After the splat: Cicada collisions keeping car washes content

If you’ve driven a car in the past month or so, chances are you’ve come almost face to face with an unfortunate cicada, heard a splat, and reached for your windshield washer button.

“Cicadas are a pretty big bug. They’ve been under ground for 17 years. If you hit it with your windshield, it’s a big splat of bug guts,” said Mat Bazid, general manager of Flagship Carwash Center, in South Riding, Virginia.

bug remover car wash
Bug removers at Flagship Carwash in South Riding, Virginia. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Even a few squirts of washer fluid, and a half-minute of windshield wiping, usually leaves a hazy residue, Bazid said. Before going through the car wash, you can use a solution labeled Bug Remover, whic his usually  is located right near Wheel Cleaner.

But the highly acidic bugs are potentially more damaging for your car’s paint job, Bazid said.

“Bug guts, if you leave [them] on there for too long, especially during the summertime, the sun is pretty much baking whatever’s on your paint,” Bazid said.

“It eats it away,” he said. “It starts to get under the clear coat; after that it starts rusting away the paint.”

While soap and water from a car wash will clear away residue, Bazid said, upgrading to wax will make it easier to keep your vehicle’s paint safe after the next insect casualty.

“Wax helps protect it,” he said. “Wax is a sealant.”

An influx of cicadas may be unsightly to the exterior of the car, but a bug buildup in the car’s front grill can cause damage.

“It can get in your radiator; it can make your engine overheat,” Bazid said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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