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The Great Outdoors: How to Clean Up After Car Camping

Cleaning Your Car

Car camping is a lot of fun, but you are usually ready to head home and get some sleep when the weekend is over. However, making sure you put in some time to properly clean your car after a long camping trip can seriously extend the life of your vehicle’s finish. Whether you parked under several trees, went off-roading or managed to get fire ash on your car, you’ll want to make sure you get it all off safely, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Check out these tips for cleaning your car after camping to see which works best for you.

Tree-Related Contaminants

car campingDid you find tree sap on your car? You’re not alone in your frustration. There are many specialty products out there for this tedious job. This means you can go down to your local auto parts store and pick up sap-focused cleaning solutions, sometimes sold under the tar and bug remover label. This type of product should be allowed to soak onto the sap for a few minutes before you try to wipe it off, as that will help loosen the hold that it has on the paint. It goes without saying that before trying this method, you should wash and dry your car thoroughly.

Don’t ignore the underside of your car either. Be sure to check for weeds or small plants that may have become stuck down there while you were on your trip.

Lubricating Detailing Solutions

Wiping down your car’s paint after a wash with a clay bar or polish can be an extremely effective method for cleaning your car after a camping trip. Clay can remove tar, bug remains, dirt, mud and even sap by grabbing particles that contaminate paint and tugging them off the surface of the finish.

Polish tackles things from a different angle, essentially scouring your paint (very gently). In doing so it removes contaminants from the top down. Make sure not to overpolish, otherwise the area may appear discolored when compared to the rest of the car.

Razor Blade to the Rescue

If all else fails and you can’t seem to remove the grime from your windshield or side glass, don’t despair — a razor blade can work wonders. A traditional blade from a pharmacy will work fine, as long as you’re careful with your grip, but you can also get special razor scrapers at the store that are intended for peeling back paint and stickers. The technique is simple: Keep the blade as flat to the glass as possible, apply pressure between the contaminant and the window until it slices away for good.

No matter what you get on your vehicle when you go car camping, you can learn to clean it off safely.

Check out all the tools & equipment 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 your car after a camping trip, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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