How to Clay Bar your Car?

Clay Bar - A How To Guide

Specialising in Car Detailing , Project Detail Sydney & Melbourne will be covering a series of articles focussing on decontamination and in this post, we focus on the ubiquitous Clay Bar.

What a typical new clay bar kit looks like. Colours and variations between fine and course exist.

What a typical new clay bar kit looks like. Colours and variations between fine and course exist.

n a previous post, we discussed how it is important to decontaminate your car regularly in order to keep it looking it's best on conjunction with car washing. The post 'Decontamination - Why is it important?' can be found here

The clay bar looks like a piece of clay, Blu-tak or even plasticine. However, this small piece of mouldable material has become very important piece of car care product for maintaining a proper finish. Detailing Clay was invented in the body shops of Japan in the early 1990's. However, it wasn't until the early to mid 2000's did the rest of the world start realising what it was and just how important it would be. Nowadays, every detailer or even car wash should carry a variety of clay bars and even an assortment of other clay products.

In a nutshell, a Clay Bar is a piece of equipment that is designed to glide over the surface of your paintwork by hand. Used in conjunction with something that gives good lubrication, the clay bar removes physical contamination such as tar, light sap or fall out as it glides over the surface of the vehicle. This in turn leaves the paint smooth to the touch and no longer rough.

At Project Detail, a clay bar treatment is included with every level of detail. It is now the standard and no longer the exception to the rule to provide this treatment in order for the cars we work on to have a better finish. You can find out more about our detailing services here. 

When do I need to Clay my car?

Contamination stains the Clay Bar Brown as it is removed during the claying process.

In order to determine if you need to clay your car it is best to give you car a wash first. If you would a guide recommending how to perform a proper 2 bucket method wash check out our previous article by clicking here.

After washing the vehicle properly, if the vehicle still feels rough to the touch then more then likely there are signs of contamination on the paintwork that need to be removed. This can be done chemically with the right products or physically with a clay bar.  

How to Clay a car?

It is vital to lubricate the surface sufficiently while claying. You cannot over lubricate!

Equipment required:

  • 1 x Clay Bar (preferably fine grade)
  • Suitable Clay Lubricant in a spray bottle. Dedicated lube can be purchased or made.
  • Several clean microfibre towels

Beginning with a clean car and work one small section at a time on a single panel. It is important to begin working top to bottom, as any sediment or run off will drip downwards and not get onto any clean or finished panels.

Liberally spray the  lubricant over the section you were working on. Taking a small ping pong ball size of clay, kneed the clay into a patty shape. Then gently without applying pressure glide the clay bar back and forth in straight line motions of about 30cm's each stroke.
As you are claying, you should begin to notice the contamination being picked up and the clay will begin to slide smoother and any noise it was causing should stop.

It is important to not go into circular motions as any potential contamination picked up can scratch and leave swirl marks. As the lubricant begins to run away or dry, it is very important to keep 

Continue to work your way around the car. Project Detail recommends every quarter of the car, to rinse the vehicle. This will remove the lubricant and prevent water marks or the lubricant drying on the surface.
Once you have finished a panel, you will notice the clay bar changing colour as the contamiantion it removes stick onto the clay itself. This next step is very important, fold and kneed the clay until the contamination is folded in on itself. This will reveal a 'fresh' surface for the next panel and that the previous contamination does not scratch the paintwork.

Heavy contamination staining the clay. Kneed the clay in on itself to reveal a fresh surface.

Once the entire vehicle is done, rinse off the vehicle again and then proceed the dry the vehicle. Be sure to check out our article "How to dry your car" to make sure no further scratches are incurred.

Once the vehicle is dried, congratulations you car should mostly be contamination free! The paintwork will not only be smoother but for those with heavily contaminated vehicles, the paintwork will actually look brighter and show more colour as well as there is no contamination staining the surface.

We typically recommend the weekend warrior to clay their car once a month to once every 3 months in order to stay on top of the contamination. Removal of heavy contamination particularly on softer paints from certain makes can leaving marring, scratches of defects that will require paint correction to remove.

Quick Tips & Tricks

  • Please note that matte wraps or factory matte paint cannot be clayed successfully. 
  • Without suffcient lubricant, the clay will stick and scratch the surface
  • Once the clay begins to break apart or change colour entirely throw it away.
  • If you drop your clay onto the ground, throw it away. Due to its stickiness, it will pick up dirrt and gravel which will scratch the surface entirely.
  • You can clay any hard and smoother surface; metal, chrome or even glass!

To find out more on how Project Detail can help you detail your vehicle check our other articles from our blog here or to ask us a question or if you have an enquiry be sure to click here.