Understanding a Clay BarWhat do I need to consider?

What is a clay bar and why do I need to use one?

Detailing clay bars are made of cleverly engineered synthetic resin compounds that feel similar in texture to blue tac. They are specially designed to deep-clean your paint of any micro-contaminants that generally can't be seen by the naked eye, however do affect overall paint quality when spread out across the entire panel. For the serious detailing enthusiasts and car cleaning nerds, a clay bar is a vital piece of your car care arsenal. In short, clay bars quickly remove bonded contaminants and other dirt that regular car wash simply won't budge. Using a clay bar is done to remove contaminants such as paint over spray, tree sap, light tar, bug residue and other embedded dirt which protrudes above the original painted surface and reduce the natural glow and deep shine of your paint.

Modern clay bars do away with traditional abrasive polishing which actually removes a layer of your paint to reveal a fresh surface. Instead, good quality clay bars won't remove any paint or clearcoat when used correctly which means you can use them over and over again without damaging your paint. Trust us, once you know how to use a clay bar you just wont want to stop. With a suitable lubricant, the clay bar will glide over the top of the panel and the tacky clay compound will grab and remove the contaminants protruding from the paint surface.

Can I clay bar my car at home?

Using a clay bar on your car should be the first step in any serious detailing exercise. Claying your car might seem like a daunting task reserved only for the most qualified professional automotive detailers, however this simply is not the case. Deep cleaning your paint-work with a clay bar at home is very simple with some basic car care products, a simple few steps and a bit of patience. For this exercise, we will be using Bowden's Own car care range to get one of our personal cars clayed, washed and sealed at home.

How to Use a Clay Bar

Step 1 - Wash

Step 1 - Wash

Make sure your car is thoroughly washed and dried to clean the paint surface of any loose dirt, dust or grime. Park the car in an area that is out of the sun and relatively cool to prevent evaporation of your chosen lubricant. In the shade, under a carport or in your garage is the ideal spot for this job.

Step 2 - Spray

Step 2 - Spray

Working on small sections at a time, spray your chosen lubricant liberally onto the section you will first be tackling and spray a little onto the clay bar too to ensure the best possible lubrication. We recommend focussing on 1/2 or 1/4 of each panel at a time depending on the size.

Step 3 - Clay

Step 3 - Clay

Apply the clay bar to the panel and gently rub back and forth with very light finger-tip pressure. Depending on how contaminated your paint is, you will feel and even hear the clay bar working its magic and pulling dirt and grime particles out of your paint. Keep moving the clay bar back and forth until you can no longer feel any resistance and the clay glides over the car effortlessly. It is important to keep on top of lubrication here, do not allow the clay bar or panel to dry out as you can cause damage to your paint.

Step 4 - Reform

Step 4 - Reform

When you notice the clay bar surface filling up with dirt, grime and other contaminant particles, fold, knead, and reform the bar so that a fresh surface is revealed and can be applied to the paint. If you drop your clay bar on the ground, it is essential that you throw it out. Clay bars are designed to lock contaminants in and if you drop it on the floor it will be impregnated with grit. Do not take any chances, head back to your nearest Repco and grab another clay bar.

Step 5 - Check

After a few passes with clay, before you move onto the next section or panel, gently run your fingers over the area to feel if there are any spots you may have missed. You should feel a distinct difference if there is a section that hasn't been properly clayed.

Summary: What do I do now that my car has been fully clayed?

For the best possible results, the clay bar should be used as a preparation for other cleansing and waxing products to allow them to properly work their magic. For this car, we will be using Bowden's Own Paint Cleanse and Restore to further clean the paint followed by Bowden's Own Lazy Wax for a deep, rich glow and then sealing it all up with Bowden's Own Bead Machine to protect the paint and lock in the deep shine that we achieved with the clay bar.

Extra handy tips and tricks from the Bowden's Pros:

  • Use your clay bar on fibreglass, chrome and glass for similar results on any windows, bumpers, trim, body kits or even boats!
  • Use old, contaminated clay bars that are no longer suitable for paintwork on your wheels to remove break dust and other filth
  • Use your clay bar while washing your car, keep the panel wet and use the soap mixture as your lubricant for an all-in-one process