How to Clay Bar: Detail Clay and Your Car

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By Robert Roundtree

How to get a Glossy Finish

How to get a Glossy Finish

I think the best arsenal in our tool kit as a detailer is the clay bar.  Many people are not familiar with what detailing clay is and what it can do.  It was originally reserved for professional detailers and car dealerships, but it is slowly making it’s way into the hands of the public because of its fantastic results and ease of use.  Auto detailing clay removes from the paint what washing alone cannot.  If after washing your car thoroughly it still looks hazy, feels rough, or gritty then it needs to be clayed.  We will discuss how to clay your vehicle and some of the do’s and don’t associated with detailing clay to give your car that amazing, shiny finish it had when you bought it.

You may be wondering, “What is detailing clay and why would I use it?”  It is similar to the silly putty you played with as a child only more elastic and durable.  As you slide the bar across the surface of your car it will adhere to and remove the contaminants bonded to your clear coat.  Commonly customers complain that their cars are dull or “stuff” is stuck on them.  Claying your car will remove overspray from painting, break dust, organic contaminants like bugs and sap, and inorganic contaminates like acid rain and carbon build-up.  Unlike most compounds and solvents, detailing clay is safe to use on glass, chrome, vinyl, and fiberglass.

While you will find various brands there are essentially two main varieties of detailing clay, medium and fine grade.  Medium grade clay, also called aggressive clay, will remove the wax and anything else bonded to your clear coat.  While it is completely safe and non-abrasive it should not be used more then a few times per year.  Fine grade clay bars were made for a more general use on a month-to-month basis.  They will still remove surface contaminants but will often leave some wax behind.  Detailing clay comes in 2 to 8 ounce bars.  Two ounces is enough to do a car three or four times depending on how contaminated it is.  Regardless of the type of detailing clay it must be used with a lubricant.  Clay lubricant is what prevents scratches while the clay bar is rubbed over the surface of the car.

The best detail of detailing clay is its ease of use.  Before you clay bar your car you must wash off any excess dirt and debris and then dry it.  Avoid using soap and water with a clay bar because it will deteriorate the clay and diminish its results. Knead the clay to form a small, fist-sized pancake.

Once your car is clear of excess dirt, you are ready to clay your car.  Spray a small area with clay lubricant, generally less then a 2-foot by 2-foot section at one time.  With minimal pressure, gently rub the clay bar back and forth over the surface with the lubricant.  It will grab at first; this is the clay pulling the contaminants out of the paint.  Be sure the surface is sufficiently wet with lubricant as you glide the bar back and forth.  Once the clay bar glides freely the area is clean.  Wipe the clean surface with a microfiber to remove any excess clay or lubricant.

Now when you run your hand over the surface it should feel silky smooth.  If you hand grips, sputters or if you feel any specks repeat the process.  Proceed to do the entire outside surface of the vehicle in the same manner.  After doing a panel of the car or a particularly contaminated area fold the clay over on it self and knead into a small pancake again.  Since the clay will remove your wax once your vehicle is done being clayed it will need to be waxed.  Now is a great time to apply a high polymer-sealant wax that will last and help keep your vehicle looking great for some time.

While detailing your car with detailing clay is relatively easy and requires little work, it does take several hours.  This is why most people would prefer to have their local auto detailer do it for them.  Detailing clay and it’s required lubricant can be found at auto detailing stores or bought online.  If you are a do-it-yourselfer once you have those to items all you need is time to make your vehicle shine like it did when it came off of the show room floor.

About the Author
Robert Roundtree is the owner and operator of Gainesville Detailing located in Gainesville, FL- USA. To learn more about their business and services, visit www.gainesvilledetailing.com .

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  • By Clear Coat & Tips to its Restoration 11 Mar 2014

    [...] ever touching the paint with ant type of polisher it must be cleaned and clayed first. A clay bar will remove environmental debris or industrial fallout that simple washing can not remove. Your [...]

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