This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links.
WD-40 is a popular lubricant that can be used for different tasks around the house, including freeing stuck screws and cleaning gunk off of surfaces. In addition, car owners believe that this lubricant can brighten a dull paint job and remove scratches, bird droppings, tar, and nasty bugs from your hood. But, is WD40 safe to use on car paint?
Well, that’s one of the many issues regarding WD-40 we’ll be discussing in this article. Hopefully, this will help you determine whether you can use WD-40 on car paint or not!
First, What is WD-40?
Developed in 1953, WD-40 is a general-purpose protectant and lubricant that is available in several formulations for a variety of uses. Thanks to its ability to perform various tasks such as loosening rust, lubrication, and displacing.
This chemical solvent was originally designed to get rid of water on metal surfaces. WD-40 stands for Water Displacement 40th formula, after the 39 previous attempts to make the formula.
Therefore, WD-40 is a moisture-displacing penetrative lubricant oil that can be used in almost all items including vehicles and machines.
In addition, this hydrophobic lubricant can be used for other purposes like rust prevention, lubrication, cleaning, and so on. For that, you can use it to solve various problems like cleaning any residues, getting rid of moisture, loosening rusted nut bolts, removing dry and sticky dry compounds, and driving away squeaks and water leaks.
Is WD-40 safe to use on car paint?
Generally speaking, WD-40 is safe to use on car paint since it doesn’t contain anything that will damage or harm the paintwork. Although the exact ingredients of the lubricant are still a trade secret, it’s mainly made from a unique blend of lubricants.
For instance, the formula of this petroleum-based oil consists of various useful; chemical agents like aromatic & aliphatic hydrocarbons and oil.
This makes it an excellent product for fixing up rust and light scratches from your car paint as well as waxing and polishing the paintwork.
Moreover, considering WD-40 is designed to dissolve water, it can help break down the pathways created by scratches on the clear coat finish. In return, this allows you to conveniently buff out the scratches with a polishing compound.
Not to forget that this product is an excellent option for cleaning sticky, hard-to-remove items like tree sap, bugs, and tar from the surface of your car.
What are the ingredients of WD-40?
As mentioned earlier, the exact ingredients of the WD-40 formula remain to be a trade secret. Its formula was not even patented during its invention and the original copy of the formula is in a secure bank vault in San Diego.
Nonetheless, considering the formula has not been altered over the years, we have some ideas as to what its ingredients are. Thanks to the main ingredients displayed on its aerosol can and the enclosures on the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
According to the Material Safety Data Sheets, the WD-40 formula is made up of;
- 2-3 percent of carbon dioxide to make the product a propellant to force the liquid out of the can. Unlike other alternatives like propane or butane, carbon dioxide is less toxic to people and the environment
- About 25 percent of combustible aliphatic hydrocarbons
- About 35 percent of heavy non-toxic paraffin derived from petroleum-based oils
- 45 – 50 percent of an aliphatic hydrocarbon such as kerosene to create a low vapor pressure
In addition, the WD-40 formula contains relatively small C9 – C14 alkanes and mineral oil. For reference, the simplest alkane (methane) has 4 carbons.
With that in mind, the WD-40 formula contains 5 separate alkanes, each performing a different function. For instance, nonane gives WD-40 its incredible water-repelling properties, while decane ensures the formula stays in liquid form at all temperatures by preventing it from freezing until -21 deg F.
Overall, although alkanes are highly flammable, they’re chemically unreactive. As a result, the chemical composition of WD-40 is perfectly safe to use and non-reactive with car paint!
Various uses of WD-40 in car detailing
For starters, WD-40 is a degreaser and a solvent. In addition, it has lubrication properties, but they’re very minimal. Therefore, it shouldn’t be used as an alternative for lubricants on any moving parts.
If you spray a moving part with WD-40, it will end up less lubricated and drier than when you started.
All in all, these properties make WD-40 extremely useful for some applications in the automotive industry and terrible for others. In car detailing, you can use WD-40 to:
Using a solvent doesn’t seem like a great way to repair scratches. Nonetheless, WD-40 is an excellent product for enhancing the appearance of minor scuffs on your car paint. Here’s why!
First, the WD-40 solvent blasts out any powdery residue. This makes it a great option for cleaning the fine, light-colored dust produced when the clear coat is scratched.
And considering WD-40 is a clear-colored lubricant, it will act as a short-term substitute for the clear coat. At the same time, it will moisturize the rough edges and slightly fill the grooves in the car paint finish.
However, this doesn’t mean that WD-40 is a suitable replacement for the clear coat. Instead, it will help to minimize the appearance of light, and surface scratches on your car paint for a short time.
Secondly, if another driver accidentally scraped off their car paint onto your car, you can use WD-40 to effectively remove the additional paint layer. Spray down the entire area with WD40 and let it soak in before wiping it off with a microfiber cloth.
Remove sticky debris
Since WD-40 is primarily a solvent, it’s so effective at breaking down the bonds that hold rusting or jammed-up components tight. In addition, you can use it to get rid of the sticky, unpleasant debris on your car’s exterior.
Similarly, this formula will lubricate and loosen the grip of tree sap, bug guts, and oil on your car’s paintwork.
Advantages of using WD-40 on car paint
WD-40 has many properties that make it a great product to use on car paint.
First, the alkanes and viscous oil spread over the surface when you spray this formula on the car’s paintwork. The hydrocarbons then allow the oil to wick into small areas like the crevices and scratches on the paintwork.
Even better, these hydrocarbons evaporate over time, leaving behind a blend of lubrication oil on the car paint.
Secondly, the WD40 formula contains a mixture of oils and anti-corrosive agents.
These agents replace the topcoat lost through scratches to protect your paintwork. At the same time, the formed layer protects the lower layers of the paintwork, keeping the car paint color vibrant.
Still, on protection, WD40 is an excellent product for protecting your car’s paintwork from getting dirty, thanks to its chemical properties. Not to forget that the same layer that fills in surface imperfection also forms a water-resistance layer.
As a result, grease and bugs will build up at a slower rate than when the WD40 formula is not applied.
In addition, WD40 is excellent at getting rid of grease, dead bugs, bird droppings, and paint transfers that build up on your car’s paintwork. It’s gentle on the car paint surface as you scrub since its formula doesn’t contain any abrasive components.
Drawbacks of WD-40
The only downside of using WD-40 on your car paint is that it contains oils that attract dust, debris, dirt, and other contaminants. As a result, the areas you spray with this formula could end up sticky and dirty.
So, while WD40 will protect the dents and scratches on your car paint for a couple of days, you’ll eventually have to wash it off to get rid of the accumulated dirt & dust.
How to remove WD40 from car paint
As mentioned above, you have to remove all the excess WD40 oil on your car’s surface to prevent it from attracting dust. Unfortunately, removing WD40 will be difficult, especially if you’re using water and plain soap.
Instead, you will need to use a car detergent/ shampoo known as prep/ wax-stripping shampoo to get the job done, thanks to its potent pH formula that penetrates the oil in the car wax and WD-40.
Moreover, car shampoo is stronger than regular shampoo but it will not damage the car paint.
That said, spray the car shampoo over the WD-40 residue and leave it on the car surface for a few minutes. This gives it enough time to break down the WD-40 and other dirt on the car’s surface, except the auto paint.
Now, rinse the car with clean water to get rid of any residue, and dry the surface with a soft cloth.
After removing the WD-40 residue on your car’s surface, the wax that protects it will be removed as well. As a result, your car paint will look dull, indicating that it doesn’t have wax. So, make sure you wax your car immediately after removing the WD-40 residue with stripping shampoo.
In addition, car wax protects the car paint from dirt that can create small scratches in the clear coat and UV rays, thus preventing it from fading. At the same time, car wax protects the paint job from chemicals found in the snow, rain, and other weather elements.
WD-40 is generally safe to use on car paint and clear coat. It’s a great way to remove tree sap, bird dropping, oil, grease, and bumper stickers. In addition, you can use it to fill in small cracks on the car paint surface and polish up your vehicle.
However, this product isn’t designed to be used in this capacity since it contains oils that tend to attract dust. So, after using it to clean the surface of your car paint, remember to remove the solvent and wax the car surface.