A clay bar is a special type of clay that is used to maintain the good look of car paint, glass, fiberglass or metal. Funny enough, this material is actually not made of clay; rather, it consists of a synthetic resin that is malleable and elastic in nature. It’s popularly referred to as auto detailing clay.
The main function of clay bars is to clean hard-to-remove dirt that cannot easily be removed from car surfaces like windows, mirrors, and the painted parts through normal washing. A top feature that enables these bars work so effectively is their elastic consistency which gives them the ability to pull out contaminants such as rail dust, brake dust, industrial fallout, tree sap, bird droppings, bug residue, tar, and paint overspray without harming your car’s surface. Besides, they’re easy to work with since you can stretch, squeeze, flatten, roll, or mold them to your desired form.
Different Clay Bar Grades
The type of clay bar grade you choose mainly depends on the contaminants and paint that you’re to remove using the clay.
There are three different grades based on their aggressiveness.
1. Fine Grade
These bars are usually the simplest to use and the least aggressive. As such, they’re best suited for lightly contaminated finishes as they will hardly work well when used to remove tough contaminants such as sap or overspray. Cars that are clayed on a regular basis will only require simple touches using this grade.
2. Medium Grade
This type is designed for cleaning cars as well as removing most overspray. They are more aggressive, firmer, and denser which means they’re capable of dealing with most stubborn debris and contaminants that fine clay would find difficult to remove.
3. Heavy Grade
This is the most aggressive of all grades of clay bars discussed here and as such, you’ll seldom need to use it unless you’re dealing with extremely stubborn contaminants or overspray. It works best on glass and metal wheels since they often have hard surfaces. Due to its aggressiveness, it’s advisable that you first try out the light and medium grades before you can resort to using it.
When to use clay bars
Conducting contaminant removal at least once annually is enough; however, if the surfaces’ degree of exposure to contaminants is high, claying should be carried out more times. Carry out the cleaning immediately you detect significant accumulation of dirt and other contaminants.
An ingenious way to test whether to clay your car or not is by running your finger over its surface. If it feels gritty, then it probably needs to be clayed.
Steps to follow when using auto detailing clay bars
- Give your car a thorough normal washing.
- Wipe it dry with a clean material.
- Knead your clay thoroughly with your fingers to soften it. Flatten it so that it fits on your palm.
- Spray some car lubricant on an area that you want to clay.
- Rub the clay bar softly, to and fro along the car’s lines. Do not rub in circular motions. You will notice that it initially sticks to the surface although that gradually decreases after several rubbings. It is during this time it sticks that it pulls out the particles. Once it begins gliding smoothly, then it means the particles have come out and the surface is now clean.
- Wipe the area that you’ve been working on with a microfiber towel.
- At this point, remove any clay residue that might be left on the surface using a clay lubricant. Try to feel the surface with your fingers. If it is not as smooth as glass, repeat the procedure until you are satisfied.
- Knead and fold out your bar in order to expose a new particle free surface and move on to the next area.
- Repeat the above procedure till you’re done with your cleaning.
- Discard the used clay after you’re finished.
Got some unused clay? Remember to preserve it properly by spraying it with a lubricant and placing it in an airtight container. Do not let it freeze and do not store it at temperatures above 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help to make kneading easier come the next time of use.
Claying work should be followed up by application of a sealant or wax. Usually, the claying procedure removes these two components thereby leaving openings in the paint. Ultimately, this exposes the car’s metal surface to corrosion.
Advantages of using clay bars
Unlike scrubbing tools which not only remove contaminants but also ruin your car’s paint, claying safely pulls the particles from its surface leaving your paint even shinier.
- Offers finer waxing results
Waxing a car whose surface is littered with particles and other contaminants will usually leave a messy finish. On the other hand, doing a thorough claying procedure followed by waxing will culminate in a perfectly smooth surface.
- Better resale value
Looking to refurbish your car for sale? A good clay treatment will come in handy as part of the overhaul. This will give the impression that the car was well taken care of by the previous owner and ultimately help in convincing the buyer that the car is worth the high price you are quoting.
- Safer polishing
Polishing is not only meant to give a nice look but also to protect the paint from damage. This will not work if you polish a contaminated surface. By first removing contaminants, you will end up with a smooth shiny surface.
Does a new car need auto detailing?
Well, this will depend on a few factors such as the distance it covers and the degree of contamination before it reaches its owner. For example, a car that is transported from one state to the other through dusty roads or one that’s stored in a showroom for a few months might require to be clayed since it has most likely accumulated dust and dirt. This will mostly not be the case for cars produced, transported to a nearby showroom, and sold within weeks.