Have you ever noticed contamination, on your Vehicle’s paint? This contamination could be anything from Tree Sap, Bird Droppings, Paint Overspray, Dead Bugs, Tar, Rail Dust, Brake Dust or Industrial Fall-out. If you noticed this contamination, you need to know how to remove it. To remove this contamination, you need a Clay Bar. Right now you’re probably asking, “What Is A Clay Bar?”. In this article, I will answer this very question, and let you know why you need to use a Clay Bar.
In short, a Clay Bar is an Engineered Resin (Engineered Clay) which is slid across a vehicle’s exterior surfaces, to remove contaminants, from your Vehicle’s Metal, Glass, Paint & Fiberglass surfaces.
So What Exactly Is A Clay Bar?
As we mentioned earlier, a Clay Bar is an Engineered Resin (Engineered Clay) which is used to remove contaminants (I.E. Tree Sap, Bird Droppings, Paint Overspray, Dead Bugs, Tar, Rail Dust, Brake Dust & Industrial Fall-out), from your Vehicle’s Metal, Glass, Paint & Fiberglass surfaces. Clay Bars are typically either Synthetic, or Natural, with the Synthetic Type being more prevalent, in today’s marketplace.
They are called Clay Bars because they actually feel like Clay, have high elasticity, and can be stretched, and molded, very easily. This elasticity comes in handy, when we need to mold it around certain shapes, on our Vehicle. All professional detailers use some form of a Clay Bar, to remove these contaminants, from the Vehicle’s they work on. When correctly used, and the contaminants are removed, your Vehicle’s paint will change from physically feeling rough, to feeling very smooth, like Glass.
Since all types of Clay Bars are readily available, to everyone, you don’t need a professional detailer, to remove contaminants, from your Vehicle’s paint.
Why Do We Need to Use A Clay Bar?
I know that we have already discussed that we need to use a Clay Bar, to remove contaminants, on your Vehicle’s many exterior surfaces. At this point, you are probably saying to yourself, “But why do we need to use a Clay Bar on my Vehicle? I’m OK with a rough feel, to my Vehicle’s Exterior Surfaces. Do the contaminants, on my Vehicle’s exterior surfaces, really hurt anything?”.
The problem is that it’s not just about the rough vs. smooth feeling. It’s all about the damage/issues, which the contaminants, on your Vehicle’s exterior surfaces, are causing. When slide your hand, over your Vehicle’s exterior surfaces, you are actually feeling all of the contaminants, which are embedded in your Vehicle’s exterior surfaces. If you don’t remove all of the various contaminants, from your Vehicle’s exterior surfaces, they may cause the following issues:
- Less effective wax coats, which will not last as long, or look as shiny as they should, since the wax will not stick to the contaminated exterior painted surfaces.
- Exterior paint oxidation.
- Exterior paint corrosion.
- Premature exterior paint failure.
- Dull clear coat, due to the contamination blocking how light should reflect off of the clear coat.
- Exterior paint scratching, due to contamination being pulled off with a drying/microfiber towel, which would cause your paint to be scratch, with every wipe of your towel.
We need to use a clay bar, on our vehicle’s exterior surfaces, because of these potential issues. A clay bay is the only thing, which will remove the exterior surface contamination, on your vehicle, without causing even more damage, to your exterior surfaces.
We use the clay bar, to make our vehicle’s exterior surfaces very smooth, and clean, since a very smooth, and clean, surface will attract less dirt, less grime, and will stay cleaner for much, much longer. Using a clay bar will also prep your vehicle’s exterior painted surfaces, for improved wax bond, thus causing the wax to last, and shine, much longer, with each coat.
Does a Clay Bar Harm My Vehicle and How Often Should I Use it?
If you use the clay bar correctly, it is 100% safe, since it is non-abrasive. In fact claying is less abrasive than polishing, or buffing your vehicle, since polishing & buffing can remove a thin layer of paint.
I recommend claying your vehicle at least 2 times per year. However, you can clay your vehicle as many times as you want, as long as you do it correctly.
How Do You Use A Clay Bar?
- Wash & dry your vehicle, to remove as much of the loose surface contaminants, as possible.
- Using Clay Lubricant, spray a small section, of your vehicle (no larger than a 2 foot x 2 foot area). Note, if you do not use clay lubricant, the clay bar will scratch your vehicle!
- Break off about 1/3 of the clay bar, and form it into a small patty shape.
- Gently slide the clay bar patty, back and forth, in 12″ strokes, across the area you just lubricated. You will notice that the clay bar will initially seem to slide a little rougher, as it starts to pull out contaminants. Once the clay slides effortlessly, you know that the area is clean.
- After claying a section, inspect your clay bar for dirt, or debris, which could damage the exterior surfaces of your vehicle. After you use both sides of your patty, you can fold the clay, a couple times, then reform it back into a patty. When you can’t seem to get a fresh surface (I.E. a surface without dirt/debris, feels rough, or seems discolored), toss the clay bar patty in the trash, and break of your next 1/3, of the clay bar, and form it into a patty. (When in doubt, always start with a new piece of clay!)
- Once the area, which you clayed, is super smooth, wipe down the area, with a microfiber towel. If there is any stubborn clay residue, on the vehicle’s exterior surfaces, you can use more clay lubricant, to help remove them, with the microfiber towel.
- After you have removed all clay residue, and lubricant, using your microfiber towel, verify that the section you clayed is super smooth, by running your fingers across the surface. If it feels smooth, you’re all set. If its not smooth, you need to re-clay the area.
- Repeat Steps 1-8, until you have clayed all exterior surfaces (wheels, paint, glass, clear plastic, polished metals, carbon fiber, clear bras, and pretty much any surface, which is clear, or shiny), on your whole vehicle. Note that you should not use clay bars on matte paintwork, vinyl wraps, textured plastic trim, rubber seals & tires.
- When done claying, spray any unused portions of clay, with clay lubricant, and store it, in either its original case, or in a sealed plastic bag/container. Never let your clay freeze, or be stored in temperatures above 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Now that your whole vehicle has been clayed, now is the time to polish your vehicle, if you need to remove surface scratches.
- After polishing your vehicle, if that was necessary, it’s now time to complete the whole process by either waxing your vehicle, or apply a ceramic coating.
Different Grades Of Clay Bars
As mentioned before, Clay bars come in different grades of aggressiveness. Usually you have Light, Medium & Heavy Duty Clay Bars. They also come in different colors, and price ranges, for multiple purposes.
The lighter duty clay bars are gentle, and you will need a little more elbow grease, to clean highly contaminated exterior surfaces. The heavier duty clay bars are more aggressive, and will require much less elbow grease, to clean highly contaminated exterior surfaces.
What I Hope You Get Out Of This Article
I hope that this Article has shown you what an automotive clay bar is. Regularly use, of a clay bar, will help ensure that your vehicle’s exterior surfaces stay smooth, clean, and free from surface contaminants.
Please browse my other articles, to learn more about how to detail your own Vehicle. Please stay tuned, to learn about more topics, tips, tricks, product reviews, etc.! As always, If you have a particular question, or comment, please feel free to ask it below.
Have a Great Day,