Auto detailing clay bar with lubricant spray

How to clay bar a black car (No Scratches)

Scratches are hard to avoid when you clay bar a black car so extra care is needed. Washing a black car will remove most of the dirt and debris from the paint. But if it still feels rough to the touch a clay bar will come to the rescue.

These particles will not only dull your finish. They can also cause problems when waxing and polishing your car so claying is an important step to carry out when you want the best results possible when detailing your car.

A clay bar is a simple but effective detailing tool that can help remove contaminants from your car’s paint. It works by gliding over the surface of the car and picking up anything that’s stuck to it, including dirt and grime that may have become embedded in the paint.

Adams Clay Bar
Adams Fine Clay Bar. Great for Black Cars

A step-by-step guide to claying a black car.

Step 1: Wash your car:

Before using a clay bar, it’s important to make sure your car is as clean as possible. Park in the shade and use a good-quality car shampoo. Once the car is rinsed, dry it with a microfiber towel.

Step 2: Check what areas need to be clayed:

Check what areas feel rough to the touch as you may not need to clay your entire vehicle.

Step 3: Prep the clay bar:

Break off a small piece of clay from the bar and shape it into a flat piece. Knead it gently with your hands to soften it up. You could place it in warm water to make it softer. This will help prevent scratches.

Step 4: Lubricate the panel:

Not using enough lubricant can be a mistake when claying a black car. Cover the entire area with a dedicated clay lubricant or quick detail spray. Water does not provide enough lubrication. You should also spray some on the clay bar itself.

Adams Detail Spray Bottle
Adams Detail Spray is a great clay lubricant.

Step 5: Glide the clay bar over the paint:

Don’t use too much pressure. Using a flattened piece of clay, apply light pressure, and work in straight lines. Work out of direct sunlight. Add more lubricant.

Step 6: Check for contaminants:

As you work, check the clay bar for dirt and debris. Fold the bar over and knead it again to expose a clean surface if it gets dirty.

How to clay bar a black car (No Scratches) 1
A flattened piece of detailing clay

Step 7: Check the surface:

If the paint feels smooth you have completed that section. Don’t spend too long on any section. Detailing clay is abrasive and can cause scuff marks. Scuff marks won’t be visible when the paint is wet so dry if off to check.

Tips for using a clay bar on a black car.

  • Work in the shade.
  • Only do sections that need it.
  • Clay bars can be used on glass.
  • Soften the clay with warm water if needed.
  • Use soft or mild clay unless the contamination is really bad.
  • Use plenty of lubrication.
  • Only use a clay bar from a brand you trust.
  • Using iron remover before claying to dissolve iron particles.
  • Use a tar and glue remover to dissolve tar spots.
  • If you drop the clay bar, make sure there are no rocks in it.

How do I know if my black car needs to be clayed?

To check if claying your vehicle will be beneficial, rub your fingers along the wet paint of the car after you wash it. Does it feel rough to the touch? If the answer is yes then you need to use a clay bar to remove that roughness.

How often should you clay a black car?

It’s possible to go a few years without claying your car but it will depend on the environment and how protected the paint already is. Brake dust and tar will probably build up on most cars but will wash off more easily from a cleaned and protected car.

If you haven’t washed and topped up your protection then it might need a clay bar before you apply polish or wax. And if you have recently parked under a tree you may need to give the car a good claying because sap may not come off with washing. But best not to park under a tree if you have a black car.

So the general rule is, if you are planning on correcting(polishing) or waxing with paste wax, you’ll need to use a clay bar if the paint feels rough when you rub your fingertips over the paint.

If you’re just washing and applying a quick spray wax you may not need to use the clay bar. If your paint feels smooth and clean you definitely don’t need to use it.

Some enthusiast clay their car every weekend. This is probably bad for the paint as it might strip away the clear coat that was applied in the factory when it was painted.
I might clay my car once or twice a year. I will only clay the sections that need it.

How to prepare a black car for a clay bar.

Your car must be properly washed first. If you’re planning on applying a new coat of wax or sealant then consider using a soap designed to strip away existing wax. These are called strip shampoo or decon shampoo. Some people use dish soap for this task.

Another step I usually take is to use an iron remover such as CarPro Iron-X. This will dissolve bonded iron from your paint. Just spray it on and wash it off after a few minutes. It will turn iron spots on your car purple where the iron dissolves but it doesn’t stain paint. It could stain plastic if allowed to dry. So try to do it in the shade.

Using tar remover before claying a black car could also be a very good idea. Carpro Tar-X is used for removing tar if you feel you need it, CarPro also sells a product called TRIX which is a combination of Tar-X and Iron-X.

Many car detailing enthusiasts say using these products greatly reduces the chance of scratching when using a clay bar and when waxing.

Do new cars need to be clayed?

It’s possible you need to clay a new car. This might seem counter-intuitive because you might think the paint is new it hardly needs to be cleaned. But the car could be sitting in a parking lot for months before it gets sold. It probably gets washed by the dealer before getting sold. Test the surface by rubbing your hand over it as explained above.

Clay Bar alternatives

A clay mitt is a popular alternative to a clay bar. It seems everyone knew about this product before I did. But now I can see why everyone loves it so much. Adams clay mitt is a popular choice, it’s great for removing bugs and probably creates fewer scratches than a clay bar.

Plenty of lubrication is needed with a clay mitt as it is with a clay bar. If you have a foam cannon you can use a slick car shampoo like Adams Mega Foam as a lubricant.


Claying a black car will make your paint super smooth. This makes polishing and waxing easier and makes your paint pop. But it can cause swirls and scratches if you’re not careful.

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