How do I know when I need to clay my car?
If this is your current dilemma, don’t feel silly. If you’ve never used a clay bar, you wouldn’t know what to expect or even if you’re risking damaging the vehicle. We’ve all been there, and what you don’t know can be scary.
Here’s some useful information to help you make that decision:
Clay, in our opinion, is one of the lesser abrasive steps you can perform on your auto. It has many applications and is very often offered to our customers who initially purchased a premium detail.
A few instant indicators that your car’s paint could use clay bar treatment are the presence of road grime, tree sap, difficult bug debris, industrial fallout, and any difficult to remove visible contaminants.
Beyond what you can see, you must then use your sense of touch. Once the car has been washed properly and dried, run your bare fingers across the paint lightly. Be sure to specifically check certain trouble areas such as the hood, front bumper, and flat upper surface areas. Road debris such as tiny rocks or tiny flakes of metal often get kicked up and stick into the clear coat. You will feel them with your bare fingers (unless you’re just that much of a grease monkey with hardened calluses and can’t feel ANYTHING).
If that is is the case, or you’re still not quite sure what to feel for- use the “Baggie Method,” for which I’ll credit Mike Phillips from Autogeek. Take a plastic sandwich bag, put it over your hand, and rub it across the hood. The baggie will snag on any sort of contaminants and magnify anything you were missing or unsure about.
During the process of claying, you will be catching all these particles and actually pulling them out of the clear coat. You will feel a noticeable difference in smoothness. Especially once you’ve applied a coat of wax.
One thing to add- make sure you’re doing it correctly. If you do not use a proper form of lubrication, you will end up marring the paint with those particles and contaminants. If you need further instruction, please be sure to see our article on How To Use Detailing Clay.