Paint splatters on my car
September 1, 2010 6:42 AM   Subscribe

How to get paint splatters off my car?

The car in front of mine drove over a paint lid that was lying in the road. The lid flew up into the air and when it landed, splattered paint all over the driver’s side of my car. There are splatters all the way along the side of the car. How do I remove them without damaging the car’s finish? It is a newer car with a clear coat finish. Googling results say various things: nail polish remover, Goof-Off, rubbing alcohol…has anyone tried anything that worked?
posted by yawper to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
There are basically two kinds of paint that these particular splatters are likely to be: either latex or enamel. Other types of paint exist, but those are the likely ones. Enamel is difficult because anything that will dissolve the enamel will also dissolve the existing paint job on the car (which is also enamel). However, latex can be removed without harming the underlying paint.

So, how do we know what kind of paint it is and what will remove it? Only by experiment. Start with Goof-off.
posted by grizzled at 6:54 AM on September 1, 2010

By "splatters", do you mean lots of little dots, or long, thick stands? The good news is that the odds are high that the paint is latex, so removing shouldn't too much of an ordeal. I would not use polish remover, goof-off, or alcohol, though. Those might do more harm to the finish (especially the polish remover.)

First, take the car through a car wash and see if that knocks-off any of the paint. Then, try hand-washing the area with a soft sponge. If the paint is a lot of dots, I would suggest using a good car polish (or maybe even a claybar.)
posted by Thorzdad at 7:01 AM on September 1, 2010

If the paint can't be removed by solvents, the best way to get it off is a very fine sandpaper (2200 grit wet and dry paper) that is used wet and gently rub at the paint. Lots of water and very, very gentle rubbing. As long as you are careful not to rub the areas around the paint splatter, you should have a chance of not going through the top coat of lacquer, but to be honest if you're not confident with this idea you need to give up after the first try at solvents. Don't be tempted to try harder and harder acting solvents, s you are more likely to damage the finish and this would be harder to fix than respraying a lacquer over good paint (that you'd get from the sanding approach).
posted by Brockles at 7:02 AM on September 1, 2010

They are lots of small (about 1 cm) dots.
posted by yawper at 7:03 AM on September 1, 2010

Could you tell us a little bit about what happens when you try to rub off a tiny bit of the paint, preferably close to the bottom where the paint hasn't been baked by the sun? Is it white paint? Latex will probably tend to fleck off, while oil will be pretty well bonded. I too see a lot of removal methods posted on various Internet sites, and frankly I would avoid them if the poster doesn't address what type of paint the removal advice is for. The chemistry of different types of paint is like night and day.
posted by crapmatic at 7:36 AM on September 1, 2010

crapmatic, my husband scratched at a tiny bit of it with his fingernail and he said it was fairly easy to scrape off. So probably latex I guess?
posted by yawper at 7:45 AM on September 1, 2010

And yes, it is white paint.
posted by yawper at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2010

If you can get it off with your fingernail, then try a plastic scraper (or even a credit card) and see if you can 'ping' them off. It's relatively likely that you will be able to.

Also, warming each dot slightly with a hairdryer may make the stubborn ones a little easier to remove.
posted by Brockles at 9:14 AM on September 1, 2010

Using a credit card works. I have fine sprayed a truck and fixed it with tons of water and scraping with a credit card.
posted by sleslie at 7:24 PM on September 1, 2010

Brockles has it:

1- Scrape them off with plastic.
2- If there are any tiny ones stuck that you can't get, use a clay bar. These are designed for removing little dots of "stuff" without harming the underlying finish like other abrasives would.
3- Have the car polished and waxed afterwords.
posted by gjc at 7:50 PM on September 1, 2010

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