How to Remove Black Spots on Car Paint (Easy Tar Removal Guide)

If you’ve noticed tiny black spots particularly on the lower areas of your car, you’re not alone. Pretty much every car I detail has them to some degree so in this article I’ll be:

  • Explaining what they actually are and how they form
  • How to remove them easily
  • How to prevent them from forming

What are the Black Spots on the Car’s Exterior Surfaces?

The black spots that accumulate on a car’s paintwork and wheels are tar deposits. These tar deposits are typically present on the lower sections of the car, particularly behind the wheels and on the rear bumper.

The tar spots are typically most visible on white cars and other light colors but they will accumulate on all vehicles. It’s unlikely that you’ll see the tar deposits on areas such as the roof, bonnet and higher up on the doors, but not impossible.

They can be various sizes, although most will be very small and difficult to see unless you closely inspect the paintwork.

Here are some examples of tar spots.

What Causes These Tar Spots?

Tar deposits accumulate on a car’s wheels and paintwork when driving on freshly laid roads, or in very hot weather when the road surface is softer and small bits of the road surface are more likely to be kicked up onto the paintwork by the tyres.

When these deposits from the road surface make contact with the paintwork or wheels, they usually stick very hard and quickly as they harden again.

Technically, most roads are actually made from bitumen or asphalt instead or tar, but these deposits are usually referred to as tar spots in the detailing industry. This is because most people refer to the process of laying down a road as “tarring a road”.

How to Remove Black Tar Spots

Tar spots cannot usually be removed by routine washing of the car as they stick to the paintwork and wheels very strongly. However, they can still be quite easily removed using a specialist chemical.

The easiest way to remove tar spots on a car is by using a tar remover spray. These chemicals soften the tar deposits so they can be easily rinsed or wiped away.

Here are some popular tar removers:

  • Garage Therapy Tar Remover
  • Stjarnagloss Tjara
  • Gtechniq W7

I’d always recommend following the manufacturer’s specific guidelines on using any detailing product, but here is a general guide to using tar removers:

  • Wash the car thoroughly using car shampoo (not household cleaners/ dish soap) and dry using a soft microfiber towel.
  • Spray the tar remover onto the affected area. Do not apply in direct sunlight or on warm/ hot surfaces.
  • Allow the tar remover to soften the tar spot and dwell for the recommended period of time (usually 2-5 minutes). Do not allow the chemical to dry or this can cause staining.
  • Gently wipe the tar spot away using a soft microfiber towel, or rinse the surface.
  • Wash the area again with car shampoo to remove product residue.

In this image you can see the tar remover start to dissolve these tar spots.

In some cases, the tar spot may require multiple hits of the tar remover to soften it. Do not scrub at the paintwork to try and remove it, just keep repeating the steps above and be patient and gentle in your approach.

It’s vital that you do not apply the tar remover to warm or hot surfaces, or allow it to dry out, or dwell for longer than recommended. This is because most tar removers are solvent-based so can start to dissolve the clear coat paint if used improperly.

Using a Clay Bar?

Clay bars will remove tar spots, however I would advise using a dedicated tar spot remover spray instead. This is because clay will mar/ swirl the paintwork to some degree and requires more effort to remove tar spots. Check out my article on this topic to learn more.

Can Tar Spots Be Prevented?

It is difficult to prevent tar deposits from accumulating on a car’s paintwork and wheels because it is highly dependent on what types of roads it is being driven on, and how hot the road surface is. Hence, it’s inevitable that tar deposits will appear on the car over time.

Since the tar spots harden on the paintwork quite quickly, they are usually not removed by routine washing. However, in some cases the tar spots will be removed during a regular wash if they are quite fresh. This is why I’d advise washing your car every couple of weeks ideally.

It’s also a good idea to keep the paintwork protected using a wax or sealant in order to make these tar spots less likely to stick and easier to remove if they do latch on.

Check out my complete guide to washing a car for the best products and techniques to keep your vehicle in tip-top condition.

Noticed orange spots on your car as well? Check out my guide to removing and preventing these orange rust spots.



Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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