Don’t Let Insects Bug Your Car - Insect Damage and Repair Techniques

31st May 2015


With the warm weather upon us, bug season is in full swing. Insect populations are high – especially splattered on the front of your vehicle, which can cause real damage to paint and clearcoat. We did research, and consulted with paint care expert Bill Fortier of Griot’s Garage to determine the best insect damage prevention and repair techniques. Here is our advice for keeping insects from bugging your car.

Bugs are not your vehicles friend; their body fluids are often acidic and can immediately start dissolving automobile paint. While no permanent damage is caused if the surface is cleaned soon after impact, all bets are off if insect remains are left in place. Consider this; it was determined that smooshed Lovebugs are about neutral with a pH of 6.5 but become acidic at 4.25 within 24 hours*. The acid actually etches into paint or clearcoat. So, clean bugs off as soon as they get on the car – as soon as possible. They come off easier, and there is less time for damage to occur from acids.

Let’s start with a preventative measure – a good coat of car wax. It puts a protective layer between the vehicle finish and the offending insects. For removal - don’t try to just scrape or rub bugs off as it will likely damage your paint far worse than the bug itself. Bill Fortier of Griot’s garage says “remove the insect safely - you don’t want to introduce scratches yourself. Some people try to scrub them off with a dry towel – don’t do that as it will cause fine scratches”.

To properly remove bugs a solvent should be used to loosen and lift the remains, and a microfiber towel should be used to wipe it clean while not scratching paint. Once again, using an ordinary cloth or towel may cause scratching. Some people spray on WD40 and allow it to soak for a few minutes, and wipe off. Another way is to apply a little pre-wax cleaner to the bug splat, let it sit for a few minutes then wipe off. Bill at Griots recommends a dedicated bug remover like Griot’s Garage Bug and Smudge Remover. Bill says this remover is “designed for stronger contaminants, and is used as a spot treatment. Apply it and let sit for thirty seconds and wipe off”. Keeping a good bug remover and microfiber towels in the car is a good idea so you can remove insects them after each drive.

As mentioned earlier, acids from insect body fluids can etch paint. If you have found the paint was damaged it can usually be repaired by using a compound or polish. This can be applied by hand or with a machine. Afterward apply a coat of wax. Tips for expert polishing and waxing can be found in our “Picture Perfect Paint” post

Bug splatter on the front of your vehicle is a fact of life during the warm weather months. By heeding the advice of this article you can mitigate the damage insects can cause.

*Living with Lovebugs, Entomology and Nematology Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date January 2007. Revised September 2009. Reviewed September 2012. Visit the EDIS website at