Bye-bye, Bumper Stickers

By Linda Pescatore

August 23, 2011 5 min read

It's a free country, as they say, and we are free to express our opinions. But when those opinions ride on the bumper of your car, they can cost you money when it comes time to sell your vehicle, especially if you're bringing it to a dealer, according to experts who determine used car values.

"Dealers could build an indirect cost of up to $200 into their offer for the time needed to remove the stickers, especially if they plan to retail the car on their lot or if the stickers appear to be offensive," says Scott Braidwood, vice president of vehicle remarketing for CarGroup Holdings.

And don't even think about using stickers to hide body flaws.

"We, like most dealers, will check over the stickers carefully to look for hidden damage and assess accordingly when appraising a car," Braidwood says. "A crack or hole could result in a $375 expense to replace the bumper."

It pays to clean up your carriage, but don't risk damaging your car, your health or the environment in the process. There are a number of products that can be used to remove stickers. Do some research before you buy, because they're not all the same.

No matter what product you use, always read the label and follow directions. Work in a well-lit, well-ventilated area, and avoid direct or prolonged contact with your eyes, mouth and skin.

WD-40 is one of the more commonly used products to remove stickers, because it's safe for most surfaces and its formula is "inherently biodegradable," which means 20 to 60 percent of it will be gone in 28 days, according to Ernest Bernarducci, vice president of research and technology at WD-40 Co.

Some goo removal products will not work on rubber, but WD-40 does. The company says it can remove glue stuck on glass, painted metal, rubber and just about any other surface.

"Being a scientist, I want to cover everything," says Bernarducci, who has a doctorate in chemistry. "I'm certain there'll be surfaces out there it won't work on, but we've yet to hear about that."

Still, because there are so many different surfaces out there, he recommends first testing WD-40 on an inconspicuous place if there's any question.

"On body panels, the paint is so good it is unlikely the paint will come off or be damaged when a decal is removed," says Joe Spina, a senior analyst with automotive information website Edmunds.com.

"There's nothing in (WD-40) that's going to be corrosive," Bernarducci says. "This is a very innocuous formula when it comes to reactivity." In fact, the formula was developed to combat rust and corrosion in the aerospace industry, according to company literature.

Wipe the surface so it's clean and dry. Using a fingernail, peel a corner of the unwanted sticker. Then, as you pull the sticker with one hand, use the other hand to spray WD-40 into the crease where the sticker meets your vehicle. The bond should loosen immediately, allowing the sticker to strip away and take the glue with it. A video on YouTube demonstrates the process (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3z4l1ylMcs).

"From what we've tested in the lab and what we've heard from our customers, the labels that have a more rubbery coating all seem to have the same sort of glue on them, and WD-40 dissolves that glue and takes everything off," Bernarducci says. "A similar glue is used in most bumper stickers and most stickers in general, and that's what WD-40 goes after."

Some decals, such as car pool lane permits that were designed to be tamper-proof, are harder to remove, according to Spina. Also, the longer a sticker has been in place the more resistant to removal it can become. Those stickers may require repeated applications.

There's one other "sticking point," however.

"Bumper stickers can be removed pretty easily, but a dealer may worry about whether the vehicle's paint underneath the bumper sticker will still match the rest of the vehicle's paint," says Richard Arca, pricing manager for Edmunds.com. The rest of the paint could have oxidized or faded, leaving brighter blotches where decals blocked the effects of the sun and weather, necessitating a new paint job.

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