What is car detailing? Our process part 2 – ‘The Clay Bar’

Once the car has been through all the stages in part one it is looking pretty clean! We’re not done though. The final stage of the cleaning process takes us to the clay bar.

The clay bar is a crucial part of the decontamination process & we will NEVER use a machine polisher on a car until this stage is complete and we will explain why shortly.

A clay bar is designed to remove contamination which chemicals and normal washing procedures don’t shift. The clay pulls contaminants from the paint surface, some so small you can’t see them with the naked eye.

The picture below is an example of the clay bar having been used. This was a brand new car with 30 miles on the clock. However, you can still see a tinging around the edges of the clay where contamination has been picked up.

Once the clay has been over the paint it leaves the surface silky smooth and free from any last remnants of dirt!

So how do we do it? We always use a new piece of clay in our treatments. We soak a couple of pieces in hot water; you don’t have to do this but makes the clay much more pliable.

Once ready, we use a clay bar lubricant and with very light pressure we glide the clay over the paint. The lubricant prevents the clay from ‘sticking’ which can cause marring to the paint’s surface.

This is continued over the entire surface of the car, including the glass but excluding any plastic trims or rubbers.

Now, this sounds pretty easy and we agree it isn’t difficult, but the skill is ‘feeling’ the paint too so we are sure the contamination has been removed, whilst using the correct pressure to avoid any damage.

The type of clay we use is really important. With some paint finishes being so soft, we have to use the correct clay to suit the paint.

Again this comes down to experience.

The reason we never use a machine polisher before using clay is the risk of contamination still being present on the paint.

Think about it like this, small amounts of dirt could be picked up by the pad, which then swirls around at high speed causing damage to the paint.

We also use the clay bar after the other decontamination processes so we don’t inadvertently pick up spots of tar which are hard and would easily mar the paint surface.

Once done, the car is blown dry with purified air. When it’s nice and dry, we go over the paint with an IPA (isopropyl alcohol) or panel wipe.

This removes any remaining oils, residues etc. and shows the true surface and condition of the paint.

We are now ready to start the polishing!

More about this in our next blog!