You pull into the driveway after work. You get out of the car, then notice a few bugs (or what’s left of them) splattered on the windshield and front grill. No big deal. After all, it’s only a few bugs. The next day is Saturday, and you’re planning a long road trip to the coast. By the time you return home on Sunday, the front of your car is caked with bugs. Now it’s a big deal.
Actually, dead bugs stuck to your car is a big deal no matter how many there are. If you don’t clean them off right away, they could actually damage your car’s finish. You could be left with pock marks and other blemishes due to the way bug carcasses react to temperature and sunlight.
All living creatures have bodies that are acidic to some extent. Insects are no exception. While still alive, insect bodies are fairly acid neutral. But something strange happens after colliding with a car.
An insect’s body essentially explodes on impact with a car traveling 65 miles per hour. The force of the impact plasters the remains to the car’s finish. Over the next several hours, sunlight and heat act on the insect’s remains and, interestingly enough, increase their acidity. As the bug body decays, it releases more acid.
Allowing bug remains to stay on your car for several weeks means exposing the finish to acid. That acid can eat through though clear coat, leaving behind what appears to be a dimple or pockmark. A combination of excessive bug carcasses and no rain for several weeks on end could allow the acid to get all the way to the paint.
As you might expect, some bugs are worse for car finishes than others. That’s because the acidity of their carcasses is different. One of the worst of all is the lovebug, an insect that seems to be everywhere in the south late spring and again late summer. Love bugs have extremely acidic bodies and are very difficult to remove from a car.
Making things worse is the fact that lovebugs are naturally attracted to both the fumes cars put off and the reflection from their finishes. They tend to proliferate in May and August as part of their natural mating cycle. And where do they like to hang out? Wherever they can find cars.
The key to preventing bug damage is getting rid of the carcasses as soon as possible. Experts recommend washing your car in a commercial car wash at least once per week when bugs are especially heavy. However, most commercial car washes won’t get all the bugs off. So what next?
Soapy water, a microfiber cloth, and a pressure washer should we move the rest of the carcasses. It may require some elbow grease, especially if it’s been a while since you last washed your car. Any carcasses that still remain can be removed with a fabric softener sheet you would normally throw in the dryer.
You can also buy specialty cleaning products at the auto parts store. They are designed specifically to remove dead bugs from car finishes. But if soapy water and a microfiber cloth work, why spend the extra money?
One way or the other, it’s vitally important that you clean the bug carcasses off your car as frequently as you can. Acidic bug bodies only release more acid as time goes by. That acid can eat into your car’s finish, ruining it completely.