Car owners always want their vehicles to look brand new. The moment you drive your vehicle out of the dealership, there are already countless imperfections on its surface. From the time the vehicle got delivered from the factory, environmental factors have already been wreaking havoc on the paint. The car may have a showroom shine, but it’s never perfect. This is for a brand new car. Now imagine a vehicle that already has more than a hundred thousand miles on the odometer. You will then see the importance of subjecting your car to paint correction. But what is this process, anyway? Sit back as we take a closer look into the process of rejuvenating your car’s paintwork.

Sanding paint

Understanding What Paint Correction Is

To put it in very simple words, paint correction is the process of reducing or removing surface imperfections on the topmost layer of a car’s paintwork. As such, this only addresses surface issues that are present on the clear coat of the paintwork. If not corrected, the car’s paint will have a dull or hazy look. This occurs because light gets reflected in different directions. There can also be oxidation on the clear coat, leading to further haziness.

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Paint correction aims to “address” these issues by creating a surface that can have a clean, sharp, and proper reflection. This involves different techniques, tools, and products. Car detailers can apply different grades of cleaners, compounds, or polishes to achieve the desired outcome. In the application of these products, car detailers can use their hands or a special machine. Most detailers use a rotary machine polisher to help provide the best level of paint correction.

One might think that paint correction is an easy task. Unfortunately, it isn’t. You have to pay attention to what you are doing. Preparing the car is also very crucial since you don’t want any dirt or surface contaminant to get snagged on the polishing pad. This can make surface issues worse. Skill and concentration are important since one is working on the clear coat alone, not the color coat.

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Common Causes of Car Surface Imperfections

There are many reasons why there can be imperfections in your car’s paintwork. Some of these are unavoidable, such as road grit and grime. The open roads are not free of these particles, so you can always expect these substances to create micro-scratches on your paint.

Fly squash, tree sap, and bird muck are also common causes of car clear coat issues. These things can leave nasty residues on the exterior paintwork. When you remove these things, you can scrape the surface and leave marks. Tar and water spots can also cause clear coat problems. They leave a stain that can affect the reflection of light off your car’s body.

There are also instances where the car owner himself is to blame for the poor condition of the clear coat. Poor car washing techniques can leave swirl marks, micro-scratches, and other problems. For example, using rough materials or ordinary cloths for wiping the car’s surface can lead to the formation of these nasty marks. Using the wrong buffing pad can hurt your car’s paintwork, too.

Some car owners prefer to polish their car themselves, instead of getting a professional to do it. It’s okay if they observe the correct techniques of hand- or machine-polishing. But if not, then they may have a problem.

Getting your car washed in an automated car wash can also cause problems in the vehicle’s clear coat. Valet drivers who may not care about the integrity of your automobile can also contribute to such imperfections. Using the wrong detailing products can have a similar effect.

Mechanic polishning car body details

How Car Detailers Perform Paint Correction

Correcting imperfections on the clear coat of the car requires thorough cleaning and decontamination. This is to remove any debris and loose dirt which can get snagged on the buffing pad. If this happens, you will be leaving deeper scratches on the surface. This can make the work more tedious. Washing and cleaning the surface prior to paint correction can also leave the clear coat smoother.

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Upon the removal of dirt and debris, the surface undergoes claying. Car detailers use an automotive clay bar. This has a somewhat sticky surface which can help remove bonded substances on the clear coat. Ordinary washing may not remove these substances or particles. A clay bar can. This product can remove particles from industrial fallout and tar spots. Claying allows you to see the actual state of the clear coat. This lays the foundation for the paint correction.

Polishing the clear coat involves several stages. Detailers use different grades of polish. It starts with heavier-cutting compounds to remove larger surface materials. Finer polishes then follow to refine the clear coat finish.

During this process, it is essential that the detailer uses a paint depth gauge. This is to ensure an even polish. A more important purpose is to help guarantee you don’t polish the clear coat too thin that it loses its structural integrity.

Another tool that detailers use in paint correction is a specialist halogen lamp. Others will use a special LED light to help evaluate the condition of the car’s paintwork. These artificial light sources mimic the effect of sunlight on the vehicle surface. It also allows detailers to evaluate the progress of paint correction.

It is inadvertent that some scratches are deeper than others. Detailers will have to round off the edges of these deep scratches to make them almost invisible.

After paint correction, the detailer wipes the surface with isopropyl alcohol. This removes oils and other substances left behind by polishing. This also helps reveal the car’s true finish. It also reveals areas that the detailer may have missed or require some more work.

Performing paint correction is not easy. It is a time-consuming process that requires keen attention to detail. It is for this reason that paint correction demands a premium price from well-trained car detailers. You can perform it yourself, but the results may not be as spectacular as one that’s professionally-done.


  1. The Ugly Secret Lurking in Your Brand New Car’s Paint – Forbes
  2. How to Repair Scratches on a Car – YourMechanic