Auto Detailing 101: How To Use A Clay Bar
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You probably heard of clay bars or auto detailing clay and what it can do for your vehicle. There are a lot of misconceptions about the benefits of using a clay bar. This article will shed light on how to use a clay bar, what it can do for your vehicle, and how often to clay bar a car.
What Is A Clay Bar?
Clay bar or auto detailing clay is an easy and non-abrasive way to remove surface contaminants on automotive paint. Clay bar is not unlike the Clay Doh you used to play with as a kid. However, auto detailing clay bar is more elastic than play clay.
Clay bar is manufactured from an engineered resin compound. It is not only good for paint. It can also clean and remove contaminants from glass, metal, and fiberglass.
How Does A Clay Bar Work?
Paint is not immune to brake dust, deep-seated dirt, contaminants, rail dust, and industrial fallout. Unlike ordinary dirt, contaminants can literally pierce the clear coat in the paint and cannot be removed by washing alone. Auto detailing clay is designed to pick up or pull out the surface contaminants from the paint without harming or scratching the finish.
But it can’t do it alone. Rubbing a clay bar on paint requires constant lubrication. For this, you can use clean water if you’re looking to save some cash. But in order to achieve professional results, you’ll also need clay lubricant.
The lubricant will help the clay to glide smoothly over a dirty surface. It also prevents the contaminants from scratching the paint.
What Are The Types Of Clay Bars?
There are two types of clay bars in the market today: medium-grade and fine-grade detailing clay. The former is more abrasive and can remove the wax from the paint. This type of clay is designed to be used no more than once or twice a year and is ideal for deep-cleaning the paint prior to waxing. A fine example is the Wolfgang Poly Clay Kit. This kit even comes with clay lubricant and a set of microfiber towels!
On the other side of the spectrum is fine-grade detailing clay. This type of clay is safe to use regularly on paint and will not remove wax. My favorite is the Pinnacle Ultra Poly Clay and the Chemical Guys Clay Bar and Luber Kit. Both kits are great for auto enthusiasts and are gentle enough to provide a deep clean without removing the protective layer of wax on the paint.
How Will I Know If My Car Needs To Be Treated With Auto Detailing Clay?
Easy. After washing and drying the vehicle, run your hand over the hood or roof of the vehicle. If the surface feels rough or gritty, it means contaminants have embedded themselves deep into the surface of the clear coat. It also means it’s time to whip out that clay bar for a thorough cleaning!
Another way to do it is to use a clear plastic bag. Simply put a plastic bag or sandwich bag over your hand. Rub your hand lightly over the paint and see if you can feel rough parts in the paint.
Do I Need To Polish Or Wax After Using A Clay Bar?
It depends. At the very least, waxing should be the final step after using a clay bar. This will help to fill up the microscopic peaks and valleys left behind after pulling out the contaminants from the paint.
The general rule is to always use a clay bar prior to polishing and waxing the paint. You don’t necessarily have to polish the paint after using a clay bar, but you may need to reapply some wax to achieve the desired finish.
But then again, it really depends on the condition of the paint.
How To Use A Clay Bar
Here are the easy steps on how to use a clay bar.
Step 1: Wash the vehicle with clean water and car shampoo. It is best to start with a clean finish. Dry the vehicle thoroughly before using a clay bar.
After washing and drying the vehicle, you are ready to use a clay bar. For this, you can use clay lubricant, plain water, or a mixture of water and car shampoo.
Step 2: Grab a small amount of clay and knead it into a flat, oval shape. You only need around 2 oz. of clay to clean two to three vehicles. If you have a larger clay bar, cut it in half and keep the other half for future use.
Spray the lubricant on a small section of the paint. It doesn’t matter if you’ll be using water, clay lubricant, or car shampoo. The trick is to wet the surface thoroughly before rubbing the clay bar in the paint. Start by treating the upper sections of the vehicle such as the hood, roof, and trunk before moving to the lower sections.
Step 3: Rub the clay bar in an up-down and left-right motion to pick up the dirt and debris on the paint. If the surface begins to dry, spray or apply more lubricant.
Step 4: Wipe the area clean with a dry microfiber towel. Check the treated surface for smoothness. If it still feels rough, spray more lubricant and repeat the process.
Step 5: After cleaning a particular section of the vehicle, check the clay for contaminants. Knead the clay to reveal a fresh and clean surface before proceeding to the next section.
Step 6: If the clay falls to the ground or if the clay is excessively dirty, throw it away. You don’t want to risk scratching or swirling the paint with dirty clay.
Step 7: Repeat steps 2 to 5 until the entire vehicle is clean.