Prior to the wax or polish process, a vehicle needs to start with a completely clean surface. Surface contamination is difficult to clean or polish. An auto detailing clay bar is an important detailing tool that is extremely effective at removing common contaminants such as paint overspray, tree sap and road soils from paint on a vehicle.

Contaminants that are not removed from the vehicle’s painted surface prior to the waxing or polishing process can cause unsightly marring or marks on the paint. As a first step in a polish or wax detail, a clay bar will remove the contamination and leave the vehicle’s painted surface smooth and clean, ready for the polish or wax process.

Properly preparing the vehicle

Before using a clay bar, it is important to adequately prespray the vehicle and clay bar with a clay bar lubricant to provide a slick surface to glide the clay over. Clay must be lubricated at all times as you gently slide the clay bar over your working area. Without proper lubrication the clay bar won’t easily glide across the paint, and it may leave a residue, which can be difficult to remove. This residue will later cause the wax to cure improperly and, if polishing, will be picked up by the pad on your high-speed buffer or dual-action buffer.

Roman Diaz, Zep Vehicle Care senior vehicle care specialist, has provided professional detail training to car wash locations for more than 25 years. He recommends using a wax enhancer lubricant rather than a high-alkaline lubricant. Diaz says high-alkaline lubricants can ruin the clay bar and render it unusable.

Once the car is fully lubricated, the clay bar will easily remove oxidation and smooth the surface. The removed contamination sticks to the clay and then readies the vehicle for the wax or polish process.

Educating customers about a contaminant-free vehicle

While the clay bar is an important car detailing tool, Diaz says the biggest challenge is educating customers on the importance of a contaminant-free vehicle prior to a wax or polish service. When a customer asks for a hand wax, Diaz recommends service advisors educate customers about the importance of claying the vehicle before waxing to remove contamination first.

Diaz also recommends service advisors explain what happens to the vehicle if contaminants are not properly removed prior to waxing the car and to physically show customers how much of a difference clay bars make in removing those surface contaminants on their vehicles.

“Most customers don’t know how much contamination is on their vehicles because you can’t really see or feel all these deeply embedded contaminants,” says Diaz. Instead, he recommends service advisors demonstrate this by claying a small section of the vehicle’s surface area. He then tells service advisors to provide customers with cellophane wrap for their fingers, such as gum wrappers, which provide extra sensitivity to feeling those embedded contaminants. Once the customer rubs his or her finger over the clay bar-treated surface versus the area that was not clay bar treated, Diaz says customers immediately notice the smoother surface, and most of the time customers will purchase this extra service.

Adding clay bar as another service

Clay bar cleaning can easily be offered as an extra service at a carwash. Often it is included in a wax or polish package, or it is offered as an a la carte item that customers can choose to have done. Diaz recommends offering the clay bar service to any customer coming in for a wax or polish service to help ensure a satisfied customer. Although pricing for this service varies by region and package offering, he typically sees the offering available to customers for $30 to $60 for normal contamination removal. More extreme contamination, such as paint overspray, will vary in pricing depending on the amount of time it takes to remove the contamination.