Auto Detailing Trick – Mothers Clay Bar

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It’s something that has happened to all of us – there’s always a stain or dirty area on your trucks’ paint that never seems to come clean no matter how many times you wash it or how hard you scrub. Or maybe you have a light colored truck and you”re confused by what seems to be pinpricks of corrosion thatsit on the top of your paint. Either way, it’s enough to drive you crazy.

Mothers clay bar.

Is your truck too dirty for soap? Use Mother's clay bar to rub out that spot.

The fact is, dirt can become chemically bonded to your paint in such a way that standard washing just can’t remove it. You might get so frustrated that you end up throwing soap all over yourself – see above.

Enter the clay bar.

Those bits of corrosion you are seeing, for example? They are iron filings and other tiny bits of steel that are usually found near industrial areas or train tracks which get stuck in your paint where they rust upon exposure to the elements. Bird droppings, tree sap, and pollen are also common sources of hair pulling when it comes to trying to get a clean finish.

Lucky for us, detailing companies have a product out there that is designed to take care of this very issue. Called “detailing clay” or a “clay bar,” it’s actually just what it sounds like – clay from the ground that is refined in a lab to be safe to use on the paint of your car. Many companies sell a clay bar, but one of the most popular is the Mothers California Gold Clay Bar Paint Saving System, which comes with two bars of clay, a micofiber towel, and some spray-on instant detailer.

Using a clay bar is simple. The first step is to wash and dry your car. Then, break off a small piece of clay and form it so that it has a flat surface that you can run horizontally along your car’s paint. Before the clay actually touches the paint, however, make sure that you spray the panel generously with detailer. This provides a thin membrane of water that allows the clay to slide safely on top of the paint.

How does it work? The clay bar itself is actually a very fine abrasive, much like a polish. While it might sound scary to rub your paint with something abrasive, the clay actually glides along the surface thanks to the detailer, grabbing onto the bits of metal, tar and sap that are embedded in it. You will notice that after a little while the part of the clay bar that was touching your paint will be discolored from the junk it’s picked up off of your trunk. Once this occurs, simply fold the clay over and start using a new, clean side.

It’s important to use plenty of detailer to prevent too much friction from occurring. Also, always rub the clay in the same direction, and if you drop the clay, throw it out immediately – it will have picked up too many tiny rocks and other particles of dirt on the ground to be safe to use on your paint. This is why you only use one small piece at a time – it saves you from having to throw out an entire bar.

Once you’ve completed waxing one panel, run your fingers along the freshly cleaned surface. It should feel much smoother than the rest of your truck. This is because even though it was freshly washed, there are still many contaminants to be found in the paint. Clay is one of the real difference-makers when it comes to detailing, and while it is time intensive you will be impressed with the results after everything is said and done. Since clay removes wax, make sure to re-apply your wax afterwards to seal in and protect the new cleanness. Mother”s Clay bar is a popular and inexpensive choice – about $20.

Filed Under: Maintenance Tips


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  1. Jeremy The Detailer says:

    You need to rinse the clay off before you fold it to a new side. That is a VERY important step. ALso you will nee dto use a wax with a cleaner in it. The clay leaves microfine scraches in the paint and needs an ultra fine cleaner to remove them.

  2. Jeremy – Thanks again.

  3. Mickey says:

    I use this exact product every 6 months and use Toyota’s cleaner wax and my final step is Blue Coral Carnuba Brazilian paste wax.

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