Removing watermarks with clay bars

watermarks-01.jpg

Being neglected

Lets face it no matter how often you wash your car there will be times when you simply left the rust bucket unwashed and unattended to for weeks. Compound that with our weather which only rains like there's no tomorrow or shines at skin burning intensity and high humidity level that will make even a camel sweat, you will end up with watermarks no matter what.

Since I got my ride I've been washing it myself and constantly coating it with Permanon Platinum and occasionally using clay bar to make the surface smooth like a baby's skin. Recently I've been away on business and getting sick for weeks, made I had to skip my usual routine of washing the car. During that period my ride was wash twice at a car wash. After the second wash a guy who worked there (looked like the manager) told me the watermarks on my bonnet could only be removed by polishing. That sounded bonkers since I coated the surface and I am pretty sure the trapped dirt was just on top of the clear coat and has not eaten its way into the paint. Needless to say I didn't believe the bugger and sat out to prove him wrong.

The plan

So I knew clay bars were not only useful to make the surface of the car smooth but also it attracts, more like collects, dirt. I figured since watermarks were actually dirt trapped in water droplet on the surface (that because I used Permanon), I thought of using clay bars to remove the dirt. If that didn't work then the bloke at the car wash was right about polishing it!

The idea is to use the clay bar starting from the less abrasive and gradually move up the grade until the dirt is gone. Off course all this needs to be done after a good car wash and coating the surface as soon as the clay work is done.

What I did

...I didn't believe the bugger and sat out to prove him wrong

clay bars

I went out and bought all 3 grades of clay bar from PG, I drop mine so I needed to get a new one anyway. These are way cheaper than Meguiar's, Tesco Extra Shah Alam is having a promotion until Feb 2014 for only RM 7! a box, and most detailers in KL use a buck load of it to make Ferraris and Lambos silky smooth.

mark the area

First I marked my a test surface with masking tape. Here's a tip, remove some of the glue on the sticky side of the tape by patting it on your pants. I only used 2 of the 3 grades of clay bar for this job, #1 and #2. No. 3 is abrasive according to the packaging that I thought its only useful on windows or on a surface that looked like the moon.

wet the surface

Wet the surface and peel off a nugget size of clay #1. Tip: don't use the whole clay, grab just what you need. At least this way if you drop it you just throw away that small piece instead of the whole thing. After doing this several times I notice that it is much more useful to wet the surface with less water like a fine mist (not like in the picture above) so that the clay can work at picking up dirt rather than gliding on water.

move the clay

Work the clay in straight lines rather then circular motion. This way if you did made a scratch it will be easier to be remove. I started off with just gliding the clay on the surface then apply a bit pressure on the second or third pass. Don't try push the clay into the surface, jangan tenyeh, thinking that will scrape the dirt out. Instead what you want to do is remove the dirt layer by layer, think of it like eating kek lapis removing one layer at a time of the colourful sweet irresistible stuff.

mark the area

After doing it a few minutes wipe excess water with a micro fiber cloth. As you can see above the there's still some dirt, but lighter ones are gone. Time to move up.

mark the area

Next up I used clay #2 and repeated the process again. Notice the color of the clay is slightly different than #1, its light green as compared to light blue for clay #1.

mark the area

I am still not sure if clay #2 is more abrasive than #1 (because PG didn't say it on the packaging), but as you can see clay #2 seems to remove more dirt, especially the stubborn ones, than #1. From here on I use clay #1 again and then #2 to get the remaining dirt out. Finally I finish it off with clay #1 back again.

mark the area

Howaa! the dirt is all gone! I couldn't believe it and was astounded as to how smarter I was compared to a guy who washes cars everyday. Now it looked much more better and saves my precious ringgit of paying someone to polish the car.

mark the area

After coating the test surface it looked a million times better compared to the untreated surface. On the plus side since I used clay bars on the surface it was smoother as well, just like a million ringgit sports car. Now need to find time to do the whole bonnet and remember don't believe everything the guy who washes your car says, especially when it comes to watermarks.

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