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What Is Paint Correction? Common Misconceptions—and the Reality

Updated: Mar 14

Does your vehicle have swirls and fine scratches? Most do.

Swirls often come from improperly washing your car with brushes or drying it with rough towels. Car washes with brushes are major offenders. Improper snow removal can literally destroy your paint.

Typically, scratches are deeper than swirls. Scratches can come from anything that touches your vehicle, such as a bag dragged along the side, fingernails scraping the door while opening the handle, or a bike rubbing against it in the garage.

You might have heard about paint correction and wonder: Is that the solution for my scratches and swirls?

Here’s an easy way to check:

• When your vehicle is wet, do the scratches and swirls “disappear”? If so, yes, paint correction will likely help.

• Is the scratch a different color than your vehicle, such as a white line on a red truck OR if you gently rub your nail across the scratch, does your nail catch? If so, no, paint correction will not likely be enough. Your vehicle will probably need to be repainted.

Hopefully, your vehicle is in the former situation and a candidate for paint correction. Now, you’re probably wondering what that actually is. Most people think they understand the term “paint correction,” but I’ve learned very few people actually do. Here are some common misconceptions—and the reality.

Misconception: Paint correction is simply touching up the paint.

Reality: Paint correction is the process of removing scratches and swirls from automotive paint to make it shine.

Misconception: Paint correction is easy to do.

Reality: Paint correction requires a skilled professional operating a machine. A processional will be able to assess the paint and safely correction it. An important part of that is knowing when enough is enough. A pro knowns when to stop, but a rookie (or a cheap, inexperienced shop) will keep going until he or she runs into issues.

Misconception: Paint correction is low risk to your vehicle.

Reality: An amateur (or a cheap, inexperienced shop) can cause a lot of damage to your vehicle. They can remove too much paint, which is called “clear coat burn through.” It sounds bad—and it is!

At Immaculate Paint Protection, we paint correct a vehicle before applying ceramic coating. Why? First, we want to maximize shine and gloss with the natural uncoated paint. Second, we want to remove the swirls marks and scratches—otherwise the ceramic coating will lock in those paint defects.

Here are a few common questions about paint correction.

I found a guy who can buff out my car for a hundred bucks—is that a good deal? Good luck. Cheap shops use a super aggressive compound and a rotary buffer and remove much paint from your vehicle than is necessary. Usually, the car or truck looks worse than when you dropped it off, and your vehicle is permanently damaged.

Another sneaky maneuver is that cheap shops hide swirls and scratches with high-filler wax. This wax will literally come “out in the wash,” and then the swirls and scratches “reappear.” They reappear because they weren't ever removed.

If I had to pick between either a cheap paint correction done with a super aggressive compound or paint correction done with high-filler wax, I'll pick the high-filler wax because at least car wasn't permanently damaged.

My car is brand new. Why does it need paint correction already? The sad reality is we often see brand new cars and trucks with swirls in the paint after being washed by dealerships.

At Immaculate Paint Protection, we evaluate each vehicle’s need for paint correction on a case-by-case basis. We look at each vehicle with our clients when they drop them off. We perform a test paint correction on a small section on the vehicle to show the client what the paint will look like after paint correction. Many clients are blown away with the results from our basic paint correction.

Can I do paint correction myself as DIY project? I advise against this, but here are some pro tips I'll share if you insist to persist on DIY.

• Don't buy a cheap machine. I take pride in my craft, and I take pride in my tools. Better tools produce better results.

• Buy multiple polishing pads .

• Consider the value of your money—and time. Be prepared by the time you buy all of these tools, you might as well have spent the money to have your vehicle professionally paint corrected.

• Use the least aggressive method possible—a very fine polish and soft pad. This way you'll reduce the chances of burning through the paint.

• Become comfortable with your polisher and machine use it may take a lot to get the hang of the machine. In my experience some people are naturally incline to machine use. Others are not.

I get my nails polished at salon. How is different than polishing a car? When we a paint correct a car, we remove paint to remove the swirls. When you polish your nails, you add paint to make your nails pretty. So same terminology, but completely different method and result.

For paint protection film and ceramic coating packages, pricing, and more visit us at

About the author: Bill Fetter’s passion for cars started at an early age, as he loved anything with wheels. Through his childhood, Bill observed his dad’s work as a mechanical engineer turned marketing manager and proud lifelong employee of General Motors. During high school, Bill honed his passion for cars by hand-washing and detailing his neighbors’ vehicles. Knowing he wanted to be in the automotive industry, Bill earned a degree in Industrial Engineering from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. He’s worked as an engineer in the automotive manufacturing, medical device, steel industry, and pharmaceutical manufacturing fields.

[JB1]Bill, add why here? Jennifer

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