It was as if the bird knew that my new car cover was on the way and it was his last chance. Yep, you guessed it, I parked my car outside for a fun day in the sun, and when I came back the whole hood of my car was slaughtered. It looked like a B-52 bomber dropped its load. I was imagining a crusty old seagull with aviator goggle, a scarf around his neck, and the call sign "B1RD" stenciled on his side. What a mess!
What really kills me is that my cars have never been pooped on when the car cover is on. Not once in 30+ years! How is it the birds know? What a mess!
Living by the ocean most of my life, I know first hand that one of the most dreaded car care problems we face is the bird. Birds in the air are beautiful to watch fly, but vile to our car's finish. A bird's droppings can quickly cause damage to your paint. I know, because it has happened to me multiple times!
Bird droppings are very acidic (pH 3.5 to 4.5). When bird droppings fall on your paint, the acid begins to burn and etch the paint's surface. The longer the bird droppings remain, the greater the damage.
I've had bird bomb incidents (I live by the ocean, so it's inevitable!) that have created damage as deep as 1 to 2 mils. To give you an idea of what that means, notebook paper is approximately 2 mils of thickness. Your car's paint is only 4 to 6 mils thick.
The result of bird dropping damage is a dimple in the paint surface, often as large as an inch or more in diameter. The damage is permanent, but is easily repaired or minimized.
Repairing Bird Poop Damage
The only way to repair the damage caused by bird droppings is to polish the paint. You must use the polish to blend the surrounding paint, bringing it down to the same level as the damaged area. This may sound drastic, but it works very well. To do the job properly, you will be a dual-action car polisher, like the Porter Cable 7424XP.
The only concern when making these surface repairs is that you're making the paint thinner. You need to be very careful not to polish all the way through to the clear coat (or color coat if you have a traditional two-stage paint).
Let me repeat. If you sand or polish too much you will have a more noticeable problem than the one the bird left behind. So be careful! Error on the side of a conservative repair.
If the paint damage is larger than a 1" diameter, you might want to consider using 3000 grit wet and dry sand paper to pre-level the damaged area. Follow with a fine-cut compound, like Meguiar's Ultimate Compound, to re-glaze the finish. If the damage area is not too large, the Meguiar's Ultimate Compound alone should handle the problem.
In most cases you won't be able to make the repair by hand. If you don't have a car polisher, but you have a drill, you can use a 4-inch Spot Pad Kit to help make the repair. The process is the same. Here are the steps:
- Wash your car to remove the bird poop and other loose dirt. Dry thoroughly and bring your car into the garage or a shaded area.
- Soak a 2" x 4" piece of 3000 grit sand paper in a bucket of water for 10 to 15 minutes. Add several drops of car wash soap to the water for lubrication.
- Wrap the sanding paper around a 2" flat rubber erasure to use as a sanding block. It is important to keep the sanding paper perfectly flat on the paint surface.
- Wet the area to be sanded and lightly sand for several seconds. Dry and check your work. When the damaged area is nearly leveled (as seen in the image above), stop sanding.
- Use a 4" foam spot pad designed for "light cutting" attached to your car polisher or a drill motor with Meguiar's Ultimate Compound to re-glaze the finish.
- If full gloss is not completely restored, use a fine finishing polish such as Klasse All-In-One to finish the job.
Preventing Bird Poop Damage
While it's not really possible to keep birds from bombing your car with their dirty little surprises, you can take steps to limit the damage. The most obvious protection is a car cover. To limit the damage when you get hit, you need to remove the offending slime as quickly as possible. Don't wait. Get it off of your car.
I've found the best way to clean up after a bird is with a good quick detailing spray and a soft towel. As I'm a clean car fanatic, I keep a little detailing kit in the trunk of my car. It holds a bottle of quick detailing spray, a couple of towels, and my favorite rubber and vinyl dressing. That's all it takes for me to keep the car looking great. When a bird gets me, I spray the bird droppings with a few shots of detailing spray and wipe it off with the towel, turning the towel as necessary to keep a clean wipe on the car.
Another way to protect your paint from bird damage is to keep your car waxed. While wax offers limited protection against a juicy attack, it makes cleanup much easier. You still need to remove the mess as quickly as possible. Don't let it sit there for days and days. If you do you'll be sorry!
If you own a nice car but don't have a garage, I recommend a car cover. It will protect your car from more than just the birds.
Next in our Paint Repair Clinic Series: How-to Remove Water Spots.