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Summer's quickly approaching, and for a vast part of the US, that means the bugs are coming back and construction barrels will blossom for road construction. In turn, cars will soon be ridden with bugs that met their unfortunate end with the vehicle's front end, and tar will inevitably find a way all over the paint clear coat as crews patch potholes born from winter.

Thankfully, we can help you get rid of all the bug splatter, tar spots and stubborn stains mucking up your car paint with our top picks for bug and tar removers. All of these cleaner choices are based on our first-hand experience with each product. Make sure to read on afterwards for our choices, followed by tips on how to use the products the right way.

McKee's 37

Hands down, this is the best bug and tar remover if you can swing the money for a bottle. Better yet, buy a big 128-ounce jug so you have it to last a very long time. McKee's 37 Road Kill Bug Remover, in our experience, makes removing any bug stain, nasty bug guts and baked-on tar spots as simple as spraying, waiting and wiping the product off with a microfiber towel.

You can even add some of the cleaning product to your favorite bucket of car wash soap and water to make Road Kill Bug Remover even better. No matter how you use it, this is, by far, our favorite bug and tar remover.

McKee's 37

We liked McKee 37's spray product so much, we wanted to try what may even be a simpler product to use -- its Road Kill Bug Scrubber. It just requires you to dunk it in some warm, soapy water filled with car wash soap. We're happy to report it works really darn well removing bug splats and tar residue, just like the Road Kill Bug Remover spray, it removes bugs with ease.

This bug sponge scrubber did not leave any trace marks of scratching on paint clear coat in our experience, even on a black car, and it scrubbed off contaminants like dried bug guts and bird droppings with ease. If you don't actually want to add another spray bottle of detailing product to your arsenal, keeping a couple of these on hand is a great choice.

Stoner Car Care

One facet some bug and tar remover products overlook is tree sap. Tree sap is a whole different ball game if you don't get the pesky goop off your car's paint job quickly. Once it hardens on your paint's clear coat, it can be a real pain. Stoner Car Care's Tarminator cleaner does a good job handling the removal of bugs and tar from a car, but we found it very effective in removing hardened tree sap that fell on our now-departed long-term BMW 330i. In this respect, you get a very good three-in-one spray product for the money.

The product's on sale for $6, even less expensive than our pick for a cheap bug and tar remover, so grab it while it lasts. It normally costs $11.

3D

We're fans of a lot of 3D products here, and 3D's Bug Remover spray lives up to the quality its other products display when we've used them to keep the Roadshow fleet looking fresh. We specifically like that it's safe on a number of surfaces, including the car's paint, glass, plastic and headlights. It's easy to use at that, so you can't go wrong with 3D to clean nearly every car surface you can think of.

Turtle Wax

If you need something slightly more affordable cleaner spray that just gets the job done with a little more elbow grease, Turtle Wax's Power Foam Bug & Tar Remover does the trick. It does exactly what the label says, but in our experience, just requires a little more product and some more oomph on our end to scrub contaminants off of car paint. Still, for the price, this Turtle Wax bug and tar stain remover is a solid option.

Comparison of the best bug and tar removers for 2021

Best bug and tar remover for cars Brand Name Price
Overall McKee's 37 Road Kill Bug Remover $16
Scrubber McKee's 37 Road Kill Bug Scrubber $13
For tree sap Stoner Car Care Tarminator $6
Multisurface 3D Bug Remover $13
Cheap Turtle Wax Power Foam Bug & Tar Remover $8

Tips for using bug and tar remover

  • Dilute as needed: Make your paint cleaner product last if the manufacturer OKs the practice. For example, our top pick, McKee's 37, can be diluted 1:1 with water.
  • Follow instructions for best results: It may seem like spraying and wiping is all you have to do to remove tar and to remove bug messes, but some products ask you to be a little patient to let them do their job. If so, let the cleaner sit awhile before wiping it off paint with a microfiber cloth and it'll perform its grime and bug removal job on your beloved chariot.
  • Work in a shady area and make sure the surface is cool: It's as simple as that. You don't want to use these cleaner products on hot surfaces. They just won't work like they are supposed to, or could leave nasty results behind on paintwork.

  • Rid bugs and tar as soon as possible: Leaving junk like bug residue, bird droppings and tar spots on paint for a long time will only make them that much harder to get off. Plus, bugs that bake on paintwork can actually leave permanent damage behind.

Be bug and tar free with these Roadshow-approved products

Each of our bug and tar removal picks work well, and we think we have something for everybody who has to deal with smashed bugs, grime and tar on their road journeys. Pick your favorite and rest easy knowing bugs don't stand a chance.

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