“Yes Sir!! A buff and polish for your car is included in our full detail for only $125! It’s the best deal in town!”
If you’ve heard that, I bet you’ve also heard yourself asking the question, “HOW DID THE SWIRL MARKS COME BACK?!! I just had them fixed!” a few weeks or so after you left with a shiny car.
This article is designed to educate you on the whys and hows of swirl marks and what it takes to finally get rid of them. We will also speak about what causes different surface defects.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Swirl marks are light etchings, or scratches, in the top layer of paint that’s called clear coat. (Single stage paint can have swirls as well, but we will be discussing clear coated cars today as cleared cars are what is common for 99.9% of the new cars on the road.) Swirl marks causes refraction of light as opposed to reflecting light cleanly.
Other types of defects include, acid rain marks, holograms or buffer trails, sanding marks, bug marks and bird droppings. The end result is the same on all of these. The top layer of paint, the clear coat, is no longer smooth on a microscopic level and is refracting light.
Most detail shops claim to offer a fix for this. It is commonly referred to as buffing or compounding the paint. What’s so irritating, is after having the paint buffed, most of the time the swirl marks come back. The problem is in that most car washes do not have properly trained techs and they are not going to take enough time to correct the paint. …wait a second! What is correction? We’ll touch on that in a moment…
Your paint probably has many surface contaminants in it(please note the image above) as well as the actual scratches and etching. These surface contaminants will not come off of the paint with a wash. They are bonded to the paint and require a means to deep clean or exfoliate. This is where clay bar comes in. Clay bar is used to exfoliate painted surfaces by grabbing the contaminants as it is glided over the paint. Clay bar decontamination is not necessarily a quick process. It takes time to thoroughly remove contaminants. Because clay bar is used to specifically remove contaminants and keep a hold of them, clay bar has a lifespan and must be thrown away once contaminated.
After clay barring a surface, this is how the paint would look if you could have a side view:
If someone were to run a buffing pad over those contaminants without properly clay barring the surface can you imagine how much new damage would be created?
CORRECTION OR FILLER?
Now that your surface is clean of contaminants it’s smooth to the touch. But it still has scratches and looks rough. This is because there has been no correction, only preparation. Correction is the method of leveling the surface of the paint. It is not filling the paint to trick the eyes. Once corrected, the paint will stay looking fantastic as long as no one acts carelessly with bad washing and/or drying techniques. Correction is a permanent solution for your existing swirl marks and scratches.
Correction and filling. Those are your options as a patron of a detail shop. The question is, which one is being done? Do you understand what filling means? It’s exactly as it sounds. It means someone levels the clear coat by means of filling in the defects on a microscopic level. It looks good for the moment but THIS is what causes your swirls to naturally come back, even with proper care. The filler will not stay very long. It will wash out over the course of 2 or 3 thorough washes and you’re right back to where you started, minus $125 or more.
The appeal of using compounds and polishes that have fillers is that they offer an incredibly fast, temporary and cheap fix. A car can be washed and buffed with a filler in about 2-3 hours. What’s been left out is the prep work such as clay barring the surface and taping off sensitive areas that could be stained with polishes, such as rubber seals and gaskets.
A properly trained detailer will do all of the prep work necessary without upcharging for it. It is necessary, not optional.
The right fix for your existing scratches is to receive thorough paint correction. This is done by using corrective compounds and polishes to level the paint. Some may feel spending a more on true correction is unreasonable. What’s unreasonable is paying someone multiple times per year to redo a filler job for the life of the car. What makes sense is paying someone to do it right the first time and forgetting about it. You will also benefit because the paint will look better and your car will be worth more.
Correction does not have to mean you’re risking taking off too much clear coat. Scratches and swirl marks dictate how much clear coat is removed and in 99% of the cases, it’s about 2% of the paint. A detailer should have and use a paint depth gauge. This will give good insight into how far is too far before they get there.
Who to use?
Whether correcting paint or filling, there is a risk that someone could burn through the clear coat. This is a problem with inexperienced detailers or detailers who feel rushed. It is necessary to realize that proper correction takes time and one should not feel rushed to meet a deadline. It is an art form. Your car is the canvas. Do you want a rushed piece of art or one that the artist took his time to perfect?
If you ask 10 different detail shops if they truly correct the paint or not, 10 of them are going to tell you they will fix the problem. Many are even heartfelt when they answer. The truth is, most don’t understand what real correction is. They are so hung up on getting you to hand them your keys that they will use the cheapest products and the fastest methods that can get them to meet that price point most are looking for. When the filler washes out, you’re weeks down the road and you know it’s going to be a lost battle.
In this case friends, you get what you pay for. True correction takes much longer than using filler because you’re not just filling with silicone, you’re leveling clear coat. Filler can be just run over the surface. One of the biggest tell tales of if someone is truly correcting is in how much they charge and how long they will spend on the car. If they are a legitimate company they will have legitimate expenses and can not afford to spend 10+ hours on a car’s exterior for $125. For a true multiple step correction, it is reasonable for a shop to have 15+ man hours into a single car. In cases where there is major damage or clear coat that is extra hard(difficult to get results on) it may take 40+ hours.
If you’re in the Atlanta market and are searching for a quality solution for your car detailing and paint correction needs, Detailed Designs Auto Spa is qualified to care for your car and will ensure your best interests are cared for. Call us today to schedule a consultation.