How to Prevent Paint Swirls

Paint swirls can make even the cleanest paint look cloudy, dull, and underwhelming. You could spend 12 hours washing every crack and crevasse of your car and it still won’t look as good as non-swirled paint. The darker color your car is, the easier they are to see. I’m going to go over what paint swirls actually are and a few key steps on how to prevent paint swirls so you can avoid costly paint correction and keep your car looking new.

Paint swirls are thousands of tiny scratches going numerous different directions, not necessarily in a circular motion as they appear. They look circular due to the light source. These little scratches create a hill and valley in the paint which disperses the light reflection rather than the light hitting one smooth surface and reflecting back. Think of it like water. When water is calm and flat, you can see the reflection behind it, when the water is wavy, it becomes blurry.

Now for prevention. Some of the most common causes of paint swirls are improper washing and/or drying techniques. There’s a lot of different opinions on the specifics of car washing but here’s some methods that will help you safely wash your car. One thing most people agree on is to start by washing your wheels first, rinse them, then proceed with the rest of the car. I have a dedicated article on washing wheels here. Work from the top of the car down, frequently rinsing your wash mitt. The bottom third of the car is the dirtiest so washing it in that order helps keep the dirtiest part of the car from contaminating your wash mitt before you proceed to the cleaner areas.

It’s best to start by foaming up the car with a foam cannon or foam gun and allow the foam to start breaking down dirt and grime. Next, give the car a quick rinse. Do your best to spray out every potential spot that could hold dirt before you begin your contact wash. Any dirt left behind on the paint will then be getting pushed around when you begin the contact wash, so this step is crucial to do well. It does not have to be a super thorough rinse, but the most important part is spraying out those areas that may hold dirt.

Some say to pre-rinse your car, then foam it, then wash it. Here’s my thoughts: a pressure washer sprays at over 1000 PSI or more depending on your pressure washer. If dirt is clung to the paint, it can drive that piece of dirt into the paint at over 1000 pounds per square inch. This may not be incredibly likely, but the purpose of this article is to prevent paint swirls.

The more lubrication the better during every stage of the washing process. When you foam the car first while everything is dry, it allows the foam to encapsulate the dirt and use its high lubrication to lower the chances of that dirt causing any scratches. Then when you rinse the dirt is already loosened up and the paint is covered in foam that has more lubrication allowing everything to glide off easier. After that, foam the car up again and proceed with your contact wash. This adds a step, uses more chemicals and water by foaming twice, and to many people is an unnecessary step, but I believe it is necessary if your goal is to safely wash your car and prevent scratches. Lubrication while washing your car is critical at every step!

Once you begin your contact wash you want to try not to reintroduce any dirt particles onto the paint after you’ve removed them. That’s where the two-bucket method and grit guards come into play. The two-bucket method is having one bucket with soap and one to rinse. You wash a section, dip your wash media into the rinse bucket to clean it, wring it out, dip it into your soapy bucket, and proceed with washing the next section.

Grit-guards are a screen that allow dirt to sink to the bottom of the bucket and prevent it from coming back up. One of the best grit-guards I have seen is made by Chemical Guys, you can find it here. This is unlike many other grit-guards I have seen because it works like a fish or crab trap. It has conical holes going to the bottom of the bucket that funnel dirt down but prevent it from coming back up. Most other grit-guards are just a screen that can’t do as much to prevent that.

The final step is to rinse. This time be very thorough, like Henry David, to get all of the soap out of every possible area.

This is Henry David Thoreau, an author from the 1800s who had no connection to car detailing, but his last name sounds like thorough, and I think I’m funny.

So we’ve pre-foamed our car, rinsed, foamed again, then hit our contact wash, and finally rinsed, now to dry. You might think “Well I can just let the car air dry, I don’t mind a couple water spots” but leaving water to air dry can actually damage your paint. I wrote about that danger here. During this step, the only lubrication is left over water, so using a super soft dedicated drying towel like this is preferred. Toss the towel onto the paint and drag it towards you. Do your best to avoid using too much pressure. If you miss some spots or cause some streaks, go back after with a dedicated detail spray like this to remove them.

Car care is essential to preserving your vehicle. Behind homes, cars are typically people’s second largest purchases. Taking some extra time and care to keep your car in good condition will help it maintain its value, and look great! If you’re interested in having us detail you car at your home or at work, check out our mobile detailing services here!

What is Car Detailing?

Car detailing is like the ultimate car wash. During the detailing process, very specific chemicals and tools are used to accomplish three main goals.

1: The first goal of car detailing is to deep clean your car and make it look brand new, at a much lower cost than a paint correction. While a detail will not remove paint swirls or scratches, it will bring out gloss and shine by removing dirt and contaminates that get embedded into the paint. A detail goes far beyond the standard wash by using specialized chemicals and a specific process to clean every nook and cranny.

A detail goes far beyond a standard car wash, hitting the often missed or hard to reach areas. Details matter.

If a detail doesn’t remove scratches, why not get a paint correction? A paint correction polishes the paint by removing some of the clear coat which makes scratches disappear. A common misconception is that it is “removing” scratches, however it is actually just thinning the clear coat, lowering it to the depth of the scratch. This is a more extensive process that can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the condition of the paint. This is the only method to make your paint look perfect however it does remove clear coat, therefore cannot be done an infinite number of times. If you decide to go the route of paint correction, we strongly recommend following it up with a paint protection film and a ceramic or graphene coating to prevent scratches from returning, which can happen quickly, especially on daily drivers.

A paint correction or polish is the number one way to bring your paint to perfection, but is time consuming, costly, and requires honed skills.

Some waxes like this have “filling” properties that temporarily fill light scratches and swirl marks, therefore giving the paint a more polished look. While these waxes look great, ultimately, they are just a temporary cover up not a correction. We apply some of the best waxes after a detail to give cars that extra wow factor.

Many modern waxes can have temporary scratch filling properties, making your paint look smooth and glossy without the hard work of a paint correction or polish.

2: The second goal of car detailing is to remove harmful decontamination. This goes hand in hand with deep cleaning, but this process requires additional steps, chemicals like iron remover, and tools like clay bars to extract everything from the paint. On a day-to-day basis, your car is exposed to millions of microscopic particles in the air that get embedded into the paint. Add on road grime, bugs, bird droppings, water spots, and dirt, and your paint is littered on a microscopic level. Imagine paint is like your skin. There’s thousands of tiny hills and valleys in your paint that are like pores that trap all of these contaminates. These cause your paint to appear cloudy, be prone to swirls and micro-scratches, and make it look dirtier even after a wash.

Even after a wash your paint has contaminates.

3: The third main goal of car detailing is protection, especially after any form of decontamination. As you can see in the picture above, those tiny hills and valleys cover your car’s paint. Once we remove those contaminates those hills and valleys are exposed to refilling, or worsening. Applying a form of protection such as a wax, sealant, or coating creates a barrier. Waxes and sealants are short term. Some can last up to 6 months in real world conditions. Coatings are more long term and can last for years but cost much more and require extensive preparation. A further breakdown of the differences can be found here.

Sealants add shine and protection at a low cost.

There are a wide range of ways to take care of your car. With each ascending level comes an increase in price, preparation, and precise application. The keys to remember are to ensure you are deep cleaning your car, removing harsh contaminates, and adding protection, or contact us to come do it for you.

Car Water Spots: Treatment and Prevention

Did you know even in common tap water, there are millions of particles that can permanently etch through your car’s clear coat? A common misconception is that “water spots” on paint are simply a water droplet drying. While that’s partially true, a “water spot” is when water evaporates, but the minerals in the water are left behind forming a spot. When water with zero minerals evaporates, the water will leave no spotting. This is just one of many factors that can cause real damage to your paint.

Water spots cover the paint of a black car.

Surfaces that already have etched in water spots require further treatment. Often times, light water spot etching can be removed with a dedicated water spot remover. If water spots have done further damage to the paint, a polish or paint correction can remove the spots and restore shine to your paint.

One way to prevent water spots is by applying some form of protection and water repellant to your paint. This could be a wax, sealant, coating, or film. Our preferred method is using a ceramic or graphene spray on coating or wax such as Turtle Wax Ceramic Spray Coating. This quickly gives the vehicle protection at a low cost. The best prevention is to keep water off the paint completely, but that isn’t always realistic, so this is a great step to help get that water off the pant faster.

So next time you wash your car, don’t skip the drying step! Find one of the best drying towels on the market here. Try out some spray on coatings or waxes to aid your paint in repelling water while also adding a layer of protection. Allowing the water to bake into your paint can do damage that takes further effort and time to reverse. If your car has water spots that don’t go away with a simple wash, check out dedicated water spot removers to get the job done or set up an appointment today.