How To Clay Bar a Car

Pay for the clay to set the bar with your car

Skincare specialists have long touted the benefits of detoxifying clay masks. The natural material draws out and removes impurities while improving the look and feel of your epidermis. Clay bars for cars kinda work the same way. 

Though sporting an entirely different recipe and makeup than the masks used in spas, clay bars are great tools to add to the car care arsenal. Used as a complement to washing, polishing, and waxing, clay barring a car grabs and removes life’s harsh contaminants such as overspray, road tar, acid rain, and bug fossils. Doing so not only improves the car’s shine, but it also smooths out the surface for a glassy feel. Best of all, anybody can use it to kick the maintenance routine up a notch.

The Drive’s crack informational team is here to tell you what to buy, how to use a clay bar, and when to use it. Follow our step-by-step guide below.

Clay Bar Basics

Estimated Time Needed: 1-2 hours, depending on vehicle size

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Windshield

Clay Bar Safety

Working on your car can be dangerous and messy. Use these items to ensure your safety and prevent any accidents.

Meguiar's/Amazon

Meguiar's Clay Kit

Everything You’ll Need To Clay Bar a Car 

We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done. 

Tool List

Parts List

Many of these items can be purchased in all-inclusive packages. Here are The Drive's Best Car Wash Kits for Your Ride.

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable while you are getting ready to clay bar your car, will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.

Use detail spray to lubricate the clay bar.
Meguiar's/Amazon

Meguiar's quick detailer

Here’s How To Clay Bar a Car

Let’s do this!

  1. First up, wash and dry the vehicle. You can read The Drive’s guide for how and how often to wash your car.
  2. Remove the clay bar and separate it into equal halves or quarters. 
  3. Work the clay with your fingers and flatten it into a patch that fits into your pointer, middle, and index fingers.
  4. Pick a small section of the vehicle, such as a quarter of the hood, and liberally spray it with detailer. 
  5. Lightly glide the clay across the wet vehicle using a back and forth motion until the entire area has been clayed. 
  6. Wipe excess detail spray off with a microfiber towel.
  7. Fold the clay over onto itself, work it in your hands, and once again flatten it. 
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 until the car is completely clayed.
  9. Using the back of your hand, feel the paint to double check for rough spots that might have been missed during the first round.
  10. The claying is done, but for extra protection, it’s best to polish, wax, and/or ceramic coat the vehicle.

Get Help With How To Clay Bar a Car From Mechanic On JustAnswer

The Drive recognizes that while our How-To guides are detailed and easily followed, a rusty bolt, an engine component not in the correct position, or oil leaking everywhere can derail a project. That’s why we’ve partnered with JustAnswer, which connects you to certified mechanics around the globe, to get you through even the toughest jobs. 

So if you have a question or are stuck, click here and talk to a mechanic near you. 

If you drop a clay bar on the ground, throw it away.
Meguiar's/Amazon

A dirty used clay bar

Pro Tips To Clay Bar a Car

The Drive’s editors have detailed countless vehicles and learned how to clay bar from the pros. Here are a few tips we picked up in the process: 

  • Be aware of where you place clay. Never reuse clay that has been set down on a used workbench, the floor, or any other place where it could collect dirt. If it touches any of these surfaces, especially the ground, throw it away and use a fresh piece of clay. Likewise, once you’ve clay barred a car, throw that clay away.
  • Water is no substitute for detailing spray. Clay barring needs a certain level of lubrication, and without it, you risk damaging the vehicle’s paint.
  • Brand-new cars need love too. Dealership lots are vulnerable to a variety of contaminants and grime, so even if the car just rolled into your driveway, it probably still needs clay.

How Often Do You Need To Clay Bar A Car?

This will largely depend on how often you drive the vehicle, how often you wash the vehicle, whether or not the vehicle is waxed or coated, and the type of outside conditions the vehicle encounters. The touch test, if it feels rough to the back of the hand, should do the trick, though.

How Much Does It Cost To Clay Bar A Car?

A clay bar kit can be purchased for $15-30.

How to Maintain Your Car’s Clean Exterior 

Once a car is washed, there are several ways to elevate its cleanliness, smoothness, and shininess. To give you that extra shine, follow The Drive’s other detailing and cleaning guides to add protection and gloss to your ride:

Featured Products

Mothers California Gold Clay Kit

Chemical Guys Medium Clay Bar

Sinland Microfiber Car Drying Towel

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com