It Still Runs is the go-to destination for all things cars. From motors to radiators and everything in between, we've got you covered.


How to Remove Adhesive From Auto Paint

by Kay Phillips

Adhesive on the finish of your car left over from stickers, removed or lost trim, or even an accident can be difficult to remove cleanly without damaging the paint. All it takes is a little time and some deliberate care, and most adhesives can be removed without damage to the finish.

Step 1

Wash the area you are removing the adhesive from to remove all surface dirt. This will prevent you from rubbing abrasive contaminants into the paint.

Step 2

Remove any excessively thick remnants or broken trim using the flexible rubber-edged scraper so that the adhesive remover can work better. Don't scrape too hard, or you may damage the paint.

Step 3

Fold the clean all-cotton rag or microfiber detailing cloth into quarters to give a nice cushion and thickness to hold in the adhesive remover.

Step 4

Pour enough adhesive remover onto the folded cloth to dampen it moderately over about 1/4 of the folded cloth surface area.

Step 5

Apply the dampened cloth to the area and hold it there for five seconds. If the adhesive area is a thin residue as from a sticker, it won't need long to loosen the adhesive and release its bond. Thicker amounts of adhesive, foam, paper or vinyl attached with the adhesive may take a bit longer to penetrate.

Step 6

Gently wipe the adhesive-covered area in a circular motion with the cloth to lightly agitate the surface. Rotate the cloth to a clean area when needed, and remove all of the adhesive. The more the adhesive remover is allowed to work, the less you will need to rub.

Step 7

Wash and dry the area where the adhesive was removed to remove any residue and evaluate if the adhesive was fully removed. If not, repeat the removal process.

Wax the area with your favorite automotive wax to protect the recently cleaned finish.


  • The best product to use for removal of these adhesives is a true automotive adhesive remover that is designed to be safe to the surface. Other substances may give undesired results and may make adhesive removal more difficult.
  • After removing the adhesive, if there is a discoloration to the paint finish, use an automotive paint polish or paint cleaner & polish product before waxing. If the finish is older, you may find that the discoloration is from the rest of the paint fading and the area that was covered by the sticker is actually the true color. In such cases, mild variations in paint color can be corrected by using a polish or paint cleaner & polish product on the entire finish of the vehicle.
  • Some examples for scrapers are: flexible plastic body filler spreaders, plastic window film squeegees and surfboard wax scrapers that typically have a hard rubber edge.


  • Work in a well-ventilated area.

Items you will need

  • Clean, 100% cotton rag or microfiber detailing cloth 10" x 10" or larger
  • Flexible rubber-edged scraper
  • 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner
  • Protective gloves (Optional, but recommended)

More Articles