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Bug Off: How to Clean Bugs Off Your Car

Splattered bugs on a windshield

Extreme weather conditions can take a toll on your car, marring the paint finish and causing parts to wear faster. But there is something else you may not think of that can damage the exterior of your car: bugs.

Indeed, from the first warmth of spring until the earliest frost of fall, your car’s grille, hood and windshield may be covered with bug remnants, especially after a long drive through a heavily wooded area. Here are some tips on how to clean bugs off your car.

Bug Splatter OverviewA thorough car washing by hand will help remove bug splatter.

The further south you drive, the more likely it is that you will encounter bugs that seem to be drawn to your car like a magnet. Insects tend to fly approximately four to five feet off the ground, which is the height of most windshields. If you drive a high-profile vehicle, such as an SUV, the splatter may be most evident on the grille and the hood.

If left untreated, bug splatter can damage paint and trim alike. Red splatter signifies a female insect, usually a mosquito, as they do the most biting. Moths and butterflies cause the largest splats, the latter of which are attracted to the yellow reflector lights on the highways, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bugs may be most evident at sunset or immediately after a rainstorm, especially because they are attracted to your headlights.

How to Clean Bugs Off Your Car

The best way to remove insects from your car is to act quickly. You may be astounded by the amount of splatter that can accumulate after one ride. Many assume that a pressure washer is the best way to clean up this kind of mess, but the pressure can be strong enough to remove both bug guts and your car’s finish.

The following are the ideal steps to take when deciding how to clean bugs off your car:

  • Rinse your car as you always do. Connect a nozzle to your household hose, turn on the water and spray your car, working from the top to the sides and from front to back. Wherever you see concentrated bug splatter, focus the spray of your hose with either your thumb or an attachment to loosen the detritus.
  • Gather your car cleaning supplies, including your buckets, sponges, a liquid car wash solution, tire shine, wheel cleaner and microfiber towels. Go through your usual car cleaning process, paying extra attention to areas where bug debris is evident.
  • Dry the car with microfiber towels. Once it is dry, apply a car wax solution. The wax will provide an additional layer of protection the next time you encounter potentially paint-damaging bug splatter. You can also use a water-repellent windshield treatment product to protect the windshield.

Bug Splatter Prevention

Even if you can avoid driving when and where bug swarms are the worst, you will inevitably encounter some insects during your travels.

One way to reduce bug splatter is to invest in a bug/air deflector shield. Such shields will absorb some bug impact and, in most cases, will simply force insects to fly over your vehicle instead of aiming for the hood or splattering on your windshield. By investing, you may find yourself saving money on windshield washer cleaner and replacing your wiper blades less often.

Check out all the chemical & lubricant products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to clean bugs off your car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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