How To Remove The Worst Swirl Marks From Your Car’s Paintwork

Swirl marks, spider webs and holograms can be the bane of a perfect paint finish. They’re probably the most commonly found defect on paintwork. It doesn’t even matter if your car is decades old, or straight off the showroom floor—swirl marks have the potential to afflict any vehicle’s paint job.

You may notice that the prominence of swirls disappears after a good coat of wax, only to reappear a few weeks or months down the line. That’s because waxes and sealants only hide these blemishes. Like make-up, it’s a temporary fix. The only permanent solution is to remove these swirls. And with a little bit of help from this guide, you’ll soon be able to do just that.

What are Swirl Marks?

Swirl marks are very light, very fine scratches, found in circular patterns. They’re most visible under bright sunlight, or under direct artificial light. They’re caused primarily by incorrectly washing a car, but chances are even the most cautious of washing methods will result in some swirls over time. Dust, dirt and other contaminants can get caught up in a washcloth, and dragged along the paintwork, causing such scratches.

Dual Action Polishers

Removing swirl marks is no longer the preserve of the professionals. While it’s not recommended, you attempt it if you lack confidence, the advancement of modern equipment means that it’s far easier and safer to do it yourself.

One piece of equipment that you'll need to invest in though, is a dual action polisher. A dual-action polisher is called so as it moves in two ways. Not only does the pad spin in a rotary motion, but it also moves in a random orbital pattern.

A dual-action polisher is ideal for the most inexperienced as well as the professionals. This is because the dual-action movement minimizes heat build-up. Heat build-up is a common problem found on rotary polishers that are more effective, but best used only by professionals. This is because excess heat can have the effect of burning through the paint, and is a risk, especially for corners and edges.

Compound or Polish?

You’ll need either a compound or a polish to be used in conjunction with a dual-action polisher to get rid of those scratches.

Compound is the term given to liquids that have a heavy concentration of abrasive material in them. This is ideal for paint that is severely affected by swirl marks. You would then traditionally follow this up with an application of polish.

Polish is what is known as having a higher concentration of abrasives. This is used after a compound, or for paintwork that has light abrasions.

The Method - How to Remove Evil Swirl Marks Easily

To remove the swirl marks from a car, you have to level-off a very thin layer of clear coat. This will even out the clear coat, and provide your car with a smooth, swirl-free finish. This will be achieved by the use of a dual-action polisher, and compound or polish.

Ensuring the surface is clean, you can apply around five dots of compound or polish to the polishing pad that is attached to the polisher.

Top Tip:

Before applying the compound to the polishing pad, you can “condition” the pad with a small amount of spray wax or specialty pad conditioner. Massage the wax into the pad, and then apply the compound, for the best possible finish.

When using the polisher, you want to first spread the product evenly across the surface of the area you're working on. To do so, use a slow speed setting, and light pressure. You can use a medium-sized (2x2) area to begin with.

Once you’ve spread the product, you can then use a higher speed and increased pressure to start the polishing process. You want to work the polisher in a cross-hatch, both side-to-side and up-and-down to effectively remove the swirl marks. You can make several passes.

Top Tip:

There are a variety of pads available for use with the dual-action polishers. You have the choice of either using a microfiber pad or a foam pad. Microfiber pads are preferred as they will yield better results faster, but you get different categories in these as well, with cutting pads (ideal for use for compounds) and finishing pads (idea for use with polishes).

Once compounded, you want to go over the areas again with polish. Buff off the compound with a microfiber cloth. This will increase the shine and ensure maximum gloss. Remember to keep moving the polisher during the entire process, as you don’t want excess heat buildup in one particular spot.

Finishing off

To finish off you need to wipe down the paint, ideally with an alcohol-based substance to remove leftover dust and any fillers. Then follow up this process by applying a paint-protecting barrier to prevent future swirls. We’d recommend a good carnauba wax, sealant or ceramic spray.

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