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What is a Paint Correction?

1, 2, and 3 step paint correction is sometimes known as polishing, compounding, or buffing. There are a bunch of terms floating around, but it’s generally the same thing. Paint correction, despite the misleading sound, really only deals with the polishing of paint to remove minor defects such as scratches (that aren’t too deep), swirls, and some other things such as oxidation (but not total clear coat failure). Technically, oxidation is generally the beginning of clear coat failure, but if you take steps to correct and protect it afterward, you can extend the life (especially if you put a clear bra on it, but even ceramic coating helps with UV protection).

It isn’t repairing dings, dents, rock chips, and deep scratches.



Wait, So How Did I Get So Many Scratches?

Have you ever looked at your car and seen many circular swirl marks, especially in the sunlight, and especially if the car is darker in color? Many swirl marks for the average user are caused by improper washing techniques or automated car washes (like the cheaper car washes we see all around town.

Aside from the automated car washes (even the touchless car washes can have some pretty harsh chemicals they use), a lot of times what happens is dirt trapped in the fibers of a dirty cloth or similar is rubbed into the paint. This can also happen if the car is dusty/dirty and you rub it, either with your hand, leaning against it, or using one of those California car dusters.


Different Types Of Scratches

These are usually much different in appearance from scratches caused by a tree branch, brushing up against something with your car, or someone scratching it with a shopping cart. Different from the swirl marks that car washes can cause. Sometimes the equipment within the car wash itself can come against the vehicle too hard and leave deeper, Different scratches than just your regular car wash swirls.

You may see the scratches and are really concerned about the way it looks (and that’s why you’re asking about how to prevent them in the future with a clear bra, or make it easier to clean with ceramic coating, or just looking for us to conduct paint correction). You may not even see them (either because it’s just not super important to you, or maybe your vehicle is a silver or white, which hides them much better). Most of our clients fall into the category of hating them, or else they wouldn’t be contacting us.


Clearcoat failure vs Oxidation


Does Paint Correction Fix Scratches? How Is Paint Correction Done?


Something to understand is every single time you polish, compound, or even wet sand (we tend to not do that to client’s vehicles unless absolutely necessary and also at a premium)…or really abrade the paint in any way, you are removing microns from the clear coat of the vehicle. The clear coat is your paint’s protective layer. Typically, clear coats from the factory are rated for about 10-15 years. So, excessive polishing or compounding over the years can shorten the lifespan.

Polish and compound are actually abrasives. The way we fix minor swirls and scratches is we polish the area to blend the scratches in. We aren’t just simply removing scratches. We are removing tiny tiny amounts of clear coats around them, lessening the overall thickness of that area to hide the scratches.



Do I Even Need Paint Correction?


Honestly, that’s up to our clients. If you are satisfied with the way your paint looks, and maybe just want the ease of cleanup. there is no reason for us to use our massive lights to find every imperfection, scratch, and swirl on your car to remove it, removing some of the clear coat in the process. So, if you cannot see the scratches day-to-day, there’s no reason for us to fix something that doesn’t bother you in the first place. We are, of course, willing to polish and or compound, but we are not forcing it on anyone. This is even more important as technology improvements, price saving measures, and other factors have factory paint arriving at the dealer thinner than ever.


1 vs 2 vs 3 Step Paint Correction, Explained.


Now that you understand how paint correction and swirl removal works, it’s easier to explain the paint correction or enhancement process.

One step paint correction A one-step usually is just a polish (less abrasive than a compound), or a using a product meant specifically for one-step applications.

Two step paint correction A two-step typically includes compounding first. Our compounds break down very fine when using the polisher. A lot of combinations of pad and compound use will leave micro swirls in the paint. This is because the compound is a more aggressive method when doing a paint correction/enhancement. For deeper or more stubborn scratches, this is often necessary. A polish is simply not abrasive enough to lessen those scratches. The trade-off is we need to polish after we compound to “step down” to the less abrasive material.

Three step paint correction A three-step is typically unnecessary. We have the experience and great pad/compound/polishes on hand that is specifically meant to break down and look amazing with two steps. That’s not to say we never have to do a three-step. The most common situation for doing a three-step paint correction or paint enhancement is on black, soft paint. GM black is an industry common complaint. Some paints are hard, and some are soft. Hard is harder to correct but harder to scratch.

Soft paints tend to need a compound, followed by a more aggressive polish, finished up with an extremely light abrasive polish. In these cases, even a polish right after the compound would still leave behind some minor scratches. Three steps are typically reserved for more show-type cars. The average user will scratch their car in some manner, especially black. It’s just a fact of life. So there is no reason to achieve the almost-imperceptible perfection or difference between the two-step paint correction and three steps.

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