How to Protect Your Car on Halloween

Tips for cleaning off holiday tricks

spooky halloween GettyImages-186739635 Photo: Getty Images

Halloween tricks usually start before the holiday, and your car may be the target.

Every October, goblins, ghouls, and pranksters prowl the night and “trick” car owners by hitting their vehicles with eggs, Silly String, smashed pumpkins, and more. If these items are left on car paint too long, they can cause ugly permanent stains that can lower your vehicle’s resale value. (See our smart road tips for Halloween safety.)

Specifically, egg whites, pumpkin guts, bird droppings, bug splatter, and other substances contain acids that can eat into your car’s finish.

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“Just like your car’s mechanical systems, being proactive with your car’s paint finish—by keeping a good coat of wax on your vehicle and quickly removing potentially harmful materials—is the key to a long life,” says John Ibbotson, Consumer Report’s chief mechanic. 

If you drive a newer car, there’s less concern. Over the past decade automakers have developed clearcoat paint specifically designed to resist that type of acid. That means today’s cars are better protected than older models. 

If you drive an older car, there are steps you can take to protect it from Halloween pranks. We compiled these tips from CR experts, car-care companies, an automotive paint supplier, and a professional detail shop. 

  • Wax on. Your best defense against such an attack is a protective coat of wax. Newer ceramic and hybrid products (a combination of traditional wax and ceramic) provide more resilient protection, says a spokesman for Mothers, a car-care product manufacturer. The week before Halloween is a good time to apply a wax. It prepares your vehicle for Halloween threats and can help protect paint from the assault of salt, sand, and road grime that comes along with winter driving in some parts of the country. Consumer Reports has tested traditional car waxes, and the results show that most begin to wear off after only a few weeks. So we recommend waxing even new cars every two or three months, or about once a season.
  • Take cover. If you can, park the car in your garage on Halloween night or use a car cover, available at any car-parts store or online. It’s worth spending a little more to get one that’s lined with a soft material so that it doesn’t scratch your paint. And you’ll want one that can breathe so that moisture doesn’t build up. These covers come in a variety of sizes, and some are shaped specifically for SUVs, pickup trucks, and other vehicles.  
  • Quick rinse. If your car is hit on Halloween night, rinse off any solid residue that can scratch the paint, such as eggshells, as soon as possible. (The heat of the sun speeds up chemical reactions.) A waterless detail spray is a convenient way to spot-clean. Just spritz on and wipe off. Give your vehicle a thorough washing to get rid of any remaining material. If you do it yourself, follow our experts’ car-washing tips.
  • Be prepared. You may need to clean off any small mess quickly. Keep a  small spray bottle of water mixed with a dedicated car-washing soap or detail spray handy. Then, whenever you find a contaminant on your car’s paint—whether it’s bird droppings or something you find the morning after Halloween—you can spray the solution on the car and wipe away the mess with a microfiber towel. Even if you can’t remove it right away, just spraying the solution on the mess will dilute the acid and minimize the damage.
  • Last resort. If a contaminant has had time to set in and cause paint damage but hasn’t eaten completely through the clearcoat layer, wash the area thoroughly and try using a cleaning wax, a product formulated with abrasives that can remove a thin layer of paint to expose the undamaged paint beneath. (Our archived car-wax ratings show which waxes offer the best cleaning and gloss improvement when we last tested.) If the damage extends through the clearcoat and into the color paint or metal, that area will probably need to be repainted.

Washing a car is pretty straightforward, right? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Jen Stockburger reveals the top tips for keeping your ride sparkling clean.