Claying your car decontaminates the paint, leaving a smooth and clean finish. However, after the clay bar, you should always do some additional detailing steps to keep the color clear and protected.
- After the clay bar, polish the car if the paint has marring, swirl marks, or scratches.
- Apply paint protection (waxes, sealants, ceramic coatings) to protect the paint from UV rays, heat, oxidation, etc.
1. Polishing Car After Clay Bar (Optional)
The first step you should do after claying your car is to polish it. But polishing car after clay bar isn’t a must; it’s a recommendation.
It depends on two things:
- Clear coat condition: if there are swirl marks and scratches, you should polish it
- How contaminated the paint was: if the paint is heavily contaminated, you’ll have to use a heavy-cut clay bar, which will leave marring on the paint. You’ll only remove marring when you polish a car.
Polishing will remove all swirl marks and scratches from your vehicle and leave the finish perfectly clean, glossy, and shiny. However, if there are no clear coat scratches, swirl marks, or marring after you clay your car, you don’t have to polish it.
Mostly, you won’t have to polish a car after claying if you clayed it to strip old waxes and sealants or to remove light paint contamination.
If you want to learn how to polish your car, make sure to check my guide for polishing your car using a machine polisher. It’s a thorough step-by-step polishing tutorial for beginners, and it’s very easy to follow.
2. Applying Paint Protection After Clay Bar Treatment (Mandatory)
Whenever you clay your car, it’ll strip waxes, sealants, and even ceramic coatings off of your car’s paint. So, that means that you’ll have to reapply them again. Even if you never had any paint protection on your car, you should apply it after claying it.
Reasons to apply waxes or sealants after claying your car:
- They’ll increase the shine and gloss of the car’s paint
- Waxes and sealants protect your vehicle from UV rays, heat, oxidation, bird etchings, etc.
- You’ll more easily wash your vehicle
- Car won’t need clay bar treatment so often
TIP: After claying your car, if you decide not to polish it but only to apply paint protection, make sure to clean the clay bar lubricant residue before applying waxes and sealants. You can do it by doing a panel wipe or by re-washing your car. That way, you’ll prepare paint so waxes and sealants can easily bond to it.
If you want high-end paint protection for your vehicle, you should consider applying a ceramic coating to your car. It offers better and more extended protection from waxes and sealants but is much more expensive.
If you also clayed the glass surfaces on your vehicle, I suggest applying some water-repellent coating on your windshield and windows. That way, windows will be protected, too, and they’ll quickly repel water when it rains, so the driving is more effortless.
Related: Best Paint Protectants For Cars
What If You Don’t Do These Steps After Clay Bar?
If you decide not to polish and protect your car after claying it, it’s a job half done. You won’t fix swirl marks and scratches, and you’ll also leave the paint unprotected.
Unpolished and unprotected paint leads to:
- Unfixed scratches cause a car to look awful
- Unprotected paint will get dirty much faster
- Washing a vehicle that doesn’t have wax or sealant applied is harder since the dirt sticks to the paint a lot
Waxes and sealants aren’t expensive, and I think they’re an excellent investment for your vehicle – both for appearance and maintenance.
Honestly, I don’t see a point in claying your car and then doing nothing after it. It just doesn’t go together. You’ll remove contaminants, but they’ll appear in no time if you don’t protect your vehicle.
Properly washing your vehicle and claying it is one of the most essential steps for keeping your car as clean as possible. If you maintain your vehicle, it’ll be in good condition for many years to come.
Never finish until you’re completely done with all the steps to maintain your car’s exterior properly.
Clay bar treatment is the preparation process, and it should be followed by something (polishing and protecting). That’s the only correct way, and make sure to do it.