How To: Use a Clay Bar When Detailing a Car

Use a Clay Bar When Detailing a Car

Using a clay bar will help produce a show-car paint finish. Watch the video for a complete demonstration, and check out the steps below.

Step 1 Wash Car

It is very important to wash car before using the clay bar. This will remove dirt to prevent it from scratching the paint surface.

Step 2 Lubricate Paint Surface

To use the clay bar, remove it from the container and lubricate the paint surface. This can be done with detail spray or water. This will allow the clay bar to slide against the paint surface removing the contamination on the paint surface.

Step 3 Use Light Pressure

Using light pressure, rub the paint surface until it feels smooth and slick. The surface will feel rough and there will be friction. As the contaminates are removed, the surface will become smooth and slick. This is an indication the surface is properly cleaned.

Step 4 Wipe Off Access with a Towel

Re-wet the surface with water or detailing spray and wipe the surface clean with a clean towel. 

Step 5 Apply Wax or Buff as Needed

After the surface is completely clay-barred and clean, the surface can be buffed with compound and polish, followed by waxing.

If there are minor scratches, swirl marks or other imperfections after using a clay bar, compound and polish will need to be used to complete the paint restoration. However, if the paint finish looks good after completing the clay bar step, the compounding and polishing step can be skipped and go straight to the waxing step. When applying wax, follow the wax directions as described by the specific wax specifications you choose.


  • Never allow the clay bar to touch the ground or any other dirty surface. If big particles of dirt or sand become embedded into the clay bar, it will result in scratching the paint surface that you are working on.

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