Best Tar Remover For Cars

Image Credit: Envato Elements

Image Credit: Envato Elements

Best Tar Remover For Cars


Tar, bugs, tree sap, and other nasty contaminants that stick to your paint should be removed as soon as possible. These things certainly don’t look great stuck to your vehicle but the real problem is what they’re doing to your clear coat.

The longer they remain stuck to your paint the more time they have to break down the clear coat where they’re attached. Tar can be especially tricky. It hardens and is extremely tough to break down.

By the way, you don’t want to use a cloth to help remove it since tar often has small grains of rock that will severely scratch your car’s surface.

After a great deal of research reviewing popular products for removing tar from paint, we found that Citrol 266 was the most effective product at breaking down tar quickly and thoroughly without being harmful to your vehicle’s clear coat.

There are several bug and tar removal products on the market and while Citrol 266 wasn’t the most popular, likely due to its multipurpose usage, it was the most effective tar remover for cars.

The most popular product for removing tar was Stoner’s Tarminator. It isn’t quite as quick and effective but it does a good job if you have patience. 

It’s surprising that the products designed specifically for removing tar can’t hold a candle to the effectiveness of Citrol 266 Multipurpose Cleaner.

Best Tar Remover For Cars

Schaeffer Manufacturing Citrol 266 Cleaner

As a general purpose cleaner to use with almost all sorts of stuck on debris, including tar and tree sap. Citrol 266 is awesome. It particularly excels at dispatching tar with ease. Citrol 266 is safe for clear coats and trim so you don’t need to be too careful about what you spray on the exterior of your car. It is even safe to be sprayed on rubber. You shouldn’t let it sit for too long anywhere however just to be safe.

Spray the tar remover on and immediately goes to work dissolving it. You’ll see the tar quickly begin to run down the side of your car or truck. It’s truly amazing how effective it is at this. 

Most other tar removers will work eventually, usually taking multiple applications, but Citrol 266 can remove a large amount of tar in one application and very little cleanup effort afterward. 

It’s an incredible product. It’s also great for dealing with bugs, tree sap, and adhesive removal. Having a can or two of this in your detailing arsenal is highly recommended.


Runner Up

Stoner's Tarminator Bug & Sap Remover

I’m a very big fan of Stoner’s Invisible Glass and had high hopes for Stoner’s Tarminator  Especially with the overwhelming love it receives from detailing forums and customer feedback. When comparing Tarminator to other tar removers, it’s fair to say it leads the pack. 

When compared to Citrol 266 it just can’t keep up. If you can’t find Citrol 266 for some reason then Stoner’s Tarminator is a great alternative. It will get the job done but it will take significantly longer due to having to reapply a few times depending on the amount of tar you’re needing to remove.

Another surprising contrast between Tarminator and Citrol 266 is the much more aggressive Citrol 266 is safe to be sprayed on trim and rubber if you rinse it away immediately afterward. Stoner’s recommends not allowing Tarminator to get on rubber or trim.


Worth Considering

Rain-X Bug and Tar Defense Pre-Wash Gel

Rain-X Bug and Tar Defense comes in third in this review but it is a close runner up to Tarminator. It’s very good at its job, but unfortunately it too can not come close to the power of Citrol 266. 

If you can’t find the other 2 products it’s a great fallback option to tar stains. 

One plus that the Rain-X product has over Tarminator is that it is safe to spray on trim and whatnot as long as you don’t leave it applied for an extended period of time. 

Wash thoroughly once finished using to get rid tar, tree sap, or whatever stuck on debris you’re trying to tackle.


Additional Information

Do a Car Wash Before Removing Tar

It’s a good idea to wash your car before trying to remove tar or bug guts. This will make sure that there is the least amount of dirt and grit on your car’s paint. If your car or truck isn’t cleaned you’ll almost certainly scratch the finish. This is especially true given that the places where tar tends to collect is also some of the dirtiest areas on the exterior of your vehicle.

If you’re not familiar with the best way to wash your car I highly recommend you at least skim this article about how to properly wash a car  It will give you several good tips and suggestions about how to wash your car while minimizing the chance that you’ll scratch the paint.

Your initial reaction to being told to read about how to wash a car may be to dismiss it as unnecessary but the devil is in the details. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time if you’re unfamiliar with car detailing best practices when washing a car.

Microfiber cloth

You will need a microfiber cloth to clean up the mess after the tar remover has done its job. Microfiber is the best choice because it will be much less likely to allow scratches and swirls to happen if there is any residual dirt or sand left on the finish.

Microfiber towels are called this because they literally have microscopic fibers that both allow the towel to absorb an astonishing amount more water, but it also traps small sand and grit in-between its tiny strands. This has the benefit of keeping the abrasive debris from being ground into your finish as you wipe. This will significantly reduce the chance of swirls and scratches on your paintwork.

Does bug and tar remover remove wax?

Yes, it does. These are harsh chemicals and they will strip most products applied to your clear coat surface. Once you’ve finished using them and washed the area thoroughly you’ll need to reapply wax or sealant to these areas to ensure they are properly protected.

Ceramic coatings however should withstand harsh degreasers and tar removers. You should also find that removing tar, bug guts, and other stuck-on contaminants will come off much easier if you have a ceramic coating. You may still need to use a tar remover in some circumstances but the effort required should be greatly reduced.

Will WD40 remove tar?

Yes it will but it doesn’t work nearly as good, nor is it as cheap as Citrol 266. Last it isn’t water soluble so it is quite difficult to clean from your car as compared to products that are designed to be used to remove bugs and tar from vehicle paint.

Will WD40 hurt car paint?

WD40 will not hurt your car’s paint. In fact it is said that it can help protect it. WD40 isn’t designed to protect car paint and you’d be much better off using a paint sealant. I can’t imagine coating my car in WD40 for the purpose of protecting the paint. I also can’t imagine how much that would cost.


The clear winner for removing tar from your car or truck is Citrol 266.  It’s far more effective than the best dedicated tar remover, it doesn’t damage your clear coat, it is safe to come into contact with trim and rubber if not allowed to sit for extended periods of time, and it’s water soluble which makes it easy to remove. 

This stuff is ideal as a multipurpose cleaner for not only removing tar but sap, bugs, and adhesive. I highly recommend keeping a can handy for detailing needs.

Any time you use any product like this to remove tar, bugs, or other stuck on road debris you’ll want to thoroughly wash your car afterward and reapply wax or paint sealant to the surface. 

These harsh cleaners will strip away protectant you’ve applied along with the tar. They may be safe for your paint but they aren’t safe for the protective coating applied to your vehicle. 

If you have applied a ceramic coating you probably don’t need to reapply it to the area you’ve used the tar remover on. If you had a professional detailer apply a professional grade ceramic coating you probably don’t need to contact them about whether you need to have the spot you applied the tar remover to touched up with a fresh application of ceramic but if you wanted to do so it obviously wouldn’t hurt.

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