What's the purpose of an auto clay bar? After you have washed your vehicle, glide your hand across the paint. Does it feel rough? Somewhat gritty?
What you are feeling is contaminants that have become embedded in the clear coat. Contaminants such as tar, tree sap, paint overspray, fallout, and rail dust. Unless your car never goes outside, its impossible to avoid this issue!
No amount of washing will remove the contaminants, you need a clay bar. Bars come in different grades. Most that you will find at the store is medium grade, but there are mild and aggressive ones available too.
Auto clay kits can be purchased at most stores that sell automotive cleaning supplies. Even Walmart carries Mothers California Gold kits, as well as Meguiars Smooth Surface Clay Kit. Both work well.
Mild is designed to be used often to maintain that slick feel of the paint surface. Medium grade is designed to be used once or twice per year. Aggressive grade is designed for excessive contamination.
Mild clays such as Pinnacle brand clay will not remove wax, however medium and aggressive clays will. So its important to apply a coat of wax after completing the claying process
Whether you plan to simply apply a coat of wax, or you want to perform a multiple stage power polish, claying is a very important first step. It will help you achieve the best possible finish, and allow your wax to perform to its full potential.
When using clay, you must also use a lubricant. Lubricant is usually included when you purchase a kit. Its important to use it to prevent the clay from becoming abrasive.
The process is very simple, first make sure your vehicle exterior is clean. Work on one panel at a time, spray the panel with lubricant, then glide the clay across it. Spray enough lube so that the area is wet, don't just mist it.
Its also important not to apply pressure, just glide the clay and let it do the work. You will notice the grittiness disappear quickly. If your glass feels gritty a clay bar will help there too.
Clay after one panel of a very contaminated paint surface!
If you notice your clay is becoming dirty, simply fold it over and continue with the clean side. If your vehicle had excessive contamination and the clay had been folded numerous times, throw it out. If its still in good shape, wrap it up so it doesn't dry out and store it for next time!
Give your vehicle another wash to remove the lubricant. You are now ready to apply your wax or start polishing if you have chosen to go that route. Good job!