Auto Detailing: Claying


Your car has been washed, polished and waxed. It is gleaming and couldn’t look better. Or could it? Wrap your hand in a plastic bag and run your fingers gently over the paint. It may not be as smooth as you thought.

The roughness you can feel is the result of contaminants, clinging to your paint, dulling and damaging the surface. Tiny metal shavings are produced from brake dust, and industrial and environmental pollution. These shavings attach themselves to your vehicle and, if left untreated, can oxidize, causing permanent rust damage. Washing alone cannot remove them all. So what can you do to reduce this damage and restore a glass-like finish to your car?

Claying, first developed by the auto industry in Japan, has been enthusiastically adopted by detailing professionals in the USA. This revolutionary process produces an ultra smooth surface, quickly and safely. A small piece of clay is gently rubbed on the paint surface of a clean, lubricated car. As the clay ‘floats’ over the paint, any particles protruding above the flat surface are ‘grabbed’ and dislodged.

First, the car is prepared for the clay treatment by being thorough cleaned. To reduce the risk of scratching the car with engrained dirt, the car is washed from top down, and the use of power sprays, soiled sponges and dirty water should be avoided. Using gentle pressure, the clay is then rubbed over a small area of lubricated paint, with a special product or simply with clean, soapy water. As the particles are removed, the clay floats more easily over the now smoother surface. The clay is checked regularly to remove any large particles. When the piece being used becomes dirty, the clay can be kneaded to reveal a clean section. Once completely soiled, or if it is accidentally dropped on the floor, the clay is replaced.

The smooth surface produced by the claying process serves to enhance the final stages of detailing. If the paintwork is in good condition, detailing can be completed with a wax or sealant. Clay, however, is not a replacement for polish. The smooth feel is a result of removing particles above the surface, not by filling in scratches. If the paintwork shows signs of scratches and swirls, it should first be treated with polish, before a wax or sealant finishes the job. How often should you use clay on your car? You can check the condition of the paint by gently running your fingers over it. Once you feel the build up of particles, it is time to repeat the claying process.

Run your hand over the surface. Smooth? Now it really couldn’t look better.

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