What Is This Black Stuff on My Car? Exploring Road Tar and Tree Sap

Have you ever walked up to your car, only to find mysterious black specks or sticky splotches on its surface? If you have, you’re not alone. Many car owners have encountered this puzzling issue at some point. The culprits behind these unwanted blemishes are often road tar and tree sap, two common substances that can mar the appearance of your vehicle. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of road tar and tree sap, discussing what they are, how they end up on your car, and most importantly, how to effectively remove them to keep your car looking pristine.

Road Tar: The Sticky Menace

Road tar, often referred to simply as “tar,” is a sticky, black, and viscous substance commonly found on roads. It’s a byproduct of asphalt, a mixture of bitumen and aggregate materials used to pave road surfaces. Tar is particularly prevalent during hot weather, as the heat causes it to soften and become more adhesive.

How Does Road Tar End Up on Your Car?

The most common way road tar finds its way onto your car’s surface is through direct contact with the tires. As you drive, especially on freshly paved roads or those recently repaired, your tires can pick up bits of tar. These bits then get transferred to your car’s body when the tires make contact with it. Additionally, road construction zones are hotspots for tar contamination. When you drive through such areas, your car is at a higher risk of encountering freshly laid or softened tar.

The Impact of Road Tar on Your Car

Road tar can be more than just an aesthetic nuisance; it can also damage your car’s finish. Over time, tar can corrode your car’s paint, leading to discoloration and permanent stains. Moreover, the longer you leave tar on your car’s surface, the more difficult it becomes to remove.

Removing Road Tar

Removing road tar from your car’s surface is essential to prevent damage and maintain its appearance. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to effectively remove road tar:

  1. Gather Your Materials: You’ll need some basic supplies, including automotive tar remover, microfiber towels, a bucket of soapy water, and a clay bar.
  2. Wash Your Car: Start by washing your car with soapy water to remove any loose dirt and debris. This will make the tar removal process easier.
  3. Apply Tar Remover: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and apply the tar remover to the affected areas. Allow it to sit for a few minutes to soften the tar.
  4. Gently Rub with a Microfiber Towel: Using a microfiber towel, gently rub the affected areas in a circular motion. Apply moderate pressure, but avoid excessive scrubbing to prevent scratching the paint.
  5. Use a Clay Bar: If some tar remains after the initial rubbing, you can use a clay bar. Apply a lubricant (usually soapy water) to the surface and gently rub the clay bar over the tar spots. This should help lift off any remaining residue.
  6. Rinse and Dry: Rinse your car with clean water to remove any remaining tar remover and clay residue. Dry the car thoroughly with a clean microfiber towel.
  7. Wax and Polish: To protect your car’s finish, apply wax and polish to the affected areas to restore shine and create a protective barrier.

Tree Sap: Nature’s Sticky Surprise

Tree sap is another black substance that can plague your car’s appearance. It’s a sticky, resinous substance produced by trees as a defense mechanism against insects and other potential threats.

How Does Tree Sap End Up on Your Car?

Tree sap usually finds its way to your car when you park it under or near trees. Over time, the wind can carry tiny airborne particles of sap, which then settle on your car’s surface. During warm weather, the sap can become more liquid, making it easier for it to adhere to your car’s paint.

The Impact of Tree Sap on Your Car

Tree sap, like road tar, can cause aesthetic and potentially structural damage to your vehicle. Over time, it can etch into the clear coat and paint, leaving behind stubborn stains. If left untreated, tree sap can lead to paint discoloration and deterioration.

Removing Tree Sap

Here’s a guide on how to effectively remove tree sap from your car:

  1. Materials Needed: You’ll require rubbing alcohol or a commercial sap remover, microfiber towels, a plastic scraper or credit card, and a car wash solution.
  2. Wash Your Car: As with tar removal, start by washing your car with a car wash solution to remove loose dirt and debris.
  3. Apply Sap Remover: Apply rubbing alcohol or a commercial sap remover to the affected areas. Allow it to sit for a few minutes to soften the sap.
  4. Gently Scrape: Use a plastic scraper or the edge of a credit card to gently scrape off the softened sap. Be careful not to scratch the paint.
  5. Rub with a Microfiber Towel: After scraping, use a microfiber towel to rub off any remaining residue. Apply moderate pressure, but avoid excessive force.
  6. Rinse and Dry: Rinse the car with clean water and dry it thoroughly with a clean microfiber towel.
  7. Wax and Polish: Finish by applying wax and polish to the affected areas to restore shine and provide protection.


Encountering black spots or sticky splotches on your car is a common frustration for many car owners. Understanding the culprits behind these blemishes, namely road tar and tree sap, is the first step toward effective removal and prevention. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can keep your car looking pristine and ensure that these pesky substances don’t mar its appearance or damage its finish. Regular maintenance and prompt action are key to preserving the beauty of your vehicle and extending its lifespan.

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