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Challenge lives in a pretty much dust free garage and only picks up a bit of frontal road grime when in operation during the warm months. He is cleaned immediately after each use. So, I'm not so sure that the clay bar treatment is necessary this spring. When observed under sharply oblique lighting, no hairline scratches appear and the paint is glass smooth. In the past I have used the clay bar religiously each spring. Any adverse effects from too much of a good thing? Your advice please?
 

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Absolutely clay before applying any wax. My procedure:

Wash

Do bug & tar remover along rocker panels

Clay

Wax - true wax, synthetic wax, or sealant.

I use wax as a general term. For my cars, I use Black Magic Liquid Car Wax, and I only wax once a year.

What about polish? Most finishes don't need it except my BMW does with its Jet Black paint. Here I hand apply it using Meguiars Ultimate Polish which is a labor intensive PITA!

Claying is always a good idea, and considering the size of the SLK, it takes very little time and effort.

One cautionary note, if you do polish, be careful with using a machine polisher. It's easy to burn through the clear coat. Another important thing is the selection of your washing mitt. I use a Meguiars and an Absorber to dry
 

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Absolutely! I use the clay bar before every waxing, and on other occasions if something sticky like sap falls on the car. When Sunhilde arrived last year about this time, she was utterly filthy from the ride north on an open transporter. It took two washes, followed by two clay sessions to get her ready for a light polish & wax. I've used the Griot's Garage products for almost twenty years now and have been very happy with them. I'm sure that the competing products are excellent as well; I stick with one brand so that I know that the whole family of products is chemically designed to work together. Their random-orbital buffer is very easy to use, and delivers excellent performance without burning through paint. I was skeptical, and didn't get one until I'd seen it demonstrated half a dozen times to convince myself I wouldn't damage the car. Now I wonder why I waited so long to get it; it dramatically reduces the time required to wax the car.
 

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I have only started with serious detailing since about 2 years ago, so only limited experience. I dare to claim that the clay bar does not harm your car's paint, but for the average car claying is not needed more than once or twice per year.
The tar remover from the lower half of the car is definitely a good idea, to prevent from spreading out the tar.
When using an eccentric (a.k.a. "dual action", or "orbital") polishing machine, the chance of damaging your car's paint is minimal. Since polishing removes an infinitesimal layer of paint (varnish), you shouldn't polish your car to often (maybe once per year). Polishing can be done in various degrees of sensitivity (from coarse to fine).

I would DEFINITELY advise you to apply a "glaze" (if your car has a dark metallic paint). It makes the shine really deep, and long-lasting.
Therewith, my cooking book procedure would be:
1. Wash (with a pH-neutral car shampoo), and rinse with clear water.
2. Remove tar, and rinse again.
3. Optional: Clean with clay.
4. Optional: Polish.
5. If polished: Apply glaze.
6. If glaze applied: Let the car dry overnight, and then wax.
7. Apply a professional trim rejuvenator (over here we have "Nanolex", which I like a lot).
8. Apply a car glass/windshield polish.
9. Step back, relax, and enjoy :wink:

Arjen.
 

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I always clay before a wax, whether it needs it or not.
 

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I'm not a fan of polishing. My Paladium Silver SLK doesn't need it, but my Jet Black BMW show every imperfections in the paint. I cheat though. I only polish the hood and deck!
I don't do it routinely, either. But Sunhilde needed it, since her previous owner admitted to not being overly fastidious about appearance care; he grew up with a family car business and got sick of washing and detailing cars. One light polish was sufficient to make Sunhilde shine, and this year I'll skip the polish and only clay & wax.
 
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