Spring is in the air, and with this season brings buds blooming in vibrant colors, songful birds chirping charming melodies and an end to heavy winter coats as the cold nights give way to warm, sun-filled days ahead.

As the flowers flourish and the weather heats up, springtime also welcomes droves of bugs. Although insects are a source of immense irritation for many people, they often have quite the opposite effect on carwash owners and operators, creating the perfect opportunity to amplify revenue during the spring and summer seasons.

If you own/operate a car care business, ‘tis the season to start promoting bug removal services.

Avoid the sting

In the spring and summer months when bugs are left on a vehicle in warm temperatures, the [hot] surface will evaporate most of the liquid bug contents and concentrate the acidic remnants,” explain Dyche Martin, district sales manager, and Andrew Landa, director of research and development, for Zep Vehicle Care. “If the bugs are not removed quickly, they will become much more difficult to remove; and, the acid will start to dissolve the clear coating — and can eventually eat into the vehicle’s paint. Over time, the bugs’ proteins will form stronger bonds with the underlying surfaces as well.”

To help reduce chances of damage to a vehicle’s surface, says Ron Fausnight, technical manager of chemicals and appearance products for Rain-X, it’s imperative to regularly remove bug splatter, making sure to not give the insects time to bake onto the surface.

“Bugs feed on many different things that will cause damage to a vehicle when the surface is very hot,” concurs Jeff Nevils, eastern zone manager for Auto Magic Professional Car Care Products. “The residue can bake into the exterior areas and cause imperfections that cannot be removed.”

With hordes of insects smacking onto fast-moving cars scattered about neighborhood streets and busy highways, carwashes must make sure their customers know the importance of bug removal and the damaging effects these pesky critters can have on their vehicles, assert Martin and Landa.

Not only can they damage a vehicle’s appearance, as mentioned, but bugs can also affect visibility of the driver and reduce the light output of the headlights, which can jeopardize the safety of everyone in the vehicle, states Fausnight.

“Focus on safety and protection [when advertising bug removal services]. Bug removal improves driving visibility, which ultimately makes driving safer,” he continues. “It also prevents permanent damage to the surface of the car, protecting the life of the vehicle’s appearance.”

Bring on the bugs

When it comes to performing a high-quality bug removal service without causing damage to the vehicle, a critical first step is to make sure the surface(s) of the vehicle is cool, says Nevils, noting one of the biggest pitfalls of bug removal is applying chemicals to a hot surface.

“Never spray chemicals on a hot surface [because] various harsh chemicals (butyl-based) could cause the paint or chrome to discolor or fade,” he explains. “Always cool the surface before applying any chemical.”

However, perhaps most importantly, be cautious of the vehicle surface you are treating. For instance, states Fausnight, never use paper towels on paint or chrome, which can cause scratches. In addition, adds Nevils, never use steel wool or hard bristle brushes to remove insects, which can also damage the vehicle.

Moreover, as mentioned, bugs left on a car for a long period of time may cause imperfections to the paint. “Avoid applying high-pressure washers to these areas as the pressure from the wand could cause the clear [coating] or paint to be peeled off when the water penetrates the affected areas,” asserts Nevils. “Always evaluate the affected areas before performing any procedure to determine what application is needed to [remove] the bugs.”

After adequately assessing the bug splatter, it’s time to consider which insect removal product to use.

Spring into bug removal

Choosing the right chemical will depend on various factors, such as the type of vehicle surface(s) being treated and how long the bug remains have been baking on the car.

Plastic surfaces on a car, for instance, may become more porous or oxidized over time, which allows bug remnants to easily stick to these surfaces, making them much more difficult to remove, explain Martin and Landa. However, they continue, the right bug remover can penetrate into these insect remains, loosening up their bond with any type of vehicle surface.

“Effective bug removers neutralize localized spots of concentrated organic acids and can quickly penetrate and loosen the physical chemical bonds between the bug remains and the vehicle’s surface,” note Martin and Landa.

On the other hand, solvents that are too harsh may damage a vehicle’s surface, says Fausnight. “Many [harsh chemicals] can soften paint and plastic and may be difficult to wash away,” he continues. “Use a product specifically designed for bugs that allows you to wipe them away gently and rinse cleanly.”

Once you select the right chemical, it’s time to battle the stuck-on insects. Fausnight recommends treating the bug splatter before washing the car, “which allows maximum contact between the chemical and the insect residue.”

Martin and Landa agree. “Timely pretreatment of the vehicle’s surface with specially formulated bug removers will provide effective removal of this challenging organic soil, leaving a clean car that is ready for additional surface care,” they add.

Following pretreatment, the carwashing process should effectively remove both the bug residue and the removal product used, continues Fausnight.

Even so, to deliver the best results Martin and Landa suggest carwash owners and operators consider several factors, including:

  • How to best apply the product
  • The dilution of the product
  • Dwell time
  • Ambient temperature
  • The temperature of the car
  • The speed of the wash process.

With so many components to keep in mind, proper education of not only the carwash employees but the customers as well is key.

Get the buzz going

Bad reviews spread faster than insects on rotten food, so making sure customers are accurately informed is vital. A big part of customer education includes how a carwash markets its bug removal services.

According to the experts we interviewed for this article, signage and menu boards can go a long way when advertising these services. Also, service writers and videos at pay stations, note Martin and Landa, can help customers better understand why and how insect removal is performed.

Furthermore, asserts Nevils, “A menu, flyer, video loop, etc. [can] show the customer what could happen to the exterior components if bug residue is not removed.”

Make sure customers fully understand why bug splatter matters. Get the buzz going for your carwash by upselling bug removal services during the warmer months of the year.