How to remove asphalt spray from paint

How to remove asphalt spray from paint

Hoping someone can provide a thought on my sad story. Went out of town last week and while gone, San Francisco City decide to repave my street while the car was sitting in my carport. Now don't get me wrong, finally SF is fixing their streets! Hallelujah! However, there must have been some spray, or mist, or smoke from the process because now my whole car has a fine rough coating on it. It's only slightly noticeable, but I clearly need to figure out how to remove it.

Wondering if the folks here have an sage wisdom for this type of covering? My local car wash suggested a hand polish. My only worry is that I'll get those terrible swirly patterns in my paint. I have the dark gray color.

Thanks for you help!

RedShift | July 31, 2013

I would suggest the steam wash which is more expensive than regular car washes.
It uses steam, which can loosen the organic compounds in the detritus that is coating your car right now.

If you'd rather do this yourself, then get a bucket of soapy, hot water and use soft nylon bristled brush.

I'd also try to pre-soak the car with soapy water so subsequent rubbing doesn't have to work so hard, reducing chance of scratching.

Good luck.

nickjhowe | July 31, 2013

Call a professional detailer.

DTsea | July 31, 2013

WD40 will remove that stuff. Use a soft rag. TEst on a less visible area. However I used it to remove some sticky residue on the roof left by a loose seal on the pano roof and it worked fine.

eAdopter | July 31, 2013

Purchase a few large bottles of isopropyl alcohol from your local drug store (about $20 total). This is the "active" ingredient in bug/tar removers. Used full strength it won't harm the paint (yes, I'm sure).

Purchase a few rolls of paper shop towels (often blue). Use two or three paper towels at a time and soak(!) them with the alcohol. Gently apply to the paint surface and the tar should easily wipe away. Don't scrub - the alcohol will do the work. It will leave a harmless "white film" to be removed in the next step.

When you think all of the tar is removed, wash the whole car normally using plenty(!) of car-wash soap. You'll likely find a few more tar spots to remove, so again, use the alcohol and gently wipe them away.

You may need to repeat this cycle 2-3 times, and don't forget to do the jambs.

Follow up with a good wax or polish.

dbrooks | July 31, 2013

Call joe at orinda auto detail. He's the tesla detail guru and also does the opti coat which would protect against such a thing in the future.

jonesxander | July 31, 2013

That sucks :( Sorry to hear ughhhh i'd be sooo mad!!!

JPPTM | July 31, 2013

I would be very careful if I were to do this myself. FWIW, using 'conventional' paper towels or shop towels can scratch the paint. If I need to do a dirty clean up, I use these very, very soft gentle disposable cloths:

Maybe you want to leave this to the pros. And I second the recommendation for Orinda Auto Detail. I was there yesterday for a consult and questioned Joe extensively on his detailing and OptiCoat. He had 3 Model S there, and I am scheduled next week for full paint prep/correction and OptiCoat Pro.


m.fawcett | July 31, 2013

Kerosene on micro fiber cloth will work. Kerosene has more oil in it than Isopropyl alcohol so it will lubricate more. Change cloth offen. Then a good wash and wax. Or detail.

Newampster | July 31, 2013

Follow the advice of the Junkman and you can't go wrong. Start with the 2 bucket wash, then the wax.
Get the rest of the 2 bucket series on YouTube. I bought the stuff and it works beautifully.

The clay bar will remove any rough spots on your paint.

Toss on a shine every 2 months and your MS will always be better than the day you had your first Tesla Grin

jbunn | July 31, 2013

Back in the day used to be something called "Bug and Tar Remover" which you could get at the auto part store in a pint can. Worked great.

I would think that your primary concern would be to lift off the tar without grinding in any grit that might be part of the road top coat. Change pads often.

If you are near the Financial District in SF, I liked on 36 Battery between Pine and Bush. The owner Andy just did my car this morning. Mad Ninja skills and a great eye for detail. Showed me some things on my car from the factory that I have never noticed.

Mark K | August 1, 2013

Petroleum Naptha - (lighter fluid) is the standard protocol for tar removal.

A small bottle of Wizard charcoal lighter fluid is cheap and highly effective.

After dissolving the tar, clean off any residual fluid with soap and water.

Car-El | August 1, 2013

Margarine, plant oil. Then dish soap and hot water. Several times. End by puting on wax when al tar is gone.

DTsea | August 1, 2013

Seriously. WD40. It's a miracle cleaner for tarry stuff, and it is made out of fish oil... wont hurt paint, I have used it.

jw669 | August 1, 2013

Paint overspray perhaps? A clay bar, or (newer technology) rubber polymer may be what'll do you justice. It is an abrasive and I'd suggest polishing and waxing (better yet, opticoat)the area after.

Brian H | August 1, 2013

The 'fish oil' is an urban legend. Not true.

DTsea | August 1, 2013

You are right Brian H. Good catch.

However, it WILL remove tarry gunk. That's not an urban legend.

maxym | August 4, 2015

Do wast time to remove asphalt spray from the car. Give your car for car removal yard and get cash. Find out more -

Pbfoot | August 4, 2015

In my experience, anything that involves wiping or rubbing, regardless of how gently it's done, risks creating swirl marks. I'm a believer in automatic touchless car washes, esp if you can find one that has a pretty strong spray. Even if it gets off just half of the asphalt stuff that's not stuck to the clearcoat, it's going to reduce the risk of creating swirl marks once you do whatever it takes to get the car fully clean. Think of it as a first-pass rinse.

I've had my P85D for 8 months now, have never hand-washed it, and it has no significant swirl marks. I only use a microfiber cloth to get off any drops that the blowdryer doesn't take care of.

In contrast, my previous P85, which was meticulously hand-washed with two-bucket method and microfiber mitts, had some swirl marks at this point in its lifespan.

GeoffC | October 9, 2016

Why can't we just all agree... sigh.

bill.watters | May 25, 2019

I have just used WD40 and it is a miracle for taking off the tar on white Model 3. No rubbing required. One swipe worked. See original recommendation of:

"DTsea | August 1, 2013
Seriously. WD40. It's a miracle cleaner for tarry stuff, and it is made out of fish oil... wont hurt paint, I have used it."

kawdennis | May 25, 2019

m.fawcett +1 I believe WD40 and Kerosene are the same anamel just use plenty of water after the WD40 removes the asphalt

Aerodyne | May 25, 2019

Two things that work on irreplaceable aircraft in a museum...

Aviation simple green 50/50 mix with water.

Mineral spirits

Other posters are correct about rubbing. But you can soak the affected area with the above and it should come off with minimal rubbing.