tar on my car :(
October 18, 2006 3:40 PM   Subscribe

I drove through a work area today and my car is covered in tar. What can I do?

On my way home from work I passed through a work area on a rural state road where they were filling cracks on the road with a tar/asphalt substance. It was the typical situation where they have two guys with stop/slow signs at each end of the temporarily one-lane road. They directed me through, and a few minutes later I noticed that my steering wheel was unusually wobbly. When I got home, I got out and saw that my tires were covered in tar/asphalt. It also splashed around the wheel wells. This stuff is incredibly sticky, and it seems to be hardening. I can't get it off myself. Will I need new tires, or is it possible that a tire shop will be able to clean this off? What about the body, should I even try to get it off myself?

Also, would it be worth trying to get the state DOT to foot the bill? Ugh.
posted by (lambda (x) x) to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
You need some of this.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:45 PM on October 18, 2006

A little goo-gone will take care of the body, test in an inconspicuous place first.

As for the tires, jeezus that's a lot of tar! I'd probably try to scrape off as much as I could, so it's not being flung around anymore, then let the rest eventually wear off. It will.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:49 PM on October 18, 2006

WD40 works miracles on tar spots. Seriously, it's incredible how good the stuff is. Just be sure to rinse if off when you're done (it's also flammable).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:50 PM on October 18, 2006

WD40 is also corrosive. I wouldn't use it on paint. It'll eat the clearcoat right off.

I use a Honda brand Bug & Tar remover.
posted by SpecialK at 3:54 PM on October 18, 2006

Bug and Tar remover. Followed by a good wash, polish and wax.

If it is, literally, covered, look into taking it to a professional detailer. They'll get the tar off and give it a better-than-new polish and shine, to boot.

And, no, you will not be able to get the DOT to pony-up for the bill. They're immune.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:09 PM on October 18, 2006

I would recommend a old butter knife type implement (nothing sharp) and a hair-dryer if needed to soften it. I don't understand why people are giving tips for tar on paint-job removal.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:03 PM on October 18, 2006

For getting tar off my hands, olive oil works very well. I suppose it couldn't do much harm to try it on a car if you happen to have some. Looks like it wouldn't be sufficient for those tires though, unless you were driving around in a big pool of it.
posted by sfenders at 5:36 PM on October 18, 2006

Turpentine/White Spirit should work. I don't think it'll dissolve your finish, since the lacquer is probably polyurethane-based. I'm not an expert, though.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 6:22 PM on October 18, 2006

I was having trouble understanding why your steering was wobbly after the incident until I looked at those photos.

I am not sure your car is safe to drive with all those ~1 in. pointed rocks embedded in the layer of tar on your tires. I don't think you can absolutely count on your steering or braking with those tires, and I even think you could have some increased risk of a blowout. At freeway speeds, because of the uneven distribution of tar and rock, you will certainly have lots more vibration from wheel imbalance.

Just for the sake of your nervous and easily alarmed fellow Mefite, couldn't you drive slowly to a reputable tire store and ask their opinion?

Don't entirely give up the idea of compensation, either. Other people probably had the same experience. If you could find out who, you all could band together and possibly gain leverage with government and media. Document everything and take a bunch more pictures.
posted by jamjam at 6:25 PM on October 18, 2006

MonkeySaltedNuts: They're giving tips on tar removal from paint because of the second photo.
posted by mendel at 7:02 PM on October 18, 2006

Just as an aside: those guys holding the stop/slow signs were probably also waving their hands for you to slow down even further, right?

Now you know why ;-)

The slower you drive on hot/wet tar, the less you'll pick up on your tyres and kick up onto the bodywork. And you won't have a crew of guys who hate your guts because they've got to refinish your wheel ruts.

I've found that cutting the tar across the tread (using an old butter knife or the back of a stanley knife) allows me to pretty much just peel it off. As for the paint, whatever you use will affect the clearcoat to a greater or lesser degree. This is a good argument for keeping your car polished with a soft wax - better to damage the wax than the clearcoat.
posted by Pinback at 8:15 PM on October 18, 2006

#mendel:MonkeySaltedNuts: They're giving tips on tar removal from paint because of the second photo.

Yup, they might be giving secondary tips about the secondary photo that shows "a little tertiary splatter" but the main question was about tires and wheels and their well's accumuliation.

The majority of advice about seems off-topic because the main problem this guy has is how to remove the large tar buildup on his/her wheels and wells.

And all the "tips" about solvents for body work are worthless for well gunk.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:07 PM on October 18, 2006

Take it somewhere to get it fixed first, and keep any receipts/invoices. My ex had quite a few hundred dollars' worth of tar damage after going over fresh roadworks, and complained to our local DOT. He received compensation fairly quickly because the workers had done a shoddy job on the resurfacing. So it doesn't hurt to contact them either with a complaint. Good luck.

(FWIW, I'm in Queensland Australia. Who's to say your DOT isn't as generous and incompetent as ours?)
posted by chronic sublime at 4:14 AM on October 19, 2006

It seems strange that they didn't wait until the tar was dry before opening up the side of the road you were driving on. Typically that is the reason why they close off half the road at a time.

First clean off the goo on your tires with a putty knife. Once it cools down it turns relatively solid. That will make it more driveable. Then get everything else removed professionally at a good detailer. Get a receipt and then contact the State DOT or the County DPW. Try to find out specifically who was doing the work. Most likely it was the County because they are responsible for doing maintenance on rural roads.
posted by JJ86 at 5:54 AM on October 19, 2006

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