How to Clay Bar a Car and What Does It Do to Your Vehicle

claying a car

Though small, a clay bar can be a powerful ally in keeping your vehicle paintwork spotless. That is, if you know how to use a clay bar. 

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place – the following article outlines everything you need to know about claying a car, what the clay bar treatment actually entails and how you can perform it on your own. 

What is a clay bar?

Let’s start with the basics. A clay bar is a synthetic or natural engineered resin compound. It’s designed to be elastic and durable, allowing you to repeatedly roll and flatten it as you remove contaminants from your car. Clay bars excel at cutting through and removing everything from overspray to brake dust. 

If you need help imagining it, just think of silly putties we all used to play with as children. Clay bars usually arrive in clay bar kits. These kits also contain detailer sprays or lubricants which are there to protect the surface of your paintwork. Without them, the clay would stick to the paintwork and potentially damage it. Another thing they do is make the clay bar easier to move over the surface of the vehicle.

How does it work?

Another thing you’re probably wondering is how a clay bar works. It’s a relatively straightforward process designed to remove any foreign bodies from the surface of a car. Clay “lifts” these particles and absorbs them in order to avoid depositing them back on the vehicle. Once the process is complete, the paint on the vehicle becomes smooth and all bumps are flattened.

Ceramic Coating Myths You Need to Know

As mentioned above, it’s important to lubricate the surface when using a clay bar. The last thing you want to happen is to have the bar damage the paintwork on your vehicle. Some detailers believe water offers sufficient lubrication but the general knowledge is that dedicated clay bar lubricants are a safer option. Another thing to keep in mind is that this process will always remove almost all paint protection you’ve applied earlier. Even if the protection isn’t entirely removed, it’ll seriously compromise its effectiveness. This means you’ll have to apply paint protection again after using a clay bar.

When should I use a clay bar?

Obviously, using a clay bar isn’t something you should do every time you wash your vehicle. It’s a process you shouldn’t repeat often, as it’ll leave you with no paint protection or make you apply it over and over again. 

There’s no right answer to how often should you use a clay bar. Most vehicle owners do it once or twice a year. That way, they avoid applying coating more often than necessary and still manage to remove contamination from their paintwork. For most of them, the ideal time to use a clay bar is before applying winter protection detail. If you opt for this method, you can repeat the process in spring and make sure all contamination picked up over the winter has been dealt with.

How to tell if it’s time to clay bar my vehicle?

The easiest way to figure out whether or not it’s time to think about using a clay bar is to take a simple look at it. Unfortunately, all vehicles are exposed to all sorts of problems such as salt, debris, airborne pollution and more. 

If you notice that your vehicle has become contaminated, it’s time to do some further testing. The test most car detailers is the plastic bag method. The method involves wrapping a plastic bag around your hand and feeling the texture of your vehicle. What the plastic bag will do is emphasize the contamination and it’ll help you decide whether or not it’s time to clay bar your vehicle.

How do I use detailing clay?

We’ve already explained why using a clay bar on your vehicle makes sense and now it’s time to talk about how to clay bar a car. The good news is that the process isn’t as complex as some imagine and most car owners should be able to get the job done themselves. In fact, DIY car detailing is fun and all automotive enthusiasts are guaranteed to enjoy the project.

Before you start, it’s critical that you carry out a complete decontamination wash. This includes a safe wash and the removal of bitumen tar spots. The more contamination you can remove before using your clay bar, the better. 

Once you’re done, it’s time to open your clay bar and work it in your hands until it looks ready to be used on the surface of your vehicle. Flatten it until the shape resembles a disk and get ready to apply it to the vehicle. Just make sure it doesn’t touch and dirty surfaces before you start if you want it to be effective. 

The next step includes spraying the lubricant you’ve opted for on a small surface of the vehicle. Then, it’s time to apply the clay bar on the vehicle. The bar will do what it does best as long as you move it in straight lines and avoid applying pressure on it. If it feels like it’s becoming difficult to move the bar, apply more lubricant. When you’re done with an entire area on your vehicle, wipe it with a microfiber cloth. 

The last thing left to do is to reapply lubricant before you move onto the next area of the vehicle.

The bottom line

All in all, claying a car is a project that every car owner should consider doing. When applied carefully, a clay bar will never do any damage to your car, meaning that there’s no reason not to do it from time to time. The best part is that you can do it yourself and all you need is a clay bar kit which you can get in most car detailing stores. Tackle the project once or twice a year to say goodbye to any sort of contamination on your four-wheeler.