April 16, 2020

What is a Clay Bar?

In the automotive detailing, a clay bar is used to remove surface contaminants from paint, glass, and metal.  Clay bars are very flexible and mold-able, as they appear just like natural clay.  They come in both natural and synthetic forms, but most clay bars on the market currently are made with synthetic materials.  The flexibility and elasticity from the clay bar allows it to be configured into various shapes and orientation.  Whether you are working on a flat or curve surface, you can shape the clay bar to be molded for the specific panel.  The “sticky” property of the clay bar will be able to extract any small debris and contaminants from the surface that a car wash mitt cannot during a hand wash.  To note, most clay bar on the market will have sufficient cleaning power to strip wax and sealant off the clear coat.  It is always recommended to reapply wax or sealant once you have finished a full clay bar treatment.  Of course, some car enthusiasts would pay the extra dollar for high end protection like a Ceramic Coating.

When Should You Clay Bar Your Vehicle?

To determine whether your vehicle requires a clay bar treatment, perform a full hand wash on the vehicle to remove as much dirt and contaminants as possible.  Avoid using automatic car washes as they tend to leave excessive soaps and residue behind.  After the car has been cleaned, use a high quality microfiber towel to dry the vehicle.   Feel the paint with your hand along a flat panel, do you feel any roughness and grit?  If you do, it is time to clay bar your vehicle.

What is in a Clay Bar Kit?

The common clay bar kit will include the following items:

  1. Clay Bars – anywhere between 2oz to 8oz of clay bar depending on the kit you buy.  A 2 oz clay bar will be sufficient to perform treatment on 2 to 4 vehicles depending on the conditions of the paint.
  2. Microfiber Towel – these specific type of cloths is critical part of car detailing.  The small strands of fibers allow the ease of picking up the smallest dirt and dust particles.  These fibers are also very soft to the touch, which means it is less likely to create scratches or swirls.
  3. Lubricant Spray – the lubricant is used on the surface to allow the clay bar to freely glide along the paint surface.  It prevents larger pieces of debris scratching the clear coat when the clay bar is in motion.

What Are the Steps for a Full Clay Bar Treatment?

  1. Clean your Car (hand wash and dry)
    It is important to clean your car thoroughly prior to using a clay bar, as it will only ease the process as majority of the large dirt and debris will be taken away already.  Ensure the car is dried with a microfiber towel to reduce the chances of swirls.
  2. Picking A Starting Point
    We suggest picking a panel that is easy to work with, for example, the vehicle’s hood as it is usually fairly flat.  Start with a 2×2 square foot area as your initial “work section”.  Never go beyond a 2×2 square as it becomes difficult to manage and keep track of progress. Once you’ve become confident, you can adjust your “work section” that suits you best.
  3. Applying the Lubricant Spray
    Apply a generous amount of spray onto your “work section”, to ensure the surface is fully lubricated.
  4. Clay the Surface
    Shape your clay bar into a shape (usually flat) that is convenient and comfortable for you to hold.  Gently glide your clay bar along the surface where lubricant has been applied.  You will begin to feel the clay bar “gripping” onto the uneven/rough surface, this is when the debris is being removed from the clear coat of the paint.  Continue to glide the clay bar back and forth until the roughness has been removed, apply lubricant as needed to ensure the surface is moist. 
  5. Review and Move On
    Upon completing your work section, wipe off the area dry to check for roughness again.  Ensure that the entire section is cleaned to perfection then you can move on to the next area repeating steps 3 and 4 until the entire vehicle is complete.
  6. Rinse and Dry
    Once the entire vehicle has been clay barred, rinse your vehicle with water to ensure all the lubricant and any remaining floating contaminants comes off the surface.  Use a clean microfiber towel to dry the surface.

Speed Projects Laboratory

At the Lab, a clay bar treatment is a value added service that is included for all of our ceramic coating packages and PPF packages.  It is critical to ensure the paint surfaces are spotless and free from contaminants before protecting the paint with one of the top tier paint protection products on the market. 

Some clay bars/clay bar mitt that we tried are listed below. Some are easier to find at your auto parts store and others might require you to go to a specialty store or online.

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