidic and both will damage and corrode your paint if left untreated. Of course this can seriously damage your interior as well. 3M mentioned that their Scotchguard lineup of products can protect interiors from water and oil based stains such as soda, coffee, lipstick, crayons and foods.



Dust is very fine dirt and if one of your cheeky friends writes in it, they can seriously screw up and scratch your paint. Dust and pollen can leave scratches if you wipe it dry. A gentle car wash will help clear this dirt without damaging the paint, but if you do wipe it and leave a scratch you may need some help from a detailer to get things right again.

Silly String, Shaving Cream


Pranksters and frat-kids love to mess with each other’s rides, especially the nice ones, but foamy attacks from silly string and shaving cream can cause discoloration if left for a long time untreated. To remove it, make sure to rinse it thoroughly so the foam can come off (if it’s been caked on) and use a general car cleaner to ensure there’s no residue. With silly string, the dye can cause stains that require extra attention.

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Our contact at Meguiar’s also pointed out that “most of the problems discussed above can be repaired by using a modern clear coat safe compound to remove the damage.” This can be done by hand or with a polisher. “Once the damage is removed, it is important to follow with a good coat of quality wax”

Recent Updates:

November 8th, 2021 – updated headings to proper sizing. Updated text for accuracy. 

Photo Credit: Matt Fink via The Truth About Cars

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1 Comment

smartacus says:

i keep my car in the garage because i can’t stand waking up in the morning and finding shaving cream and silly string droppings 😉