A clay bar treatment for your car is a fantastic way of maintaining it to combat years of wear and tear while on the road. Claying your vehicle is also a necessary step before waxing to achieve the best results.
Clay bar detailing removes minuscule particles from the surface of your car that regular washing cannot, such as brake dust, metal dust, industrial pollution, and other contaminants. The smooth finish resulting from clay detailing allows wax to bond to the clear coat more fully and significantly increases your paint’s resilience, as well as the durability of the wax.
Failing to clay your vehicle before waxing can lead to significant problems and even bigger repair bills, so it is worth taking the time to learn about the process.
Why Clay Detailing Before Waxing is Necessary
As part of its everyday use, your car drives through a wide variety of contaminants that are so small that you wouldn’t notice them. But their small size is precisely how they cause damage. Tiny fragments of metal, tar, and dust can cut through the clear coat that lies on top of your car’s paint and work their way through the painted layer to the actual body panel beneath.
As these particulates break through the surface layers, they can oxidize and create small rust spots, which in turn can spread rust beneath the clear coat of your vehicle. Many people believe that washing and waxing their car is enough to prevent this kind of damage. Unfortunately, standard washing is incapable of removing these tiny fragments, which means waxing your vehicle will lock them beneath the surface and promote further damage.
Why You Probably Need to Clay Bar Detail Your Car
Simply put, if you care about your car and you have not done clay auto detailing before, treatment will undoubtedly benefit your vehicle. In addition to the tiny contaminants mentioned previously, detailing clay can also remove sap, tar, and insect remains. The best way to determine how badly it needs detailing is by feeling the paint with your hand.
Start by washing and drying your vehicle, then run your fingertips across the paint. If it feels gritty or rough after washing, your paint is suffering from these contaminants, which can be solved via clay detailing.
When clay bar detailing is handled correctly, it is entirely safe and nonabrasive. Also, wax and paint sealants adhere more effectively to a clean and smooth surface, which will make the results more uniform after you have completed detailing.
A common misconception about the clay barring process is that it will reverse existing paint damage. This is, unfortunately, not accurate. A clay bar’s sole purpose is to remove bonded particles, not to act as a paint sealant or repair option.
However, the clay barring method will help prevent future damage caused by tiny contaminant particles, like paint swirls, and provide a smooth surface that should make paint touch-ups and repairs easier.
Can You Wax A Car Without Claying?
Waxing a car without claying it first is similar to putting makeup overtop of blackheads. It does not fix the problem, and covering it up will only compound the issue and make matters worse. Some automotive experts state that if you wax your car every month or every other month, it is only necessary to clay detail twice per year. This timeframe can be accurate, but it depends on the conditions your car is subject to.
For example, if you only drive your vehicle infrequently, it will spend less time on the road and pick up fewer contaminants along the way. Similarly, if you store your car in a garage or underneath a covering, it will avoid the damaging weather, which will greatly reduce the need for a clay detailing treatment before waxing. It may only be necessary to clay your vehicle a couple of times per year if stored as such.
Conversely, if you are a daily commuter or travel through heavily industrial areas, you will pick up significantly more contaminants than would otherwise be expected. Also, as many people store their vehicles outside on the curb or in a driveway, insects, tree sap, and other organic matter can adhere to the clear coat. This kind of environment will likely require a clay treatment before every wax.
So, while your situation may slightly change the answer, for most owners it is not worth waxing your car without claying it. Some owners whos vehicles are a particular point of pride, rather than simply a utility vehicle, may wax significantly more often than they clay detail, but that is an exception rather than the rule.
Waxing a car without claying it before should not be done. The wax will seal any contaminants that are on the paint. This can lead to rust issues. Moreover, wax will not bond perfectly to the paint without proper preparation, which decreases the effectiveness and the durability of the wax.
Do You Have To Apply Wax/Paint Protection After Claying?
There is some debate as to the exact steps needed to protect your vehicle after claying. There are as many different brands of clay, wax, and paint protections as there are cars to use them on. With that said, it is vital to wax your vehicle at the very least after claying, as the claying process will remove some of the existing wax along with the contaminants embedded in your clear coat.
It is not necessary, but highly recommendable, to apply paint protection after claying a car. After claying, the paint will be stripped from any contaminants and protection. Environmental debris will adhere to the paint directly if no paint protection is applied after claying.
Waxing not only gives your car a phenomenal shine, but it can also help protect against harsh weather, bird droppings, tree sap, salt, and other contaminants. Waxing and claying work best when they go hand in hand with each other. Clay detailing your car prepares it for the most effective possible waxing, and waxing your car can give it some measure of protection from the contaminants that claying removes.
Ultimately, the purpose of claying your car is to create a smooth surface that is clear of hard-to-remove, microscopic contaminants. Applying wax to a recently clayed surface will make the wax adhere much more effectively and will improve the longevity of your paint, clear coat, and car as a whole.
Does Claying Remove Your Clear Coat?
Claying is not considered an abrasive process as long as you adequately lubricate the clay bar throughout. Make sure to fold the clay whenever it appears dirty to avoid dragging the captured particles across the surface. While claying itself does not damage your car’s clear coat, the particles that get caught inside the clay can scratch the surface of your vehicle if you do not fold it properly.
The majority of clear coat damage from claying is a result of user error or improper clay for the job. Different makes and models of vehicles can have differing levels of hardness of their clear coats, and clays can also be separated by their aggressiveness level. Clays that are rated as being more aggressive can damage softer clear coats even without the presence of captured particles, which will require polishing to fix.
Take the time to research your vehicle’s exact specifications and review different clay detailing kits to determine which one will be the right fit for you.
If you love your car or just want to extend its lifespan, it is worth taking the time to correctly clay it before waxing. Besides preventing potential paint corrosion and other damage from industrial pollutants, dust, and debris, clay bar detailing will make waxing and polishing your car that much more effective. It will make the shine of your paint look incredibly vibrant and uniform across its entire surface.
Remember that the damage from contaminants may start nearly invisible, but once the corrosion process begins, it can be very costly and labor-intensive to fix. Taking the time to clean and protect your vehicle today will save you time, effort, and money in the long run.