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Detailing

The perfect un-polluted finish

October 11, 2010
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Every vehicle on the globe shares a common enemy, and it isn’t the gridlock pace of a metropolitan traffic jam, but it is a by-product of it.

It can be caused by a neighbor’s exterior remodeling project on their house, or it may be part of the exhaust from a nearby company.

This common enemy is pollution. It’s in the air, it’s everywhere, and it’s on all cars.

The problem
The pollution on all cars is called surface or paint contamination. It affects all paint finishes and can cause serious damage when left untreated.

Paint contamination is generally unseen but can be felt as a rough or gritty texture on the paint's surface and can lead to tiny rust spots.

There are many forms of paint contamination that infect the finish of a car's paint; they include:

1. Rail dust: When vehicles are transported from the manufacturer by rail, iron dust particles created by friction between train wheels and the track, settle on the finish.

When exposed to oxygen and moisture, this dust corrodes and becomes embedded in the finish.

Rail dust can contaminate a new car’s finish before it even reaches the dealership. Anytime a vehicle is parked or travels near a railroad, it is subject to rail dust contamination.

2. Brake dust: Particles produced from the friction of brake pads rubbing against the rotor is called brake dust.

While braking, the newer, softer brake pad compounds are displaced into the air and end up on the paint finish.

If a car’s finish is left unattended in this condition, the dust will etch into the finish, seriously damaging it. If left on, the corrosive nature of the brake dust will corrode the clear coat over time, leaving large pits for which there is no practical solution.

3. Industrial fallout: Industrial fallout is created from environmental pollution.

This pollution, which mainly consists of tiny metallic particles (ferrous metal dust), is carried across the atmosphere by wind currents and eventually falls from the sky.

It then adheres to vehicle exteriors by embedding into the clear coat. These particles mechanically bond to a vehicle's painted surfaces.

Moisture and temperature combine with particles to create a chemical reaction. This reaction creates an acid, causing the iron to corrode and enter the painted surface.

4. Acid rain: Acid rain is a broad term used to describe several ways that acids fall out of the atmosphere. A more precise term is called acid deposition.

Prevailing winds blow acidic particles and gases onto buildings, cars, homes, and trees across state and national borders, and sometimes over hundreds of miles. Rainstorms, fog, and snow also deposit the destructive acids.

5. Paint overspray: Another man-made pollutant that easily travels through the air is paint overspray. Even a slight breeze can carry overspray far beyond the work site.

These airborne particles can damage most any surface and may drift for several miles.

6. Organic airborne materials: Acidic properties in bird droppings, insects, trees and pollen may cause organic damage to painted surfaces.

If left untreated, in time these and other organic materials may result in paint degradation.

How to use clay
About 10 years ago, a product was developed in Japan which turned the detailing and body shop industry upside down; it was a little bar of clay, now known as detailing clay.

Using clay is very simple. First, wash the vehicle with a premium carwash soap, then just spray and clay.

Never use detailing clay without washing the car first.

The spray is typically a water-based fluid containing a little silicone to assist the clay in gliding over the surface. For body shops, there are body shop-safe clay lubricants that contain no silicone.

Spray the lubricant onto the surface; then wipe the clay back and forth, working on three foot sections at a time.

When claying, you need only the weight of your hand to remove the contaminants.

Move the clay back and forth until the bar glides effortlessly. This happens within two or three quick swipes.

Now dry the clayed area and you’re finished.

Periodically inspect the clay and fold it over to bring up fresh clay. This is known as kneading, which helps keep the clay clean.

If you drop the clay, be sure to inspect it for dirt. Don’t use the clay without pinching off the dirt that may have stuck to the bar.

If the clay is too dirty to clean, it’s better to discard it rather than scratch up a nice finish. The claying process from start to finish should only take about 15 minutes to complete on an average size car.

Good clay, better clay
The better clay bars should remain pliable at all times and will not break in half or crumble. They should remain fresh, never dry out, and be able to clay multiple times with kneading.

Additionally, make sure the clay doesn’t contain too many abrasive properties. Clay bars should never scratch the clear coat.

With a variety of clay bar options, the best suggestion is to try more than one brand and use the one that best fits your needs.


Greg Hitchcox is the Marketing/Graphic Designer for Auto Wax Company, makers of auto reconditioning and clay products. For more information email info@autowaxcompany.com.

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