A clay bar is a product that smart car detailers use often but that most car owners don’t know exists. Clay bars remove wax and any contaminants from your car’s painted surfaces.
While you don’t need to clay your vehicles finish, your car’s paint will be free of tree sap, brake dust, and other bonded contaminants. With the old wax and all of the contaminants gone, you can apply a new coat of wax and make the paint pop when the sunlight hits it just right.
The following information can help you better understand how the clay bar works and how often you should clay your car.
How Often Should You Clay Your Car?
Twice a year is a good interval of time to clay your car’s finish. If you check the surface and it feels rough you shouldn’t wait. If you check the surface and it feels glass-like smooth you can safely wait.
How To Know If You Need To Clay Bar Your Car
In truth, you don’t necessarily need to clay bar your car or truck twice a year. The need to use detailing clay depends on the amount of road grime that has contaminated your paintwork surface.
Clay Bar Plastic Bag Test
A fairly well known method for determining how much embedded tar, tree sap, brake dust, and other particles are stuck to your finish is to place your hand inside a plastic baggie and feel the surface of your finish through the plastic bag. The baggie helps you feel how smooth the car’s paint surface is. If it feels rough, it’s time to clay.
When To Use A Clay Bar On Your Car
You should use a clay bar after thoroughly washing your car or truck but before you polish or wax the surface.
It’s best to remove as much road grime and dirt as possible before you break out the detailing clay. Once the majority of dirt is removed you can apply your clay bar lubricant and expect the clay bar to glide properly across the surface of the clear coat.
Once you’ve clayed the paintwork thoroughly you can then move on to polishing without fear of creating swirls from the polishing pad picking up the embedded contaminants and dragging the grit across the surface.
If you’re going to skip polishing and move directly to wax or another paint protection method, you’ll have a much better surface for your paint protection of choice to adhere to. The cleaner your paintwork, the longer the paint protection will last before it begins to lose it’s bond with your finish.
Chemical Guys OG Clay Bar
Chemical Guys Clay Luber
Rag Company Polishing Towels
Chemical Guys OG Clay Bar is their middle of the road stiffness clay and their original clay formulation. I particularly like the light yellow coloring that makes it easy to see contaminants it pulls off the finish.
A good clay lubricant is important to the effectiveness of your clay bar. Not only that, but quality lubricant will also protect your clear coat from fine swirls and scratches from grit trapped in the clay.
Microfiber towels are ideal for detailing and the Rag Company Miner polishing towels are my favorite. The microfiber nap is super protective yet the towels are thin enough to provide good tactile feedback.
Is It Worth It To Clay Bar Your Car?
Cost always is a factor in deciding whether or not something is worthwhile. Clay bars are relatively inexpensive and mostly simple to use. They help the wax protect the paint while making it look as good as new.
The entire purpose of a clay bar is to protect the paint and enable wax and sealer to deliver their best possible benefit. The clay bar removes all contaminants from the painted surfaces and helps the wax and sealer protect the paint while looking its best.
Most car owners have car wax and use it to protect the paint. The small cost of a clay bar versus the protective benefits makes it well worth the nominal investment. The way your car looks and its compliments will affirm the great value that you can get by using a clay bar.
Does a clay bar scratch your car or damage the paint?
A properly lubricated and applied clay bar will not scratch your car or damage the paint. The clay is too soft to scratch your vehicle like a car key could. But if a foreign substance were to get into the clay bar, that foreign substance could cause significant paint damage. A single grain of sand might be enough to produce noticeable scratching to the painted surfaces.
You can prevent potential scratching by washing and cleaning the surfaces upon which you will use the clay bar. The clay bar should be enclosed in a safe container or package that keeps dirt and debris away from the clay bar. A little bit of prevention can help to stop scratches from happening by keeping the clay bar clean.
Does a clay bar remove clear coat?
Clay bar does not remove clear coat when you use it correctly. A correctly applied and fully cured clear coat is durable and should respond well to the clay bar application. Once the clay bar has cleaned all contaminants, the wax should make the clear coat and paint pop in direct sunlight.
It always is important to remember that the clay bar is a very mild abrasive substance. So you need to ensure you properly lubricate it and do not apply too much pressure when conditioning the clear coat.
Can I reuse my clay bar?
A clay bar is relatively large and can work on multiple vehicles. Many car detailers find it is best to cut up the clay bar into smaller and more manageable pieces that fit in your hand much better. Cutting the clay bar into smaller pieces also helps to reduce the weight that you are pushing around when applying the clay bar to the painted surfaces.
A clay bar can work on more than one car because you can fold it over to create a smooth surface when the surface of the clay bar that you are using starts showing signs of picking up the contaminants that are removed from the paint, folding the bar over helps to restore it. You can continue to remove dirt, corrosion, and other contaminants, as well as the old wax, until the clay bar starts to feel gritty.
When a clay bar starts to feel gritty after you fold it over, it has picked up enough contaminants from the car to become more abrasive. That grittiness makes the clay bar act more like sandpaper or rubbing compound instead of clay. At that point, you need to discard the clay bar and start with another one.
Can I use water as a lubricant for a clay bar?
Water is not the correct lubricant to use with a clay bar. Water is too thin and could cause the clay bar to scratch the painted surface instead of just removing the wax and dirt from the surface. But water with some baby shampoo added to it or some car shampoo will do a much better job of lubricating the clay bar.
Some detailers only use detailing spray to lubricate the clay bar. Detailing spray can be especially useful because it has unique ingredients that help to make the clay bar more effective. Those ingredients include color enhancers that make the paint stand out even more. Detailing spray also fortifies the shine that paint initially has when it is first applied and properly cured.
Does Claying remove wax?
Claying will remove wax from your car. It also will remove any tar, corrosion, bug guts, or other common contaminants. The idea is to get everything out of the way so that the final wax coat will adhere much better to the painted surfaces. So you want the clay bar to remove all of the old wax on painted surfaces.
You need to remove old wax because any traces would make the new wax look streaked and paint look less than great-looking. Old wax usually has picked up contamination from the road and suffered damage from the sun’s UV rays. But that is why the wax exists and is such an excellent product for protecting the paint.
Once the wax has done its job, you need to remove all of it. That is why the clay bar exists – along with cleaning off other contaminants. Once the old wax is completely gone, the painted surface should be in its best condition and ready to accept a new protective layer of wax and sealer.
Do you have to wax after using a clay bar?
The entire purpose of using a clay bar is to enable the wax and sealer to do their jobs correctly. The clay bar removes all imperfections on the paint and helps to make the paint surface ideally situated to accept the wax. A clean and adequately prepared painted surface will bond better with the wax and produce a more uniform appearance when the light hits the paint.
You do not have to wax after using a clay bar. But the paint and clear coat will not look their best. They also would lack protection against the sun’s UV rays, rainfall, snow, and other things that wax gives to your car’s painted surfaces. So you have to wax and seal your paint after using the clay bar for the best possible results.
Should you wash your car before claying?
It is always wise to wash the car and make sure it does not have any mud, dirt, or other contaminants before you start using the clay bar. Those could cause scratches in the paint and other surfaces.
A good wash also helps make the claying process go a little faster by cleaning away things that you would have to get out of the way while claying the car. That helps to extend the useful life of your clay bar. Anything that you do not wash off will wind up affecting the clay bar and the paint. You do not want that to happen.
The more stuff gets into the clay bar, the sooner you have to discard it and use another one. That adds to your costs and could produce less than ideal results if your clay bar does not get all of the wax and other contaminants off the paint.
Do you dry your car before using a clay bar?
You need to take all reasonable steps to make the car’s exterior as clean as possible before the clay bar process. That includes giving it a good wash and drying it before using the clay bar. When the wash is done, drying the car helps you get a much closer look at the surfaces you are about to prep with the clay bar.
Drying the car is an excellent opportunity to give it a very close inspection and identify any possible trouble spots. It also helps remove any soap residue or minerals left behind by the water that could contaminate the clay bar.
Can you clay bar your car too much?
Clay bar is a very soft abrasive that you could use too much if you do not lubricate the clay bar properly or use too much elbow grease while applying it. Most car owners who use a clay bar to prep their vehicles for waxing and sealing do so two or three times per year.
The paint should hold up well for several months when the clay bar is done correctly and followed up properly with wax and sealer. If you live in a location where the weather or other conditions cause more problems for painted surfaces, you might find it helpful to use the clay bar nearly every month.
Should you clay bar a new car?
A new car should have a great paint job free of contaminations and has a fresh coat of was on it. Even though it is new, the car might have some swirls in the clear coat from the dealership that prepped it for sale. You also might have a preferred car wax that you want to apply right away.
It can be good to use a clay bar on a new car to make sure it has the suitable wax and look from the very start. Because it is new, the vehicle should be very easy to prep with the clay bar.
The task mainly involves removing the wax applied to the paint. Once that is gone, you can put your preferred wax on the car and get rid of any annoying swirls or other minor imperfections that might have come from the factory or the dealership.
How long does a clay bar last?
A clay bar has a surprisingly long lifespan, especially when you only use one or two vehicles. A 4-ounce bar could last up to two years if you cut it in half and store it properly. It would be best to have a container to seal and include some lubricant to keep the unused clay bar soft while in storage.
The portion that you use will last for several clay bar applications on an adequately prepared vehicle. The smarter you are about using and storing a clay bar, the longer it will last and provide more uses.