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by Chris Carpenter
Even after it’s been washed and waxed, cars sometimes have a somewhat rough finish. Contaminants and resistant dirt build up on the finish so it isn’t quite as smooth, and once it’s rough like that, dirt clings to the car more easily. So if you really want that nice, smooth finish from the showroom, you may need to use a clay bar.
It takes some time and some work, but really does make the car look better, and may help to prevent the car from getting dirty quite as quickly.
You can get clay bars from a lot of companies, including Maguire’s and Mothers. The one that I'm going to be using is from Mothers, and you can pick it up at your Advanced or Auto Zone or any store like that.
As always, if you want to try this yourself, read all the directions and follow them step-by-step, and heed all the warnings. Any time you’re working with chemicals, just be careful and take all the appropriate safety precautions.
Make sure you clean the panel thoroughly first. When I did the video to demonstrate this at Carlisle, even though I’d washed and waxed my car more than once (for the show field), there were still little bumps here and there on the deck lid, making it feel just a little rough. So after washing it briefly, to make sure it was as clean as possible, I started with the Mothers clay bar.
The clay bar comes as part of a little kit; you can get more comprehensive kits if you want. Again, you need to wash the car first. I'm just going to tell you right now, this is not something you’re going to want to rush. If you have an hour to wash your car and get it ready for a show, you’re not going to want to clay bar because in order to do this properly, you need to take your time.
Next, take the spray from the kit, just a little on the area you want. Then take a clay piece, you don’t need to use the whole thing at first. This clay is specially formulated to really work into the paint and remove all of those contaminants that get built up and stuck in here. So you take your piece, knead it together, loosen it up a little bit, and apply it to the paint. You’re not grinding it in, just doing some gentle strokes back and forth, and the clay drags in the rough spots. Just keep folding the clay over. It may be a little dirty, but you can still use it. As you do this, you'll start seeing some of the dirt and contaminants come right up off that paint. Work just a small area at a time.
Also part of this kit is a little shammy cloth microfiber towel, to clean any bits of the clay that have come off and a little bit of the liquid still remaining that’s dirty, so wipe off the residue.
I would suggest is to make it easier on you, don’t do the whole car at once; do a panel at a time. Because, depending on the size of the car, it’ll take a while. To do my minivan, it took about two and a half hours.
Especially in an older vehicle that sits out a lot in the weather, you’re going to see and feel quite a difference when you’re done, especially when you photograph the car and stand back and see how the reflections go. Then wax the car when you’re done.
As for the leftovers, if you have any, seal it well in a plastic container or something; it does dry out.
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