How artificial bird poop keeps your car's paintwork safe

Artificial bird droppings created in a lab help carmakers develop avian-proof paintwork.
Artificial bird droppings created in a lab help carmakers develop avian-proof paintwork.
Image: Supplied

Among their other talents, birds seem to have a sixth sense that identifies freshly-washed cars — and then it’s bombs away.

Having your vehicle struck by bird poop isn’t just annoying, it’s bad for the paintwork, and with so many cars parked at the moment as people stay at home, it’s likely birds are leaving their mark more than usual.

It’s wise to remove the avian droppings before they get too baked on, but Ford says its customers can at least take some consolation in the work it does to keep car paint protected.

André Thierig, manager of Core Engineering Paint, Ford of Europe, says the carmaker’s vehicles are tested for just this eventuality — with the help of artificial bird droppings.

The synthetic poop, developed in a laboratory, is reportedly realistic enough to reflect the differing diets — and subsequent different acidity of droppings — of most birdlife.

Sample pieces are sprayed onto test panels which are “aged” at up to 60° C in an oven, which replicates a car being parked in the sun. It’s an acute test of a paint’s corrosion protection.

The “bird poop test” is just one of the ordeals paint samples are put through. Panels are also oven-tested with phosphoric acid mixed with detergent, and synthetic pollen, in tests that replicate a car being subjected to pollen and sticky tree sap.

Your car’s shiny paintwork can be particularly vulnerable in summer, not only because there tend to be more birds around, but due to paint softening and expanding in higher temperatures. When it cools it contracts and any grime, including bird droppings, attaches itself to the surface. If left on the vehicle, it can leave an impression that requires specialist treatment to remove.

By fine-tuning the pigments, resins and additives that go into making a car’s shiny protective paintwork, specialists can ensure the coating Ford applies to its vehicles has the optimum make-up to resist the impact of these types of pollutants.

How to clean bird poop from your car

Leaving bird droppings on any car is never a good idea. The advice for any car owner is simply to regularly wash your vehicle with a sponge and lukewarm water containing neutral pH shampoo, and gently remove harmless looking substances from the paintwork immediately.

Waxing painted surfaces once or twice a year helps ensure new paint finishes can better resist harshest attacks, while staying shiny for longer.

Lots of testing is carried out to ensure paint on Ford vehicles can withstand environmental threats, but ensuring attacks from bird poop isn’t a problem may be one of the most unusual.