An automotive clay bar is made of a synthetic polymer that is often elastic in nature. The elasticity of a clay bar allows you to mold the clay into a usable shape. It also allows you to kneed the clay to expose a fresh clay surface. A clay bar is used in combination with a clay bar lubricant. The lubricant is used to provide a slick surface that the clay glides over. The action of gliding the clay over a surface will pick up embedded contamination or wear it down so the surface is as smooth as glass.
The most common use for a clay bar is for removing contamination that is bonded to a painted surface. However, paint is not the only surface you can use a clay bar on. Many times after a wash, shampoo and water simply will not be strong enough to remove things like paint overspray, sap, tar, caked on rubber, bug splatter, rail dust and other heavy contamination. The purpose of using a clay bar is to remove that contamination still left behind from a wash process. Sometimes, the contamination remaining on the paint is not visible to the naked eye, but if you were to run your hand over the paint, it would feel bumpy or rough to the touch. This is often a great test to see if you can benefit from a clay bar, gently glide your fingers over a wet area of your paint and if it is not as smooth as glass, you can benefit from a clay bar. Others may refer to the plastic bag test, which is performed by placing your fingers in a plastic bag and gliding it across the paint. Using the bag will amplify the sense of touch giving you a better sense of “hidden” contamination on your paints surface.
You may not think it, but even new cars can usually benefit from a clay bar process. This is due to the contamination a vehicle is exposed to during the transportation and delivery, not to mention, you don’t know how long a “new” car has been sitting on a lot.
After using a clay bar on your paint you will be left with a surface that is as smooth as glass and properly prepped. It is now ready for polish or for you to apply layers of protection. Not only can you clay your vehicles paint, but glass, wheels, lights and more. A common misconception about using a clay bar is that it has an impact on removing swirls and scratches, it does not.
We recommend using a clay bar roughly twice a year, or before details where you plan on polishing the paint. If your car is subject to industrial fallout or heavily contaminated areas, using a clay bar more often may be required.
Before using a clay bar, your car should be washed and dried to remove a majority of contamination on your vehicle. The more contaminated the paint is the more likely imperfections can be added during the clay bar process.