This is a follow up to “Prior to Paint Correction” part one in our series on what goes into a high-quality auto paint correction project. Read the other parts here: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4.
Congratulations! If you’re following along, you should have finished washing your car and now it’s on to the mechanical decontamination step: Clay.
Clay? Like the stuff you buy in craft shops?
Well, no. It has a lot in common with that clay, but Auto Detailing Clay is an engineered malleable, putty-like substance that can remove bonded contaminants from your vehicle’s paint when we combine it with a lubricant.
The clay is going to remove contaminants above the surface of the paint and that didn’t come off in the wash process. This could be anything really: light tree sap, paint overspray from your neighbor doing a DIY project outside, years of embedded dirt… anything we don’t want permanently trapped inside our new paint correction.
How many types of clay are there?
There are a few different types of clay on the market, and it comes in a few different forms as well. Clay bars have been around the longest. (I think I first tried one back in 1995 or so.)
There are a couple to choose from depending on the level of contamination we are dealing with:
Fine is generally all that is needed for vehicles that are washed regularly and are used to ensure that we have a good surface to polish even if we can’t feel anything on the surface.
We then step up to medium and aggressive for vehicles that have visible or hard to remove contamination.
Another type of clay that has gained popularity over the last few years is synthetic clay that is manufactured into a disk, mitt, or towel! These make claying a bit easier, but a lot of times don’t work for heavy contamination and overspray removal.
Most detailers choose different products for different projects, depending on the shape and size of the car, how clean it’s been kept and so on.
How does it work?
This process takes a while, but it’s critical. We need to make sure that the surface is squeaky clean for our next steps. The hardest parts are usually your roof, hood, and trunk. Any mostly-flat surfaces that face the sky where contaminants can sit and become attached.
To use detailing clay to clean a vehicle, the first step is to spray a lubricant or detailer’s spray in a small area on the surface. It’s best to focus on an area at a time, like a 1-2 foot square area.
We then gently glide the clay back and forth across the lubricated area, removing contaminants. This process is completed over and over until the car’s surface has been covered and the clay glides smoothly across the whole surface.
The clay will pick up dirt and other contaminants, so it needs to be regularly renewed by folding it over and over, or replacing it when it gets very dirty or picks up contaminants that might scratch the surface as you clean it.
(Does this sound like fun? Would you rather have a professional take care of it so you don’t have to spend days working on this? Let us know in the comments below or give us a call.)
So now that the paint is clayed and smooth, it’s time for correction right?
Not quite yet. Now that we have removed all of the contaminants on top of the paint surface, we need to dig a little bit deeper and do chemical decontamination to clean in the pores of the paint. Did you know paint has pores? Weird, huh?