Have you hit a cicada while driving 50 mph? The bugs leave a messy splatter mark on your vehicle. And when they collide into your windshield at 60-plus mph, there’s an explosion of bug guts that can give some drivers a scare.

The sticky mess they leave behind on cars is like Elmer’s glue, and it’s tough to clean off. Over time, the gooey bug guts bond to your vehicle’s surface, especially after it’s baked by the sun for a few days. The longer the splatters are left on cars, the more challenging they are to remove.

And in some cases, a vehicle’s clear coat or paint can be damaged.

Fortunately, a recent rainstorm has washed off many of the squished cicada body parts from our cars, but the sunbaked splatters remain and should be cleaned.

So what is the best way to clean splattered cicadas from our vehicles?

For answers, I interviewed Greg Colas, who managed a car body shop for 27 years and detailed cars for an additional four years. My interview with Colas, lightly edited, is below:

Have you found bug guts damage car paint? And what’s the best way to clean off bug splatters?

The acid in bug guts etches a car’s clear coat. The longer it’s there, the deeper it etches. A good carwash soap works well, but it may also require bug and tar remover, followed by a carnauba wax. If the bug debris is deep, I have used a clay block with water to remove it and level the surface.

How do you clean windshields?

On windshields, I use glass cleaner and #00 steel wool.

How do you clean headlights?

I would not recommend using bug and tar removal on plastic headlights. Instead, I use Mothers chrome polish.

How do you clean the bumpers?

I use glass cleaner first and then wash with soap. If the bug guts are still on the surface, you may have to use the bug and tar remover and finally wax and wipe with a soft towel.

Any final tips or thoughts?

One last thing, if someone waits too long, the painted surfaces will have to be wet sanded and buffed out. And that’s expensive!

Cleaning off cicada urine

Note, cicada pee can be as challenging to clean off cars as cicada splatters. Cicada urine is similar to sticky tree sap and can coat your entire vehicle. Avoid parking under trees that have cicada mating activity. You’ll hear the bugs singing above as a warning sign.

The good news for car owners is that by July, cicadas will be gone. As a result, worries about splattered bug guts on vehicles will greatly diminish.

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