There’s a common belief that the only way to keep your car’s paint job at showroom quality is to regularly wax and polish it after washes. However, polishes are abrasive and over time can thin-out your car’s clear coat and leave the undercoat susceptible to damage and fading.
Since their introduction, clay bars have provided an alternative to removing contamination in paint without sacrificing your car’s clear coat.
Before we delve deeper into how clay bars work, it’s important to understand what paint contamination is.
Your car’s paint is technically never completely dry and retains a sticky quality. If you’ve ever seen an older car that has been left in the sun, you’d have noticed that the paint can be chipped off quite easily; this is due to the paint completely drying.
Because paint never truly hardens, it allows contaminants such as dust, soot and other microscopic particles to embed themselves into the car’s clear coat and dulls the color of the paint.
Even though the exterior of your car may feel smooth to the touch, chances are, unless you’re routinely clay barring, it’s not. A trick detailers use is putting a hand into a plastic sandwich bag or a pair of latex gloves, and rubbing their fingertips along the car’s body. Doing this allows them to feel the roughness in the paint that is caused by embedded contaminants.
How Clay Bars Work
Unlike polishes, that use an abrasive to grind away at the rough level of the clear coat, a clay bar is kept lubricated and allows it to have a stickier quality than your car’s paint. This means that when the clay bar is pressed into the paintwork and then removed, the contamination particles have a stronger attachment to the clay, than it does to the clear coat, which means these particles are effectively removed from the clear coat, without damaging the clear coat further.
When the contaminants begin to build-up on the clay bar, it is recommended that you work the dirty clay inwards, and exposing clean clay that you can continue to use. Once you can no longer work the clay to get a clean portion you will need to use a new bar.
How Should I Use a Clay Bar?
To get the most out of your clay bar, it’s recommended that you first thoroughly wash your car, and make use of wax and grease removers to remove as much dirt from the car before getting out the clay bars. To achieve the best results its best to section off your car, and take your time working through each section.
You can use the sandwich bag trick to test the area’s smoothness to make sure no contamination is left.
Due to the nature of clay bars and the fact that they need to stay lubricated while you work with them, it is best to work in a covered area, or in the afternoon. You should also ensure your car isn’t hot to touch, as this will prematurely dry out your clay bars.
Choosing to clean your own car is a labor of love, and clay barring isn’t something you will want to do too often. After your car has been clay barred, using a high-quality wax will give your car an extra shine, but also add a protective layer to your paint, where future contaminants are more likely to embed themselves in the wax layer rather than the clear coat. The use of a good wax gives you the benefit if only really needing to clay bar your car once or twice a year, but because clay bars don’t damage your paint as polishes do, you can clay bar your car as often as you like, without risk.
If you would like to know more about having your car professionally detailed, look no further than Foreign Affairs Motorsport, South Florida’s Premier European Auto Repair, Performance & Race Facility Since 1978!