Microfiber - Ultra Soft
Drying Towel
Microfiber - Ultra Soft
Wheel & Jamb Towel
Applicator Pad
Microfiber - Ultra Soft
Quick Detail Towel
Microfiber - Ultra Soft
Polishing Cloth
Detailing Brushes
Detail Guide - Preparation, Waxing & Sealing

Clay Bar System
Instant Detailer

Contaminant Removal

The clay bar is not supposed to be a well-kept secret. It's normally sold as part of detailing kits such as with Mothers® California Gold® Clay Bar Paint Saving System, and even though we try hard to promote it, many people still don't understand. It just works. Have you ever drawn your hand across your hood just after washing expecting smoothness only to feel lots of little bumps and bits of dirt everywhere? Late-model paints, once cured, are harder than old-fashioned enamels (especially the clear-coat), and will show minor abuse quickly. Tiny bits of sharp stuff like dust and metal fragments can stick into that clear-coat and normal washing won't remove them. If you don't get rid of them, the Grim Reaper is coming for your paint.

Before using the clay bar, apply a layer of detailing spray on a freshly washed surface. This film will serve as a lubricant for the clay bar so it doesn't stick and leave behind any deposits.

The same effect of "dragging traction" encountered when drying with a chamois, which we described in the "Drying Don'ts" section, is what makes the clay bar so effective (but in a positive way). First off, the car must be freshly bathed to use the clay, or the bar will choke on all surface-bound dirt and probably scratch the paint. When lightly rubbed over the surface of your clean paint, lubricated by a coat of detailing spray, the clay will pick up embedded particles in your paint that would otherwise remain after washing.

To remove deposits, simply slide the clay bar over the lubricated surface. Be sure to knead the bar regularly to expose fresh clay.

Clay bars pull out and shear off embedded particles and surface-born contaminants with a safe and effective lubricated mechanical action. The clay bar must be sliding on a film of detailer or it will stick to the paint and skip and leave trace clay deposits (which come right off with the clay bar). While using a clay bar, knead it regularly (remold the working surface so fresh clay is exposed). When using instant detailer for clay work it can be wiped off in the same fashion as it would when used as a detailing spray. If the instant detailer dries it can be removed by spraying on more and drying it off immediately. If you drop the clay bar throw it away—period. This is why it's smart to use only a section of the clay bar while working, not all of it at once.

Since a clay bar is so effective at removing deposits, it takes off wax as well. Plan on re-waxing the finish after using a clay bar.

Clay Facts: Clay bars will remove the wax from your vehicle's finish so be prepared to re-seal the entire clay-barred portion of your paint. (For that reason don't use a clay bar unless your paint really needs it; otherwise you'll just be making more work for yourself.) So if you plan to polish, seal and wax, do it after using a clay bar. When using clay consider the brand of clay you use—some are very hard and aggressive.

Mothers® California Gold® Clay Bar is more malleable and not as stiff as other clays. This means it has minimal chance of scratching the paint and it will be easier to both use and remold. Clay works well on plastic, trim and glass as well as on matte-finish plastics that are free of coatings. Clay bars can remove paint over-spray from chrome and paint and just about any other hard or shiny surface. Mothers® Clay Bar is safe for all automotive paints.

Polish, Clean And Smooth The Surface

The initial goal of preparing your paint is to eliminate all impurities and pieces of debris from the surface. Thorough washing followed by the clay bar should remove all offending particles and substances and leave the paint ready for polishing. This process of smoothing the paint's surface rounds off the edges of surface-depth scratches, evens out the crinkling from any minor blemishes and erases the etching left by water spotting and more. It's like sanding a piece of wood with sandpaper but with a much, much finer medium.

Removing scratches may require a stronger polish and rubbing against it from varying directions. Don't use too much pressure though, or you might damage the surrounding paint.

Of course, some scratches are just too deep to polish away—and not all marks and nicks can be fixed with elbow grease. If the damage is deep enough to catch your fingernail you may not be able to remove it entirely. If all else fails try a slightly stronger polish such as Mothers® Scratch Remover. When working a scratch with any polish you should rub against it from various angles opposite the direction of the scratch.

California Gold®
Scratch Remover

Tips On Polishing And Waxing
Hear's a neat time-saver: Apply a rubber/plastic preservative, like Mothers® Protectant or Back-to-Black® to all non-paint surfaces before waxing or polishing to help keep that unpainted area from being stained by waxes.

When applying polishes, sealers, glazes or waxes use a clean, 100-percent cotton towel, microfiber cloth, foam wax pad or suitable applicator. Moisten the applicator only when using paste products, because liquids already have water in them. Don't goop on too much material—thin layers work better. If you're using liquid waxes and polishes, pour them on the applicator instead of directly on the paint; otherwise they may leave dark, super-waxed streaks. The exception to this rule is Mothers FX® Spray Wax and Reflections® Spray Wax which can be applied directly to the paint surface.

Polish before waxing in order to smooth the surface and bring back the luster of your paint.

Apply the material on only one section or body-panel at a time—don't try to do the whole vehicle at once. Whether you use a straight or circular motion is not as important as the amount of pressure. Don't use too much—work with a soft hand, letting the applicator and wax or polish to do its job. Just be sure to rotate the applicator frequently and work with new surfaces to reduce the chance of paint damage.

Keep clean towels with you to remove any waxes and polishes that get into spots they don't belong such as on trim. Let the product dry to a haze before rubbing it off. Use a 100-percent cotton or microfiber towel when removing polishes, waxes, etc. Rotate the towel to a clean area frequently, and shake it out occasionally or start with a new towel altogether.

Less is more when applying wax or polishes. Several thin layers go a long way - and don't use a lot of pressure. Also, pour the material on the applicator or towel, not directly on the paint to prevent streaks from forming.

You can treat your paint with varying degrees of polish in preparation for sealing and wax. Some polishes are very strong and can damage the finish if not used properly—this sort of polish may be best left to body-care professionals. A mild polish used repeatedly and extensively is safer than a more aggressive polish which can cause paint damage.

For instance, Mothers® Reflections® Car Wax is a premium-grade synthetic cleaner wax designed to give a hard, fast shine by working smarter, not harder. Using Mothers® Micro-Encapsulation Technology it's composed of a high-tech molecular combination of resins, polishes and conditioners. As you apply it the molecules break apart, distributing the resin and conditioners, while the polish removes surface contaminants that can dull the finish. As Reflections® Car Wax dries, its high-gloss resins and conditioners bond with the paint, leaving the polishing agents suspended so they can be buffed away for a bright shine. Following Reflections® Car Wax with a treatment of Reflections® Top Coat will further bolster the deep, rich shine that only Mothers® can deliver.

Or, for a high-tech shine that offers second-to-none protection, try Mothers® FX SynWax®. FX SynWax® is engineered using synthetic polymers designed to give your car the kind of shine you've come to expect from Mothers®. And because of its synthetic structure, FX SynWax® is easy to apply and remove. Unlike a natural carnauba wax, FX SynWax® can be applied and left on for hours at a time, yet still be removed easily and cleanly.

If you're dealing with minor water spotting and lightweight scratches or perhaps atmospheric deposits or light chemical etching from bird droppings, an entry-level cleaner/polish such as Mothers® Pre-Wax Cleaner Step 1 (the first of its three-step system) will do the job. This light cleaner/polish is minimally invasive but still effective, consistent and easy to use. It can be applied several times in a row to slowly erase light surface damage—so polish to your heart's content!

In case of more noticeable damage in the paint, a polish with more "power" may be necessary. Keep in mind that it's a more assertive variety of polish, and being too forceful with it could damage your color or clear-coat. Don't rub too hard—let the product do the work. Mothers® Scratch Remover borders on the "aggressive" but is still user-friendly and easily applied. Best for your chewed-up keyholes, hood and trunk lips, door jambs and door edges, Scratch Remover is stronger than the Pre-Wax Cleaner and can help smooth out more obvious paint damage. At the risk of sounding repetitious, keep in mind that when you hit the paint with a hard polish don't forget the potential damage overuse can cause.

Advanced Car Wax
Mothers FX®
Pre-Wax Cleaner
Step 1
California Gold®
Scratch Remover

Minimize Imperfections

If polishing is the most important step to rendering your car's paint to a glorious, shining visage, then an application of a sealer/glaze is the way to go. Polishes and cleaners can smooth edges and erase minor scratches, but sealers/glazes such as Mothers® California Gold® Sealer & Glaze - Step 2 (the 2nd step of its three-step system) handle the stuff that polishes can't quite fix. Functioning as a sort of gap-filler these sealer/glaze combos hide imperfections such as spiderwebbing, swirl marks and light scratches.

If you looked at your paint under a magnifying glass here's what you might see: gouges, scratches and old wax buildup. Use both polish and sealer to get your finish to look like the drawing on the right instead of the left.

Designed to work in conjunction with other phases of Mothers® Ultimate Wax System®, the Mothers® Sealer & Glaze - Step 2 is used after a complete polish treatment when the paint surface is most exposed. To put this in perspective, imagine you're plastering cracks in a sheetrock wall but at a microscopic level.

To properly finish a paint-detailing job, a sealer/glaze conceals any remaining spots or blemishes.

Sealers and glazes can be used without re-polishing the surface and applied over prior coats of wax. Darker paints respond much more visibly to a sealer/glaze—in most cases lighter colors and whites don't have as much visual depth and the effect of a sealer/glaze is less noticeable. In some cases, show vehicles are treated to frequent coats of sealer/glaze and see no wax at all—this approach is fine, and will probably promote a deeper luster than sealer/glaze and subsequent waxing together, but it affords only minimal protection from the elements. Wax acts as the hard candy shell of paint treatments, and without it the paint isn't as well protected.

Although a sealer/glaze has the advantage of allowing for repeated application without re-polishing, it should not be used in place of wax which provides a hard shell of protection from the elements.

Wax can accumulate in the nooks and crannies around emblems and trim pieces. Get rid of that unsightly buildup with a small brush before it has a chance to harden.

The practice of wax application and removal is not complicated but needs to be done thoroughly and correctly. Consistent surface coverage and thickness leave a shine far superior to uneven application, insufficient removal or ineffective rubbing. The formula for success is simple: select a body panel to work on, and apply your wax evenly and lightly, in parallel movements. Then buff the hazed wax with a 100-percent cotton towel or microfiber cloth. Rub the paint until no wax remains. Don't forget to turn the towel frequently, and shake it out as well (downwind and away from the car, of course). Be careful to avoid getting wax on plastic and rubber that can absorb it and become discolored. It's better to leave a little space between the paint and the suspect plastic/rubber and then touch it up later with careful, small movements of the applicator.

If you're following a complete treatment of polish and sealer & glaze, look for a high-quality carnauba wax with no cleaning agents—such as Mothers® Natural Formula Pure Carnauba Wax - Step 3 (the final step of its three-step system). You're essentially sealing the sealer & glaze, and adding a protective shield. One good coating should be enough to keep things shiny and bright for months depending on your local climate and conditions.

If you're working on a light-colored vehicle (white, yellow, beige, silver, etc), a single-step cleaner wax may be better suited for the job. This product is carnauba wax but with minor polishing agents that break down during application. Carnauba cleaner waxes (such as Mothers® Original Formula Carnauba Cleaner Wax) can take two steps out of the finishing process for lighter-colored paints that don't have as much inherent visual depth.

After you finish each section of paint remember to go over the nooks & crannies and associated parts and trim items to catch any wax left behind that would otherwise turn into annoying little bits of white crud. If you overlook these areas until after the waxing process is finished a detailer's pick or soft nylon bristle brush can work well to remove the residue.

Sealer & Glaze
Step 2
Pure Carnauba Wax®
Step 3
Cleaner Wax
Advanced Top Coat


Quick Detailing: Between washings dust and light road film can be removed without water. By combining the use of a car duster (frequently referred to as the California Car Duster) and a detailing spray (such as Mothers® Reflections® Spray Wax, Mothers FX® Spray Wax and Showtime® Instant Detailer), you can keep your ride much cleaner between washings. A regular practice of "dusting & detailing" can also extend the time between washings. A light coating of dust can be swept away with the car duster and chased with a treatment of detailer.

No time to wash? Just use a car duster and your choice of Mothers® Showtime® Instant Detailer, Reflections® Spray Wax or Mothers FX® Spray Wax. These products will save you time and water. (Just as long as you car isn't too dirty.)

The trick is to know how much dirt is on the car and what sort. If there's a thorough layer of dust, but it's light and not stuck to the paint, you can run the car duster over your vehicle to remove all but trace amounts of dirt. Then you hit it with a spray wax or instant detailer to complete the job. In some cases you can't dust off the grime—rain has turned atmospheric residue to a fine mud or there's some sort of muck adhered to the paint, such as bird droppings or tree sap. Some things can only be removed by washing with soap and water.

Instant Detailer
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