How can I remove sap without damaging paintwork?

Your motoring problems solved

car clinic December 27

Q. How can I remove tree sap without damaging my VW Golf’s black paintwork? 
MB, Aberford, Leeds

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A. Resist the temptation to use anything harsh or abrasive. Sap is mostly water and sugar, so gentle washing with warm water and a sponge should remove it as long as it is relatively fresh.

If it resists, use a product such as Simoniz Insect & Tar Remover (£4.49 for 500ml from Have some patience, let the liquid soak in and be prepared to use several applications to get all the sap off; attacking it too hard could cause damage, so take your time and remove a layer at a time. You want the cleaned paintwork to feel like glass; close your eyes and run your fingers over it to check.

If it still feels rough, tiny contaminants such as diesel particles could have become trapped. Use a clay bar such as Bilt Hamber Auto-Clay (£10.95, By using the 200g bar and water as a lubricant, these contaminants can be lifted off or ground down — hopefully to provide the desired mirror finish.

Finally, a coating of a high-quality wax will protect the paintwork, but try not to park under any more trees.

Sunday Times Driving Car Clinic: Dave Pollard, car accessory advice

Dave Pollard has written several Haynes manuals and has tested just about every car-related accessory – read more from Dave here.

Email your question to or write to Car Clinic, Driving, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9GF, with a daytime phone number,
your address and as much detail about your car as possible. We can’t reply in person, so don’t send original documents or SAEs. Advice is given without legal responsibility.