Car Clay

When I bought my car in 1998 the salesman said that I should make sure I put a good coat of wax on it. I waited a while and then I got sap on it and the paint job was never the same. Even when I did wax it, there were bumps and rough spots. With a new car on the way (probably tomorrow) I wanted to see what I needed to do to keep the finish in good shape even though the car will be in the sun all the time.

The internet is full of people who are insane about taking care of their cars. There are all kinds of different products out there, but one new thing to me was the idea of claying a car. It consists of applying some kind of liquid to the car and then rubbing clay on it. The clay isn’t abrasive, but picks up specs of dirt that give a rough finish. It only picks up things that stick above the surface, so it isn’t intended to fix scratches. It seemed pretty extreme, but as I read about it, it started to intrigue me. There are How-To clay videos about how to do it on You Tube. Meguiar’s, a reputable “over the counter” car wax maker (as opposed to online only), sells a Smooth Surface Clay Kit that includes two blocks of clay (like modeling clay), the liquid, a buffing towel (it’s all microfiber these days, no chamois), and some cleaner wax. I wound up visiting AutoZone last night and picked up a kit for $18.


Even though it was dark at that point, I washed a small spot on the hood of the Civic, and then started with the clay. The Civic’s surface is almost like sandpaper that has lost most of its grit. You don’t have to rub very hard, just let the clay move over the surface. Within seconds I had smoothed out a spot. I was able to smooth out the whole test spot in a minute. It was very smooth (except for some scratches from road debris that has hit the front of the car). I applied the wax and buffed it off. Unfortunately the scratches caught all of the wax and showed up white against the black surface. It might be better to either try to repair the scratches or use something that goes on clear. Maybe NuFinish, though I need to look into that some more.

Anyway, the clay doesn’t really do anything except give you a smooth surface for you to apply wax. It offers no protection in itself. So you still have to find a wax (not a polish which technically is abrasive and removes material). The one that fanatical people on the internet use is called Zaino. It is a process consisting of six different bottles of stuff and an entire kit costs $84. But it leaves an amazing shine that is more durable than a conventional wax (a regular carnuba wax only lasts a couple of months tops; the synthetics last 3-6 months). The Zaino process takes all day and is kind of expensive and is only available online or through distributors. People posting messages at autopia.com like to make fun of Turtle Wax and other readily available and inexpensive products and then say “there are other products that are better and not that expensive.” But they don’t tell you the name of those products. Then they might point out that other discussion threads go into the details. Eventually I found out about Duragloss products.

The first thing I found out about is a synthetic coating that gives the car a wet and shiny look. That product is Duragloss AquaWax. It’s about $8. They also make a more conventional wax that you should apply first called Total Performance Polish 105, $10, (not actually a polish). But for best results they recommend another product called Polish Bonding Agent 601, $7.50. This is some kind of wax which chemically bonds the 105 to the finish of the car and then hardens like an epoxy. I guess eventually it wears off without affecting the paint. Some people swear by that system, though it doesn’t give the shine of Zaino. They say it is more durable than anything Meguiar’s makes (apparently Meguiar’s is geared towards people who wax their cars monthly). Duragloss is not available at AutoZone or most other chains, but it is available at CarQuest. There are a few stores in Atlanta, so that’s what I plan to use.

One thought on “Car Clay

  1. I’ve done the clay bar stuff on my ’04 MR2 and it really is amazing. Scary thinking that you’re using a fine abrasive in a plastic binder, but it doesn’t rub off that much. Am sure you know, but, Don’t. Ever. Drop. It.

    I follow it up with some german synthetic sealer and the polish rag just floats off the surface, it’s so smooth.

    Worth the trouble, but with the car washing ban, I’ve been putting it off. . .

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