The “clay bar” is a tool among an automobile-detailer’s paraphernalia generally reserved for those with an “above average” commitment to their vehicle’s presentation.
I hadn’t even heard of one until I Googled “removal of paint overspray from auto parts”.
Short story long- I purchased my Acura with a badly pockmarked front bumper, purely a result of having traveled over 150,000 high-speed miles, and an auto dealer with which I have a good personal relationship offered to respray it in factory silver for the price of “on the house”.
When I got the car back there was minor overspray on the engine bay’s soundproofing trim and, most tragically, on my beautiful HID headlamps.
But due to my friend having done several hundred dollars worth of work gratis, I really wasn’t in a position to complain about his execution.
At any rate, the issue had pestered me for months until I finally got around to rectifying it this evening. According to various forums a clay bar was an excellent tool for the job removing overspray from car parts, including headlights. And conveniently they were available at a standard AutoZone-type basic car parts place. I say “basic” because if you’re like me and you almost exclusively involve yourself with old, foreign, and generally obscure vehicles , you don’t get much satisfaction when you “Get In The ‘Zone” as their marketing would have you believe.
But I digress.
Tonight I got the clay bar, read the instructions, and executed as described. Headlights only, since I had other tasks occupying my time for the evening and wasn’t yet convinced a bar of clay was going to have a satisfactory effect in removing pneumatically sprayed paint.
But how wrong I was to have doubted the power of the clay bar.
The bar, resembling a slightly flaccid cake of body soap, managed to almost completely remove the overspray as well as hundreds of miles of road grime. As a bonus, the application process was simple;
“Spray the liquid ‘Quik Detailer’ onto surface desired to be cleaned. Knead clay bar into a disc and rub on lubricated surface. Re-knead as needed when it gets all nasty. Wipe clean with microfiber towel.”
I purchased a kit from Meguiar’s described as simply “Smooth Surface Clay Kit” on the box. All required pieces were included, along with “’60% MORE CLAY!” as proudly declared in gleaming letters on the box. 60% more than what, I couldn’t tell you… you could tell the marketing message was geared toward the limp bizkit, Mountain Dew side of your brain. Oh yes, don’t try and deny you’ve got one of those.
Regardless of what street cred the box may or may not have had, I performed the afore mentioned actions and was extremely pleased with the result.
See below for “clayed” and “nonclayed” photos of the starboard and port side headlights, respectively.
I think the difference is astonishing. The “cloudiness” look that had vexed me is all but eliminated. But I’d be curious to hear what other OCD detailers and also those with a less “discerning” eye see when they compare these two photos.
I’m going to leave one done and the other undone so I can see if the difference is more, less, or as dramatic in the daylight.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have seen more and more usage in cars over the last few years. Most noticeably as those wacky “eyebrow” lights on Audis, but also in taillights, directionals, and running lights.
The advantages over traditional incandescent bulbs are numerous; they use less wattage, are brighter, and produce that cool no-transition effect of being flicking on and off instantly. They don’t generate nearly as much heat in the front as incandescents either. However, they do get very hot at the resistor behind the bulb. It’s not too much of a problem for brake lights and occasional-use lights, but it presents a design challenge for the bigger-sized LEDs that need to run constantly light headlights and taillights.
This is why you should be careful when swapping your taillights with LED from AutoZone, or trying to make your own LED headlights (these are starting to emerge in the aftermarket, but still aren’t available for many applications. They might look sweet for a couple hours, but if the housing isn’t meant for dissipating the resistor’s heat properly
Engineers at Lexus, Audi and even Cadillac have employed LEDs for the biggest lights on their cars… but they’ve spent a long time researching how to set them up so as not to melt the rear housing of their lighting modules. Apparently the new Escalade ESV was the first American car to ship with full LED headlamps… although I have yet to see one on the road.
Keep watching the market for LED innovations… once the technology improves they may surpass HIDs as the performance lighting item of choice.