Road film (or traffic film) is the build-up of road dirt, diesel smoke, and other foreign contaminants that a vehicle picks up as it drives down the road. 

It is extremely important to understand what it is so you can clean your fleet without leaving behind a gray overlay or harming the environment.

Here is everything you need to know about road film including the best way to clean it:

How is road film formed?

As a vehicle moves at a high speed, it generates friction & static electricity, forming an electrostatic bond to the pollutants. These pollutants actually bond to your vehicle’s surface like steel shavings to a magnet, which is why they are so difficult to get clean over time.

These contaminants leave a shadowy or gray appearance on the outside of the fleet, dulling the surface and making paint or polish look less glossy. If you wash your vehicle but it still looks dirty, it’s often because there is road film buildup on the paint or metal. 

As trucks move at a high speed they generate friction & static electricity, forming an electrostatic bond to the pollutants that get stuck on its surface. This bond acts like a magnet and makes it incredibly difficult to remove. 

Why does road film need to be removed?

Because the road film can be made up of many different types of contaminants and pollutants, it can cause different types of problems. If there’s a lot of mineral content, it can etch and damage the paint, if there is salt or magnesium chloride, it can easily lead to corrosion and rust, and many other issues outside of looking dirty.

Removing road film is one reason why maintaining a regular fleet washing regimen is important. It also helps:

  1. Save you money - because a clean truck prevents parts from needing to be replaced as often and reduces maintenance costs.
  2. Make them safer to operate - a dirty fleet will deteriorate operational parts faster, which can spell disaster for your drivers.
  3. Build and protect your brand - not only does it prevent your branding decal from being blocked by road film but people trust a company that looks professional and clean.

So how do you remove road film?

When it comes to eliminating road film from your truck fleet, there are two options: 

  1. You could physically pull or brush those “shavings” off the surface of your truck clean.
  2. You could neutralize the magnetic bond and let the shavings fall off by using a 2-Step Washing Process.

When you use a brush, you’re using friction to physically move those contaminants around and detach them from the surface of the vehicle. 

The road film can then be rinsed off, but physical brushing is required to detach all the different kinds of contaminants.

When you use the 2-Step Wash Process, the low pH presoak is applied first and neutralizes the negative charges that are bonded to the vehicle surface. 

By following directly with the high pH soap after, you then neutralize the positive charges that are bonded to the surface. 

Using the chemistry of a low pH and high pH, you neutralize the road film bond and allow it to be easily rinsed off without using any extra physical labor.

What is the better technique: touchless or brushing?

When it comes to removing road film, it’s important to understand the reason it’s so difficult to remove is that each particle is bonded to the surface of your vehicles. 

To remove them properly, you need to neutralize both the positive and negative charges.

That’s why having both an acidic pre-soak and alkaline detergent is so important. The combination of the low pH & high pH solutions is what neutralizes the positive and negative charged road film particles. 

The low pH level in the pre-soak then targets oxidation and other leftover minerals, while the high pH level of the alkaline soap is what attacks the grease, oils, and other carbon-based grime on your vehicles. 

Using a touchless method is also more environmentally friendly because the process neutralizes the runoff from your fleet.

Brushing can also be an effective technique but is extremely inefficient. It could take days to clean an entire fleet and it is highly likely you are damaging your vehicles over time. Brushing is a very rough cleaning method and could result in tiny micro-scratches that damage both your branding detail and paint.

Interested in learning more about the 2-Step Wash Process? 

You can learn more about the 2-step fleet washing process in our blog or speak with one of our specialists to figure out the best combination for your situation.

We’ve helped hundreds of companies clean their fleets at the lowest cost-per-wash for more than 50 years and we can help you too.

We study your fleet washing process, take into consideration the area you operate in, and find the right solution for the job. 

So give us a call today at 616-531-6420 and experience the difference a 2-step wash can make for your business.