Preparation, Sealing & Waxing

Contaminant Removal

It is very important to ensure that the surface is contaminant free and smooth to the touch. Any contaminants that remain on the surface will reduce the appearance of the shine and the colour, but can also harm the paint surface and cause it to break down. Keeping the paintwork protected and contaminant free is essential in maintaining a beautiful finish. The clay bar is so effective in the way that it extracts the contaminants from the paint surface you will never know what you did without it.

The clay bar is not supposed to be a well-kept secret. It’s normally sold as part of a detailing kit such as Mothers® California Gold® Clay Bar Paint Saving System, and even though we work hard to promote it, many people still don’t understand. It just works. Try drawing your fingers across the bonnet just after washing to check for contaminants on the surface. Late model paints, once cured, are harder than old-fashioned enamels (especially the clear-coat), and will show minor abuse quickly. Tiny bits of contamination like dust, air-borne pollution, and small metal fragments can stick into that clear-coat and normal washing may not remove them. If you don’t get rid of them, the Grim Reaper is coming for your paint.

First off, the car must be freshly bathed to use the clay, or the bar will choke on all surface bound dirt and possibly 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. Fold the dirt into the centre of the clay bar and move to the next section. Once all contaminants have been removed you are ready for polishing and waxing.

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 (remould 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 at a time, by breaking the bar in half you reduce the risk of destroying the clay by dropping it into the dirt.

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. (Use a clay bar when 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 a soft clay 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 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.

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.

Tips on Polishing and Waxing

When applying polishes, sealers, glazes or waxes use a clean microfibre cloth, microfibre or foam applicator pad.

Moisten the applicator only when using paste products. You don’t need to use a lot of product, especially in the Mothers® range, a little goes a long way. You only need to cover the surface to maintain effectiveness.

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® Spray Wax which can be applied directly to the paint surface.

Apply the polishes, glazes and waxes on 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 scratching the surface.

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 soft microfibre towels 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.

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 glaze is the way to go. Polishes and cleaners can smooth edges and erase minor scratches, but sealers/glazes such as Mothers® California Gold® Micro-Polishing Glaze 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.

The second phase of Mothers® Ultimate Wax System® is the Mothers® Micro-Polishing Glaze which when used after a complete polish treatment will remove minor imperfections and spiderwebbing while minimising the appearance of major imperfections. This can be used directly after washing though is most effective when the paint surface is most exposed after applying Mothers® Pure Polish. To put this in perspective, imagine you’re plastering cracks in a sheetrock wall but at a microscopic level.

Micro-Polishing Glaze 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 many cases lighter colours and whites have lower levels of visual depth and the effect of a sealer/glaze is less noticeable, however the health and finish of the paint surface will still benefit from a coat of glaze. In many cases, show vehicles are treated to frequent and multiple coats of sealer/glaze and see no wax at all—this approach is fine, and will probably promote a deeper lustre 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.

Wax and Shine

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 soft microfibre towel. 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 discoloured. 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 glaze, look for a high-quality carnauba wax with no cleaning agents – such as Mothers® California Gold® Pure Brazilian Carnauba Wax. 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-coloured vehicle (white, yellow, beige, silver, etc.), a single-step cleaner wax may be well 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 ® California Gold® Brazilian Carnauba Cleaner Wax) can take two steps out of the finishing process for lighter-coloured 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 become hard to remove. 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


Quick Detailing: Between washing dust and light road film can be removed without water. By the use of a car duster like the MLH® Deluxe Duster or with a detailing spray such as Mothers® California Gold® Instant Detailer you can keep your ride much cleaner between washing. A regular practice of “dusting & detailing” can also extend the time between washing. A light coating of dust can be swept away with the car duster and chased with a treatment of detailer.

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.