Fake Poop!

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Ford uses artificial bird droppings to keep its paintwork in top shape.

While getting struck by bird poo may be a sign of good luck in many countries, bird poo landing on your car can have more serious implications – for your paintwork. Ford says its vehicles are tested for just this eventuality – with the help of artificial bird poo.

The laboratory-developed synthetic droppings are so realistic that they can accurately reflect the differing diets – and subsequent different acidity of droppings – of most of the birdlife in Europe. Applied to test panels as a spray, sample pieces are aged at 40° C, 50° C and 60° C in an oven to replicate customer use in extreme heats, pushing the paint corrosion protection to its limits. The “bird poo test” is just one of the ordeals paint samples are put through. They also spray phosphoric acid mixed with soap detergent, and synthetic pollen on panels before ageing them in ovens at 60° C and 80° C for 30 minutes. The test guards against airborne particulates such as pollen and sticky tree sap.

Spring and summer can be particularly dangerous for paint as not only are there often more birds about, but paint can also soften and expand under intense sunlight. When it cools it contracts and any grime, including bird droppings, attaches itself to the surface. If left on the vehicle, it can leave a permanent 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, no matter what the weather.

Bird poo is often white and black, but it’s not all poo. The white part is uric acid and is the bird equivalent to urine, formed in the urinary tract. The actual droppings are made in the digestive system and while both can be secreted at the same time, it happens with such speed that the two don’t have time to mix.

Other tests for paint samples include being bombarded non-stop with ultraviolet light for up to 6,000 hours (250 days) in a light lab – simulating five years in the brightest place on earth – to evaluate outdoor weathering; getting frozen in sub-zero temperatures; being exposed to harsh winter road grime in a high humidity salt chamber and subjection to simulated fuel staining from vehicle service station over-fuelling. 

Leaving bird poo on any car is never a good idea. Ford’s advice 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.

André Thierig, manager, Core Engineering Paint, Ford of Europe: “With so many cars parked up at the moment as people stay at home, it’s likely birds are leaving their mark more than usual. It’s wise to remove it before it gets too baked on, but our customers can at least take some consolation in the work we do to keep their paint protected”.

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About Author

Michael Sheridan

Michael is Motorhub's Editor. Well known from TV and radio, Michael has been writing, presenting and judging cars since the mid 90's. He is a renowned Producer/Director and documentary film maker. Dozens of credits include: The Whole Way Round (Gay Byrne), The Shamrock Run (Alan Shortt), The Viking Run (Clodagh McKenna) and The Irish 66ers (David Mitchell) and The Climb for Kids (Colin Farrell). Print credits include: the RTE Guide (motoring editor 1999-2003), many national daily papers and Sundays including The Irish Times (freelance) plus other magazines. National radio credits include multiple at RTE Gerry Ryan show, the Mooney Show, The Dave Fanning Show, Drivetime etc. TV credits as a motoring expert include RTE's flagship current affairs show Primetime and TV3's Ireland AM. Michael also presented RTE's car show Drive! in the late 90s and directed some items in MPH2 on TG4. Michael contributes weekly on motoring issues to The Last Word show with Matt Cooper on Today FM. Michael has represented Ireland's motoring journalists in Motorsport at the International Mazda MX-5 endurance race series in Italy and the Arctic Ice Race. He has been a Car of the Year Judge for 20 years, more recently a judge for Van of the Year. Michael is a former Chairperson of the Association of Professional Motoring Press (APMP).

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