Clay bars are great at removing water spots, tree sap, brake dust, road grit and pollutants that can make the paint on your vehicle look and feel rough. Although it has the consistency of Play-Doh, clay bars are abrasive and able to remove wax with no problem.
A clay bar is a synthetic resin compound that works by lifting and shaving contaminants out of your paintwork. Every day your car gets hit with tiny particles that bond to the paint’s surface. A car wash alone isn’t effective at removing these contaminants. Here are some things to know about using clay bar to remove wax from the surface of your car.
Clay Barring Correctly Won’t Scratch Your Paint
While using a clay bar is useful for removing bonded contaminants from the surface of your paint, it should only be done when it’s absolutely necessary so as not to affect the paint.
Think of clay baring your car like wet sanding. You don’t need to do it all the time. Although applying a clay bar treatment to your paint is less aggressive than wet sanding. Doing it all the time will begin to strip the clear coat and possibly the paint. Clay bars are abrasive which means they absolutely can ruin your paint while removing contaminants if you’re not careful.
Similarly, if there aren’t that many bonded contaminants on the surface of your paint, then overuse of the clay bar treatment will actually ruin the paint.
Clay Bars and Your Clear Coat
Improper clay barring techniques can damage clear coat, which is why even though there’s a surge of do-it-yourselfers out there applying the clay bar treatment to their vehicles every weekend. It doesn’t mean you should. This is something that really ought to be left to the professionals for the best results.
If you insist on becoming one of the do-it-yourselfers, however, you can minimize the risk of damaging the clear coat by using plenty of lubrication. As you move from area to area, inspect the paint for anything that can cause scratches.
To ensure a job well done, you can do a touch test:
- Wet the surface of a small area that you’ve clay bared.
- Then, wet that surface again with lubricant.
- Finally, with your hand in a freezer bag, glide over the lubricated area with your fingers feeling for any imperfections.
Use Clay Lubricant to Protect Your Clear Coat
Car clay, though malleable and soft is an abrasive substance. Which means that it can indeed damage your clear coat if used incorrectly. This is why I believe it’s critical to use clay bar lubricant formulated specifically for applying the clay bar treatment to your paint surface.
Clay bar lubricant keeps the finish safe and scratch free as you glide the clay across the surface. A product like Clay Luber creates a super slippery surface which is exactly what you want for this job. It lays down a coat of slick lubrication between the clay bar and paintwork to help the clay slip over your clear coat without getting stuck or marring the surface of the paint.
Apply the Clay Bar Treatment Twice a Year
Clay barring your vehicle is an essential part of the detailing process that helps decontaminate your car’s paintwork. But how often should you do it? Experts recommend clay barring your car once every six months.
Bonded contaminants are tiny almost invisible particles of contamination like:
- Water spots,
- Plant pollen,
- Tree sap,
- Dried bug splatter,
- Mineral deposits, and
- Chemical deposits.
These contaminants build up over time. They’re nearly impossible to remove safely by just washing your car alone. To achieve a flawlessly clean finish, the best way to decontaminate your clear coat is to apply the clay bar treatment after thoroughly washing the surface and right before waxing.
A clay bar gently pulls these tiny particles off the surface of your paint. When used with clay lubricant, all the bonded contaminants get loosened so that they can stick safely to the soft, malleable clay.
There’s No Need to Strip Wax Before Applying the Clay Bar Treatment
Car wax gives your paint an extra layer of protection from the sun’s UV rays. It isn’t necessary to remove it before using a clay bar on your car. The proper procedure before using a clay bar is to wash the surface of the paint first with soap, automotive shampoo or some kind of detergent.
Such chemicals not only remove grit sitting on the surface of the body, but also serve to strip away a bit of the wax. The purpose of the clay bar is to remove embedded particles that way you don’t drag them across the paint causing scratches all over the finish as you dry and polish.
The Best Way to Dissolve Car Wax
Car wax also protects paint from abrasion, rust and harmful deposits. Like applying clay bar, applying wax should only be done every six months to ensure maximum protection and a long-lasting shine.
But when the old coating starts to wear off, you may want to remove it before applying the clay bar treatment. The trick to removing car wax is to find the right level of abrasion without harming the clear coat.
One of the best ways to remove old car wax is by using a clay bar. It’s a great detailing tool for lifting stubborn surface residue, leaving behind a clean, even surface so you can reapply a fresh coat of wax.
Wiping After Using a Clay Bar
The purpose of wiping after applying clay bar to the surface of your paint is to remove clay lubricant residue. For this you want to use a soft microfiber towel. Then buff to a nice luster. You can wipe as you apply the clay bar to each section of your car.
What some people do to make the process go faster is clay bar the entire vehicle. Then go back and wipe. I’m not a fan of this method as I prefer to go one section at a time. Then inspect the result dealing with any inconsistencies as I find them. Still others prefer to clay the entire car, then re-wash. You have to choose what technique suits you best.
Clay Bar, Then Wax and Polish
The detailer’s rule of thumb is always to decontaminate before waxing or polishing. Foreign particles prevent wax from sticking to the paint. And they can become grounded deeper into the finish as you polish. Not only will the wax and polish last for a shorter time. But your paint won’t be as bright.
Waxing and polishing before using a clay bar helps to trap debris and everything else you don’t want into the paintwork which is the exact opposite of what you want. While you don’t have to go the extra mile of stripping your car completely of wax before applying the clay bar treatment to the surface of the paint.
You also don’t want to go the opposite extreme of covering the paint in wax before claying. Doing this will make the clay bar much less effective.
Other Things a Clay Bar Can Remove
There’s no way to 100% avoid the contaminants that get embedded on your paint surface. Simply driving your car to and from work will pick up all kinds of things that pollute your paint.
But a fine grade clay bar can even remove anything sprayed near your car like pesticides and concrete sealers. It also pulls out pollutants like exhaust smoke. Idealistically, a clay bar treatment should be the first step after washing your car if you want to get it really clean.
Then you want to polish the paint to maintain a perfect shine. Another reason why the clay bar treatment is important for the health of your paintwork is because contaminants don’t always remain bonded to your car. All these tiny particles can break free.
If all you do is wash the surface of your car, you could end up grinding them into your clear coat leaving behind scratches while towel drying or applying wax.