How to Clean Tar Off Of Your Car

It splashes up at construction sites and gets all gooey on hot, sunny days. One way or another, tar is likely to find its way to your car’s surface. It sticks like glue, but with the right products, it will wipe away in a snap.

You Will Need:

  • Tar remover (available in the auto department)
  • WD-40
  • Goo Gone
  • Gasoline
  • Peanut butter
  • Soft cloths
  • Protective gloves

Steps to Remove the Tar:

  1. There are both commercial products along with everyday household products that have been found useful in removing tar. So take your pick from the list above.
  2. Apply the chosen product to the surface with the tar.
  3. In some cases (WD-40, Peanut butter, Goo Gone), you will need to let the product sit on the tar for about 30 seconds.
  4. Wipe the area with a soft cloth. Do not use any abrasive cloths or they could scratch the surface of the paint.
  5. Repeat until all of the tar is removed.
  6. Wash the clean surface as usual to remove any residue from the removal product. Leaving the product on for prolonged periods of time could damage the surface of the paint and cause discoloration.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If there are any minor scratch marks from the scrubbing (if you accidentally used an abrasive pad), buff them out with a soft cloth and apply a good wax to make the surface shine like new.


  1. To take tar off of your car, spray on engine cleaner. Spray, let it sit for 15 minutes, then lightly rub with your fingers until it’s loose. Then, rinse off with hot soapy water and re-wax as it takes the wax off too.

    Caution; do not apply it in the sun and do not let it dry or it will damage your paint!

  2. I have always found that WD-40 does a good job. Just spray it on, wait about a minute then rub it off. You may need to apply it again for tough spots. Rewax after.

  3. Sap from most trees can be cleaned off using turpentine.

  4. I seen this online and my car had a lot of tar on it after we ran over what we thought was water. So we used WD-40, you just have to spray a large amount until it’s pretty damp on it. Then wait for a good 3-5 minutes. Then take a dry rag and start working on it. You may have to do it more then once, but it will come off. For larger amounts of tar on the car, just put a heaver amount on it more then once. It will come off. Next, wash, dry and re-wax. I didn’t believe, but it works and also there is no damage on the paint itself. Remember, use a rag (terry cloth).

  5. Try using gasoline to take off tar. It removes it fairly easily, without messing up your paint job.

  6. WD-40 or diesel are the best and easiest to use. Diesel for larger deposits. Wash and re-wax afterward.

  7. When I have been staining wood and get the stain on my hands, I just spray WD-40 on them and it comes right off.

  8. All of the above have the capability of causing paint or clear coat damage. I recommend that you try regular mayonnaise before any other product. It requires a little elbow grease, but it works not only for road tar, but also tree sap, etc.

  9. I use Honda Motorcycle cleaner. It is safe for all types of paint, rubber, plastic, etc. You just spray it on and wipe the tar right off, no rubbing. I discovered this while on vacation when a truck dumped tar all over the front of my vehicle and windshield. I was rubbing, trying to get it off the paint and windshield, and decided to try the cleaner. All I did was spray it on and wiped it off. I had all the tar removed within minutes.

  10. How to remove bugs off your hood:

    Use a damp dryer sheet like bounce, it’s easier than bug and tar remover!

  11. In regard to using gasoline to clean bugs off of the hood, etc. Please be very very careful due to the high flash point of gasoline! It could cause severe burns, even death!

  12. Detailing clay is a great way to clean residue off your paint, too. You can get kits in the car section at most *marts and auto stores.

  13. I’ve used Goop hand cleaner. The one that comes in cream, not the one that comes with pumice because obviously it will harm the finish of the car. Just pour it in a terrycloth and rub the tar; you will be amazed.

  14. I’ve read all of the helpful hints that everyone has “attempted.” Love the one about mayo… go figure. However, being an auto buff myself and the paint is a very big concern of mine, I use a clay bar on my vehicle at least two times a year to remove everything you can’t see, including road tar and blacktop.

    A clay bar kit can be found in an auto parts store for roughly $25 for the Meguiar’s set, which I find is the best. Once you start and begin the process, you’ll just want to keep going on every car you own. It’s very effective and this product is second to none with first class on your mind the whole time. It pulls all of the particles in the pits in your paint job you can’t even see, including the tar, etc. Give it a shot. I swear by it and will never use anything else. Especially living in the northeast, everyone should use this on their vehicle at least once a year, then reapply a clear-coat wax and a regular wax coat. It takes time, but if you really appreciate your vehicle and want to make it last, you have to invest a little time.

  15. I wonder if Goo-Gone or Magic Erasers would work?

  16. Hello. I have a white work truck that I’m in the woods with a lot; how do I get rid of the mud stains on my truck?

  17. To remove latex paint – simply try a pressure washer before any solvents. I’m dealing with fresh tar from road construction and I’m trying Simple Green tonight. I’ll update with the results!

  18. I tried Goop creme hand cleaner after reading the suggestions and it worked wonderfully in removing the tar from the paint on my car and with minimal effort. Thanks for the suggestion!

  19. Believe this or not, peanut butter will take off tar on your car/truck and WD-40 and diesel work good too, but using peanut butter you’ll never get hungry while doing the job – lol!

  20. A cotton rag with baby oil will remove tar from car finishes and not hurt the paint or clear coat.

  21. Peanut butter really, really works! Before you waste money, try it!

  22. It works! says:

    I just tried peanut butter on my car… It got the tar right off! Thanks for the tip!

  23. After tar being on my vehicle several weeks I found this site for help. I was shocked how safe and easy it was. In a matter of seconds the creamy peanut butter seemed to melt the tar right off. A few wipes and it was gone. Thanks for the great, economical and safe way to remove the tar right off the vehicle. I’m still SHOCKED HOW EASY it was and best of all IT WORKS. Thanks for the tip!

  24. I came to your site tonight to find a way to clean the road tar from the exterior or my car caused by construction. I saw the comment asking if Goo Gone would work. I have used this on quite a few other cleaning projects and it DOES WORK on road tar! I did not have to scrub very hard and I feel confident that it will not harm my exterior finish.

  25. Mayo really works. Works better on light tar. Heavy tar doesn’t come off easily using mayonnaise.

  26. Baby oil or Skin So Soft by Avon took off the tar spray we got on our car. We thought it was dirt from our trip that day, which included road construction. They put down oil and gravel and more oil on the road.

    I use baby oil when I have paint on me and it’s not water-based – it’s an oil base. Put it on… and wash it off.

  27. Tar splashed all over the left side of my windshield and hood after I drove through a puddle in the rain. I just sprayed some WD-40 on my windshield and side of my JEEP and used an ice scrapper right away to remove it and worked perfect. You do not have to let it sit; in fact, I do not recommend it because it may cause the windshield to become unglued. What’s also great is a can of WD-40 is not expensive at all. Spray, scrape and clean off with water and soap. Easy as 1.2.3.

  28. I’m one of the guys you all probably hate, but take it from me, I have been spraying oil on the highways in So. Utah for 30 years for chip sealing and overlaying asphalt and the following clean-up works the best. For fresh oil on your vehicle, diesel fuel will take it right off followed by a good wash and waxing. WD-40 is also very good. I just bought a Tahoe that had road oil on it for over seven years and the ONLY thing that removed it was Jiff peanut butter and circular motions with my thumb and nail. It took some time, but removed that ancient oil and the surface is immaculate. I guess I deserve this since I am probably responsible for hundreds of people who have had to deal with this type of situation. By the way, we clean our bars and distributors with diesel when the day is over. Good luck and I’m sorry, but the roads have to be taken care of.

  29. I read all the suggestions, I tried the peanut butter, but it wasn’t good. I tried some unleaded gas I had laying around for my lawnmower and when I dipped the towel in it with some rubber gloves and wiped it on the tar, it came right off! No kidding, it was magic to my eyes and I was the happiest guy in the world in my s-type Jaguar.

  30. Thanks for the tip. I tried Jiff peanut butter (it’s what I had on hand) and the results were amazing! It took a few applications to get through some of the thickness of the tar (which sat on my car for a week). The only caveat was that it attracted a determined bee.

  31. My wife used Goo Gone. It helped with the smaller splashes, but on the real heavy areas, not so much. I used W-D 40 and a Magic eraser – had the job done in no time.

  32. Tar splashed all over my car. I tried to use baby oil… Believe it or not, its really works.

  33. Turtle wax tar and bug remover worked the best for me, and I had thick tar on my car after driving though a construction site. I don’t recommend Goo Gone. It didn’t take anything off, even after waiting half and hour.

  34. I’ve used WD-40 to remove power mirror heating oil that leaked and dripped down my car door.

    Just use a microfiber towel. It doesn’t come off right away, so it will take more than a few sprays.

    No harm to the paint or the clear-coat.

  35. Is that crunchy or smooth peanut butter? How about just peanut oil?

  36. Guys,

    I used some white spirit to gently wipe off tar; works like a treat. Because cars are painted and lacquered, then oven baked, the lacquer is very hard. I wipe tar off gently, use a polishing compound and the wax to seal the paint. The results speak for themselves! Try it!

  37. Wow, WD-40 is amazing! Got all mine off in a second.

  38. Okay, so after looking at all of the comments, I decided to try peanut butter on my 2011 Chevy Avalanche. And it works. Two reasons for this, it has vegetable oil in it to break down the tar and the paste of the peanut butter being crushed peanuts, acts as a mild abrasive that will not damage the paint. There is a comment about using peanut oil, but who has that on hand? I would say most people do not.
    I managed a full service car wash for about a couple of months, and I can tell you some of the items people are recommending, like WD-40, Goo Gone, diesel, gasoline and even turpentine are not good for the clear coat. Professionals use stronger chemicals because it requires little to no effort, but can leave lasting damage to your clear coat and paint. They have to be removed immediately and the more often you use them, the more damage you will cause.
    The reason they tell you not to wax a new vehicle for six months to a year is because each time you wax it, you are getting into the clear-coat, a clay bar for removing tar is a mild abrasive as well and will ultimately start removing the clear-coat and will have to be replaced by a wax and or clear-coat wax.
    Go for something mild like peanut butter or vegetable oil. Definitely steer away from harsher petroleum products and Simple Green; they are corrosive to metal and will ultimately damage the clear-coat and paint.

  39. I’ve have tar on my car for a week. Is peanut butter OK to use on my paint? I don’t want to mess up my paint, please someone help me!

  40. I just tried peanut butter on my wife’s car. A little came off. WD-40 didn’t do much either, and I am not too keen on the idea of diesel fuel gas, or things like that. So I am going to have the car detailed tomorrow. I have to also say that, I wasn’t trying to only take of road tar, but also some rusty orange spots about the size of a pinhead all over the driver’s side and passenger side doors. Not sure what it is, maybe tree sap, or paint spray from road paint? I’m really lost on what it is. So, off to have it detailed I go! Thanks for all the ideas, I just wish they would have worked.

  41. I just got done using gas to clean both sides of my truck. I have wide tires and it sprayed most of both sides of my 2007 Silverado extended cab. I figured that they spill gas on my paint every time they fill it up at the gas station. A quick once over to remove the tar isn’t going to hurt any more than repeated spills from the gas station. It only takes a few seconds for it to melt it away. It was so thick in spots I could not even see the paint. This works great!

  42. I just tried the peanut butter. It was so easy. My 11-year-old son did it all by himself and he had fun doing it. Spread the peanut butter let dry 30 seconds to a minute and wipe off with a clean soft cloth. We repeated three times to get it all off. It took less than 10 minutes. This was the rear quarter and around under the tire well area. All shine and no scratches or rubbed off paint!

  43. I tried Poor Boy’s Bug Off Bug/Tar remover so it says. It did nothing, a useless waste of money and time. I will give something else a go!

  44. I used peanut butter. Thank you so much for that information, as I was worried. Road workers were pouring tar as I drove past and it got all over my car. Peanut butter worked; it is amazing. I do smell like peanut butter now, but I am very pleased.

  45. When we had to clean that tarry glue on floors to lay tiles, we found butter will break it down very easy. I bet lard would do the same.

  46. Hi there,
    Wondering what removes petrol from exterior plastic trim?


  47. Belle,
    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Gas Stains from Vehicles.

  48. Peanut butter!-creamy. I dabbed it on the lines the tar trailed and generously applied it on the clumped areas by the wheels. Then, wiped the tar off with an old T-shirt; then off to the car wash! Yes, I did this indoors and within 30 minutes of the “tarring.” Tar be gone!

  49. My merc was sprayed solid with tar. Typical African style roadworks with no one to signal that you should not drive there. When I drove around the bend, the sprayer was a few meters ahead and I was trapped.

    My car was COMPLETELY COVERED FROM BELOW WINDOWS TO BOTTOM, and the back from roof to tailpipe. The mags were badly stained.
    Bought the auto products, sprayed them on, they made it harder. Then went to a smooth creamy peanut butter called Yum Yum, left it on five minutes, then rubbed it off. It worked safely, but was too much PT. Then, a neighbor suggested a spray furniture polish called Mr. Min. Not much help.

    Finally, had to get gasoline and use that. Nearly struck a match, haha! Rubbed it on and worked small areas at a time, then used a dry cloth to remove oily residue, finally a very hot water rinse.

    Took three of us three hrs… Tomorrow: final clean at the car wash.

    So gasoline, or petrol as we call it, worked the best, and did not appear to damage anything, and for small splashes, peanut butter was the safer choice.

  50. Do not use a hammer…

  51. I think it would be right to pay for all this free but valuable advice. It saved me a packet. Here down-under, my ‘candy white’ VW Tiquan became plastered with spots and strings of tar over the last few weeks. Both sides from bottom to window level behind the front wheels all the way to the rear and also the back of the vehicle were really smudged so much that the thoughts of diminished eventual resale value crossed my mind. No, it was not the dreaded road maintenance guys. It was just good old very hot weather causing the melted tar to come to the surface and spray like water. I did not want the car to smell of peanut butter (no offence :)) and opted for mineral turpentine. A soft cotton cloth damp with water but also damped with turps. Just gently wiping the splattered surface, the tar would soften and wipe away within seconds. I cleaned the whole car to mint condition in less than 10 minutes, then wiped it down with another cloth damped only with water to remove the oily residue so as not to attract dust. The turps I used has quickly and efficiently dissolved the tar and does not appear to have had any affect on my car’s paint. The only problem left now is that I bought 1 liter of turps. When buying it, I wondered if 1 liter would be enough. Less than 50 ml has achieved a marvelous result.

  52. Just last night a guy driving a truck got stuck on the ice. He used my rear bumper for leverage against his tire. As he spun his tire, the friction caused the rubber to heat and stick to my car (I even have an imprint of the tire manufacturer on there). The residue is pretty thick. Not sure if the above suggestions will work. Any thoughts?

  53. WD-40 is brilliant for the tar; lifts it right off.

  54. Someone drew a picture on my car’s hood. How do I clean it off without hurting the paint?

  55. I just used peanut butter on the tar spray on my car and it worked really well. Apply a thin layer, leave it for about a minute and then wipe off. Easy and doesn’t damage the paint work. Thanks for the tip.

  56. Kerosene is milder then gasoline and not so hard on the clear coat and not so flammable. No need to leave it on for more than a few minutes. Gently wipe the now liquid tar away and wash thoroughly with soap and water.

  57. Our entire Tahoe was wrecked with tar; you could run your hands down the doors and feel the bumps and our back hatch was completely covered, so we use Goo Gone and it came right off. I put it on with a rag saturated in it, then let it set about 30 seconds to 1 minute and I gently wiped with a clean rag. Then, we washed it off and waxed! Looks brand new; it’s amazing!

  58. I have a brand new white Rav 4. I hit some 36″ poles getting off the highway. No dents, but half of my bumper was completely black. I sprayed Goof Off from Lowes for 20 seconds and wiped a wet microtowel on it at the same time, and it came right off with no rubbing. I have used it before on my car, and it is great. Then, take a towel with water to make sure you rinse it off your car.

  59. I’ve found that 96% acetone worked much better than gasoline or WD-40, unexpectedly. The tar wiped off quite more easily.

  60. Had lots of tar on the passenger side of my car and used WD-40 to remove it. Worked a treat. Almost no rubbing required apart from the thicker patches. Took it to the petrol station with a high power washer and used hot water and soap to remove the WD-40. Worked very well indeed.

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