What are paint swirls?

//What are paint swirls?

What are paint swirls? …and why do they make my car look worn out??

Paint correction. Swirl removal. Buffing. Machine Polishing. Although these things might seem different, all of these terms refer to the same service: the removal of paint swirls.

A lot of detail shops offer a service called swirl removal, paint correction, buffing, or machine polishing. What do these services mean and what do they accomplish?

They’re not always obvious on all paints, but when they are, it’s very noticeable. While not always obvious on all paints, we’ll use a black car as an example because we know that with black paint and a lot of other solid colors, you can very easily see imperfections.

Black car with spider-webbing
Black car with spider-webbing in the early stages

In the image above you’ll see an example of the “spider-webbing” effect, as we call it in the industry. It happens when the sunlight shines directly on thousands of tiny little scratches in the paint and finish of the car. These scratches or “wash-marring” as some people call them to happen over time from many different causes.

  • Improper car washing techniques,
  • Setting objects on your vehicle,
  • Sitting on your vehicle, and
  • Brushing up against your paint

All of these will damage the surface a little bit at a time. You may not notice it initially, but over time you definitely will!

Black car with extensive paint swirling
Black car with extensive paint swirling

When a client comes to us concerned with their paint, they don’t always know why it looks bad but they know they don’t like the way it looks. All that microscopic damage changes how light reflects off and through the finish, so it ends up looking “worn”, “rough” or “aged”.

Your paint is made up of several different layers. We will focus on the top two layers: the base color coat, and the top clear coat.

Imagine a beautiful photograph of your favorite picture. You put it into a picture frame to protect it. The picture itself is your base color coat and the glass in the frame is your top clear coat.

Pretty isn’t it?

Every so often it gets dirt, dust, and fingerprints on it and you have to clean it off. You use normal cleaner, and over the years the glass gets a little worn. You can still see it well but it’s not as nice as it used to look.

It’s still vibrant, but it’s starting to look aged.

Now imagine you keep doing this. Maybe you used something rough to clean the glass or a cleaner that damaged it a bit. Now its all scratched up, and it looks pretty rough. You can see the color, but it’s blurry and looks awfully worn out.

This would be a beautiful scene if we could just get that junk out of the way!

This is exactly what happens to your paint over months and years when it’s not maintained properly. The clear coat gets thousands of tiny scratches in it and it clouds your view into the base coat.

Thankfully it’s easy enough to replace a picture frame, but that is not the case with your car. If you wanted to get your car repainted with a reputable body shop, a good job can cost upwards of $7,000. Thankfully there are other options available that are more affordable and much more convenient.

That’s where several options come into play. The cheapest option is to make sure you follow proper wash techniques and be mindful of your vehicle’s paint. This isn’t always the easiest option because washing your car in the traditional sense can be very time-consuming. In an upcoming blog, we’ll go over an easier way to wash your car at home that’s both safe and environmentally friendly!

Other options that a good detail can shop can help with include a lot of the terms that I mentioned above: Swirl removal, paint correction, buffing, or machine polishing. These are all similar services, but with some notable differences.

We’ll be covering them in a future post, subscribe here to keep up on the latest advice on keeping your car looking like a million bucks!


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