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Why is Clay Bar Treatment Different than Compounding or Waxing alone?


When is Clay Bar Treatment Needed?


The clay bar treatment is a type of deep cleaning process which is preformed with a physical pliant ball of clay like substance, thus the name “Clay Bar”.  The Clay Bar Treatment is a crucial element in the professional cleaning, correcting, and protecting process of a car in a professional full detailing process. More specifically, clay bar treatment of a vehicle fits into the later stages of the cleaning process, right before the paint correction stage of a full restoration type detailing job.

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After a vehicle has been thoroughly washed and all dirt has been removed from the paint, a clay bar treatment will remove the embedded dirt and other materials stuck in the existing factory or custom clearcoat layer of your vehicle without removing the clearcoat layer as would common compounding done incorrectly.

Driving down the road or even just sitting in a parking lot, a vehicle is always exposed to extremely small particles of dirt, pollutants and sap that are trapped in the air. Over time these dirt molecules collect on the paint and penetrate the clearcoat of your vehicle, which cannot be washed off through regular wash methods.

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How do I know if my car needs a Clay Bar Treatment?


Modern vehicles have exterior body panels that consist of a primer coat, paint/color coat, and then a clear coat. The clearcoat is a layer of paint with no pigment added to it, hence why it has no color and is referred to as clearcoat. The clearcoat is designed to prevent UV damage of the paint coat from the sun. A properly maintained vehicle should have absolutely smooth paint surfaces that are free of bumpiness and roughness. If you skim your finger gently on a clean section of paint and you notice that the surface is rough or at least bumpy, you need a Clay Bar Treatment, not necessarily a compounding. This roughness and bumpiness is usually attributed to contamination.

A clay bar treatment helps to remove this without damaging or even removing the slight layer of clear coat. As a rule of thumb the heaviest amount of paint contamination can be found on the upwards-facing areas of the vehicle including the hood, roof, and trunk, as well as the rear bumper and directly behind the wheel wells. Left untreated, these contaminant’s will continue to work their way deeper and deeper into the clear coat, eventually making it necessary for a compounding.  Every time you have you cars finish compounded you loose a physical layer of the clear coat and its protection against UV rays destroying the pigment in the paint.  This is why Clay Bar Treatments are so desirable.

clay bar detailing by Pro Tint Detailing of Central Florida

A clay bar treatment of the vehicle is especially important to perform prior to polishing (a far less abrasive form of scratch and swirl removal than compounding) because it ensures that the polishing process does not expose dirt particles to the polishing pad. When dirt particles stuck in the clearcoat get trapped in the polishing pad, it can make the polishing pad dirty, the dirt then actually causing more swirls than the polishing was meant to fix. To ensure a swirl-free finish, all materials that are touching the paint surface should be removed with a clay bar treatment for a dirt-free surface, as well as removing the trapped dirt and contaminants such as acids and corrosives beneath the wax or polish layers, which allows the damage to the paint to continue if the car is simply washed and waxed over and over.

clay bar detailing by Pro Tint Detailing of Central Florida

Furthermore, heavily contaminated paint surfaces may literally have a layer of dirt covering the paint surface significantly changing the actual intended color of the car or truck, epically with metal flake paint.   This can mean significantly reduced clarity, depth of gloss, and metallic shimmer (on metallic-colored vehicles) of the paint itself even after detailing if either compounding or clay bar treatment stage is skipped.  Of the two choices we highly recommend the clay bar treatment if possible, it is less expensive and extends the life of the paint far beyond that of the compounding process.

clay bar detailing by Pro Tint Detailing of Central Florida

Interestingly, a heavily contaminated paint surface can actually hide the significant defects of a painted surface, giving you the impression that the paint is in great condition when it really isn’t. Contaminated dirt can be so severe that it will completely fill all of the fine scratches and swirls in the paint. Exteriors in this condition have usually never been waxed in years and have probably not been washed in many weeks, if not months.  If your car is in this condition, shame on you, but never fear, we can fix it, even oxidized paint can be fixed with proper professional detailing, but that’s another service, see exterior restoration.

clay bar detailing by Pro Tint Detailing of Central Florida

So once the vehicle has been thoroughly washed to remove the initial layer of dirt, and then clay bar treatment used to remove the dirt and contaminants imbedded in the clearcoat, the surface is now as clean as can be and is ready for the ultimate shine.  This type of professional show ready shine can only be produced through professional car paint polishing techniques applied with the proper professional equipment to repair weeks months or sometimes years of damage.  But never fear, Pro Tint Detailing has seen it all, and fixed everything thrown at us.  Call us for an appointment today – 407-841-2123

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