Clay bar is a term used all the time and most people dive head first without giving it much thought. While it is a pretty simple and straightforward process, it can definitely damage the paint and create more issues than it solves. Here are a few simple tips to help get the most out of your clay bar process and avoid any big issues…
1. Don’t use it! Use chemicals like iron and tar removers and clay bar alternatives
Chemicals that break down contamination such as CarPro IronX and TarX have come a LONG way and help greatly in the detailing process. They do a really good job eliminating most contamination without even touching the paint, so I recommend always trying chemicals to clean up the surface before reaching for a clay bar. If used regularly, these chemicals can greatly increase the time period between required clay bar use. Whenever you do have to use clay bar on paint, it’s always best to use chemicals first so that the clay bar process is as mild and as easy as possible.
2. Use as least abrasive of a clay bar as possible to avoid any unnecessary polishing
This is one of the cliche sayings “use the least abrasive method necessary, but it holds true for clay bars as with any other detailing process. Claybar will leave some marring on almost any paint, so using something like Meguiar’s Mild Claybar compared to Clay Magic Medium Grade Claybar will leave a much different finish. The milder claybars are great for most contamination especially on a pretty well maintained car and they’re great for random things like tar behind the wheels or some iron deposits. That said, the more abrasive clay bars have their place and should not be avoided. The Clay Magic bar I mentioned is great for more stubborn contamination or even paint overspray, so don’t waste time, energy, and money (ruining a claybar) by using the more mild ones when you need something more aggressive. The more abrasive the clay bar, the more it will scratch the paint and the more correction you’ll need to do after. On some very soft paints like Tesla, using the wrong clay bar can turn a 3-4 hour polishing job into 7-8+ hours so just be mindful. As with anything, you learn to judge each job through experience, but having both on hand and starting with the less abrasive stuff is always a good idea.
3. Use lots of lube
This is a no brainer and not much to explain. When you run the clay bar over a surface it catches stuff that sits on top of the paint but also scratches the paint around that contamination. By using a lot of lube you allow it to glide more smoothly over the paint while still catching contaminants, thus reducing the scratches in the actual paint. We mainly use NanoSkin Glide but any of the good brands will work just fine.
4. Break into small pieces to use between emblems and small areas
When using claybar over a big surface like hood, trunk, etc, I like to use a very large, solid piece to make it easier to hold and cover more area. On the other hand, there are times you need to get into the emblems, door handles, or other crevices, and breaking the bar into small pieces really helps. I had a few photos for this but lost them, unfortunately. It’s very simple though, just get smaller pieces for smaller areas and it makes things much easier. We’ve even used tiny pieces and then pushed them around with a q-tip in between some letters to remove really stubborn contamination.
5. Use some polish or even just wax with a buffer to clean up clay bar marring
I’ve been doing detailing regularly for a solid 15 years and I can’t remember many times where I used clay bar and it didn’t leave any marring behind. Sure there are times when I just remove some fresh tar or other contamination from a section of a car with good paint and it looks just fine, but that’s very rare. Marring can get horrible on some paints but if done right it’s usually pretty mild and can be easily improved. Even when using a very mild clay bar on a hard white or silver paint that won’t show anything, I recommend doing a quick polishing even using something mild like a sealant or wax. Jescar Power Lock paired with a Lake Country Finishing Pad is a a perfect combo to run over the car after clay bar. It takes less than an hour and you can remove mild marring, leaving a nice shiny surface.