Does jet fuel damage car paint?
July 10, 2022 11:11 AM   Subscribe

After 5 days parked in an outdoor long-term parking lot, some kind of (not tree) gunk accumulated evenly on our entire car. We suspect it's accumulated jet fuel vapor. It mostly did not come off at the car wash. What do I do? Am I completely screwed? Does the airport have any liability? Is there some specific product that will get it off?
posted by BuddhaInABucket to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We suspect it's accumulated jet fuel vapor.

posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:22 AM on July 10, 2022 [20 favorites]

Unless you're mixing it with something there's no reason jet fuel vapor would accumulate at all, it evaporates completely even at low temperatures.

I'm with NotMyselfRight now and curious why you even think this is possible? You don't really get jet fuel vapor at ground level, while aircraft sometimes dump it in an emergency they usually do so over water or unpopulated areas, not near the airport long term parking lot.
posted by tiamat at 11:33 AM on July 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

Aside from what has already been said (i.e. there;'s basically no possibility that it's anything related to jet fuel), there was certainly something on your parking stub that states that they're not liable for any damage to your car, theft, etc.

Take your car to a detailer.
posted by jonathanhughes at 11:46 AM on July 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

I don’t know where you live, but it’s probably pollen-season for something there. If your car is evenly coated, that’s the obvious culprit to be eyeing. Take it through the car wash again (and not to a “touchless” one, if that’s what the first one was). It’ll come off.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:53 AM on July 10, 2022 [7 favorites]

I'm another who's never heard of jet fuel condensation, suspect it's something plant-based, suggest washing & scrubbing carefully, by hand, with soapy, warm water. If that doesn't work, escalate to solvents (which may damage your paint, be careful).
posted by Rash at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2022

Is the substance yellowish?

Without divulging too many details about my work, I often respond to concerns about environmental issues from members of the public. Once, my colleague got a call from someone who lives near the airport, concerned that “chemtrails” had left buildup on their car.

It was bee poop.

“Jet fuel condensation”, like chemtrails, is not a thing that happens, scientifically speaking. Not saying bee poop is the culprit in your case, since it’s purely speculative, but I feel comfortable guessing that the substance is natural in origin.
posted by sparringnarwhal at 1:21 PM on July 10, 2022 [9 favorites]

I have spilled jet fuel on a wide variety of painted and non-painted surfaces - it evaporates cleanly and without a residue. You do not have jet fuel accumulated on your vehicle.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:44 PM on July 10, 2022 [9 favorites]

Hmmm... Interesting! A pic might be helpful to narrow it down
posted by bahama mama at 1:58 PM on July 10, 2022

Did adjacent cars have the same thing?

I'm having flashbacks to 1980s California pesticide spraying, but I can't think of a reason they would spray a parking lot adjacent to the airport.
posted by ctmf at 2:49 PM on July 10, 2022

Response by poster: Pic of the spots. It looks like dried liquid spots, which is why we thought fuel (it covers the paint, but you can only see where the reflection hits it in the picture).

These spots are smaller than a millimeter- they were all over the windshield as well but came off of that.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:52 PM on July 10, 2022

Did it rain at all while you were away? Even a trace? Especially a trace?

I'd suspect that a quick rain washed the polluted air and put all of that on the car's surface to dry.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:57 PM on July 10, 2022 [7 favorites]

Any chance that you’re in the vicinity of forest fires? Your picture reminds me of what happens when a light rain passes through ash in the atmosphere.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:47 PM on July 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Did it rain at the airport while you were gone? Sometimes water spots can etch into the clear coat, especially if the sun bakes the spots into the paint. You might take it to an auto detailer and have them diagnose it and see if they can fix it.
posted by SageTrail at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It’s possible that it was misty or something for that to happen! Looks like we’ll have to take it to a detailer but it sounds like this is not permanent damage. I dunno how my brain got to “jet fuel has burned off my car paint,” so thank you all for clearing that up!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 4:15 PM on July 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Some car washes say (paraphrasing) "We do a lot in a short time; if there's still stuff on your car, run it thru again."
posted by at at 3:51 PM on July 12, 2022

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