Can You Clay a Car in the Sun?

Claying your car or using a clay bar treatment is a detailing treatment for your vehicle, not a regular part of your car cleaning routine. There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to claying properly, but can claying be done when your vehicle is exposed to direct sunlight?

Man cleaning car in the sun

You can clay your car in the sun. Some people clay their vehicles in the sunshine and achieve the same results as claying in the shade. However, it can only be done if a few precautions are taken. Usually, claying in the shade is the safest bet.

This article answers questions such as when to clay your car and why claying in the shade is still recommended. I’ll also list some professional tips for claying while in the sun.

When Should You Clay Your Car?

Claying your car is a special treat for your vehicle, not your regular car care treatment. This means you don’t have to do it too frequently.

Dry clay for car

You should clay your car around twice a year. Some vehicle owners do this quarterly. You don’t need to clay your vehicle often. It’s a recommended treatment before you polish, wax, and seal your car.

What Exactly Does Claying Your Car Do?

Front view of the car

Claying your car cleans it, removing contaminants that a regular wash and dry won’t get rid of. These contaminants include tar, tree sap, and industrial fallout like iron dust or “rail dust.”

A kneaded portion of detailing clay swiped over the surface of your vehicle acts as a magnet for those unwanted particles that can damage your paint over time. Particles and debris will stick to the clay, leaving your paint extra clean and shiny.

After claying comes polishing. Claying removes any contaminants that may rub against your vehicle’s surface when polishing. When your vehicle’s surface is contaminant-free, you can do your polishing and waxing without the worry of leaving any accidental scratches or swirls.

Process of Claying Your Car

Hands molding a clay

Claying your vehicle is a fairly simple process that you can do yourself without the need for a professional. Follow the below steps to clay your car:

  1. Wash and dry your car as you would normally. This removes most dirt and particles dulling your vehicle’s shine.
  2. Take a detailing clay bar and cut it into three or four pieces. Knead the clay until soft and pliable. A medium-duty clay bar is an excellent choice. Heavy clay bars should be reserved for heavily contaminated vehicle surfaces. Chemical Guys Synthetic Lubricant Kit boasts a smooth-as-glass texture and comes with a medium clay bar and lube.
  3. Form these pieces into small flat discs around 2-3 inches (5-8 cm). These smaller pieces will be much easier to manage than attempting to use an entire bar at once. Using small discs also lessens the risk of wastage.
  4. Spray a small section of your vehicle’s surface with a good amount of clay lube or detailing spray. Work on 1 ft x 1 ft (30 x 30 cm) sections at a time. Start from the top of the car, working downwards. You can also clay the wheels of your vehicle.
  5. Glide your clay piece over the sprayed section without applying too much pressure. Let the clay “grab” any unwanted particles on its own. You should feel the clay working and making the surface of your car smooth.
  6. Around four to six passes should be enough. After each section, take your piece of clay and fold it inwards on the contaminated side to reveal two new clean sides. Wipe off the excess product from the section when you are done before spraying a new area.
  7. Car polish, wax, or paint sealant should be applied after the whole claying process to act as an extra layer of protection for your vehicle. You can try CAR GUYS Hybrid Wax to give your car that extra shine and advanced protection from UV rays that can damage your vehicle’s paint.

If your clay feels rough or looks discolored, change to a new piece of clay and throw away the old piece. Similarly, if you accidentally drop the clay on the ground, throw it away and use a new piece.

How Claying in the Sun Affects the Process

Inside view of car under the sun

Now, claying in the sun can mean different things. Will you be claying outdoors but during a cloudy day in cool weather? Or are you going to clay your car under the blazing sun in the summer?

Exposure to sunlight is fine. What matters here is the temperature of your vehicle’s surface. If your car’s been sitting outside under the sun for most of the day, it will be hot to the touch.

The ideal temperature for cleaning, polishing, and other car care treatments is around 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15-27 degrees Celsius). A product’s effectiveness can be lessened if applied on a colder or hotter surface. This is why the question of claying a car in the sun comes up every once in a while.

Typically, if your car isn’t warm or hot to the touch, you’re good to apply any car care treatment.

First published on Sep 17, 2022 by

However, suppose your car is too hot due to being under the sun for too long. It may cause your cleaning or polishing product to dry up much quicker and evaporate before doing its job.

Tips for Claying Your Car in the Sun

Claying the car in the sun

Though it is recommended to clay your car indoors or in the shade, you can still clay your vehicle in the sun.

However, there are some things to note:

  • Wash and dry your car as usual before claying. This will help to lower the surface temperature of your vehicle.
  • Some car owners who have clayed in the sun suggest skipping the drying step after washing your car before claying in the sun will help you do the clay treatment.
  • Note that leaving your car somewhat wet before claying can sometimes leave streaks.
  • You will need to apply clay lube or detailing spray more often. A warmer vehicle surface will make the liquid evaporate more quickly, affecting the smooth glide of clay over your paint.

If you are claying in the sun, don’t forget to protect yourself and apply sunscreen before starting work on your vehicle under the hot sun.

Final Thoughts

Claying your car under direct sunlight isn’t a problem. It’s a too hot or too cold car surface that can affect the effectiveness of car care products.

Though it’s better to clay your car in the shade, you can do so in the sun as long as you use more clay lube or detailing spray while you work. The heat can cause the product to evaporate more quickly and cause more friction between your clay and the vehicle surface.

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CarCareReport dot com first published this article on Sep 17, 2022..

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