Category Archives: paint correction

What causes swirl marks and other defects in modern car paint?


What causes swirl marks on car paint? Really, what causes the most common forms of damage on car paint may be an even better question! Why? Even though swirl marks may be the most known example of car paint damage, it is not the only one to be concerned with.

Modern paint finishes on automobiles are made up of 3 parts of paint that when put over the substrate of the body makes up what we know as “car paint”. Modern paint finishes start with a primer that ensures a proper bond of the paint to the substrate. A layer called the base coat is put on top of the primer and it is the part that actually has the color/pigment that makes your car a certain color. Finally, a layer called the clear coat is put on top of the base coat. The clear coat is the thickest layer and is clear. It’s primary role is to protect the base coat. These are the 3 common layers of paint on modern paint finishes and there’s a very good chance this is how your car’s paint is made up.

Before we get too deep into the topic let’s learn a bit more about the intensity of paint damage in modern paint finishes.

Superficial damage to your paint would be damage that is only in the clear coat. It is superficial because it does not penetrate lower and your paint still has, for the most part, the protection it needs. Major damage would be damage that has penetrated below the clear coat (see paint cutaway image below). Superficial damage can be repaired to a great degree, if not to perfection. Major damage may not necessarily be repaired without bodywork or repainting of some manner.

The purpose of this piece is to educate you as to what causes the most common forms of damage to modern automotive paints, how they can be repaired and what can be done to protect your paint moving forward. Most of the concepts outlined actually are avoidable and with some measure of effort, you can keep your car’s paint looking incredible for many years to come.

paint protection film Modesta paint coatings Atlanta


Swirl marks, marring, holograms and other mechanical damage

This type of damage to car paint/clear coat is caused by a mechanical movement. Typically, it means an abrasive is placed on the body of the clear coat and mechanically driven across the surface with some measure of force. The result, no matter how big or small, is actually a scratch.

Improper Hand Washing

wash bucket

In this picture alone we can see a wash mitt that was on the ground. How anyone could use that mitt for anything but to weigh down the inside of a trash bag I don’t know. But the reality is that many shops use old and ratty wash mitts on car paint. Of those wash mitts, there are countless stories of mitts that fall on the ground being used on car paint and scratching it up. Poor car washing is not limited to gross neglect like this though.

Proper car care is using grit guards in wash buckets, clean wash media/mitts, quality body wash and more. My shop carries some of the best car care products available for retail purchase. But for those not local, feel free to use the following links to purchase quality detailing products:

Gentle Wash Mitt 

Car Wash Shampoo

Grit Guards (get 2)

P21S Total Auto Wash Degreaser

Professional Grade Electric Pressure Washer

Using Cheap or Dirty Towels to dry Your Paint

dirty towels

This really goes hand in hand with improper washing techniques. Using cheap microfiber towels can be harsh on paint due to their low GSM(Grams per Square Meter) count or lower quality material construction. The GSM identifies the weight of the towel, or how much fiber is within a square meter. Generally speaking, higher GSM microfiber towels are not inexpensive. But going with a plusher microfiber towel means you have more built in safety when using it against your fine paint.

Dirty towels have debris embedded in them and that debris being driven into and against your delicate clear coat can create substantial damage.

The edges of a towel can also affect the paint’s surface. A stitched edge can potentially have harsher thread that will mar paint. A silk edge is soft but also does not have a thick nap to capture debris. An edgeless(microfiber material all the way out to the edge) towel of quality construction is usually the best option.

Edgeless Towels 

Quality Drying Towels

Air Blower for Drying

Use of Automatic car Washes

automatic car wash

Automatic car washes are the scourge of good paint health. The automatic car washes with media that touches the car(brushes or strips of fabric) are harmful to your paint. They cause harsh scratches and marring. Touchless car washes are either too weak and do not thoroughly clean the surfaces or they use chemicals that are stronger than ideal to replace the need for a physical hand wash.

For the automatic car washes that have a rail system guiding your car through the bay. These can also cause extensive damage to wheel faces.

My opinion is to dodge automatic car washes like the plague. Too, be sure to tell your service advisor at the dealership you have your car serviced at that your car is to not be washed. Many dealerships provide this “service” at no cost and believe they are doing their clients a favor.

Improper use of Polishing Machines on Your Paint


The improper use of rotary machines on automotive paint will generate scratches, marring and an effect called “holograms” or “buffer trails”. Holograms are generally created when someone does not finish down a compound or polish product properly. The look of a hologram is caused by microscopic directional marring and is typically found in an arcing shape in which the operator moved their arms while pivoting in place.

There is no need to fear a skilled technician using a machine to correct your paint. There is however a reasonable fear of not having a skilled technician working on your car though.

Bird Droppings and Bug Guts


Many car owners are not aware quite how harmful these organic substances are to paint finishes. In the matter of seconds, if a bird makes a mess on your hot summer sun baked paint, it can instantly cause etching in the paint. The same can be said of ramming a bug while traveling down the road. The organic make up of bug guts and bird droppings can be very acidic and damaging to sensitive clear coat finishes.

The best route if you encounter these substances on your car is to safely remove them as quickly as possible.

Industrial Fallout, Pollution, Acid Rain

factory smoke

All three of these substances are closely tied together. Industrial pollution makes its way into the atmosphere where it then makes it way back down onto your paint in the rain. For car owners living in metropolitan areas, this is more of a concern due to the proximity to air pollution.

When the acid rain dries on your paint, reactive chemicals are left to dry on the outer edges of the water droplets. These concentrated rings of pollution are then able to more easily etch the clear coat of the paint leaving you with an outline of the acid rain drops.

Washing hot paint or allowing water to air dry after a car wash (high mineral content water issues)

Raindrop Rain Auto Black Shine Paint Run Off Wet

Washing hot paint tends to cause issues with chemical film drying on the surface. Think of using a shampoo or degreaser to clean a surface. If the surface is hot the water will dry prematurely leaving a chemical residue. If the chemical you are using is reactive with the clear coat it can bond with the paint or possibly cause spotting on different surfaces.

Allowing a car to air dry naturally after washing it is similar to the industrial fallout issues. Any minerals in the water will suck to the outside of the water drop and dry in place. This can cause either a mineral deposit which can be difficult to remove or it can cause etching of the clear coat.

Use of harsh chemicals


When we speak of harsh chemicals, what are we saying? We are talking about reactive chemicals. For instance. A chemical that has a very high pH(basic/alkaline) or a very low pH(acid) can be reactive with painted surfaces. Whether we are talking about your skin, eyes or the paint, reactive chemicals are bad. The use of chemicals not intended for automotive surfaces can cause major corrosive damage. Be sure to read the instructions on each product used on your car. Most products will have a maximum dwell time. Know the limits of the different products you use and always be sure to use the right product for the right surface.

Above Surface Defects

Overspray bonding


Overspray is the result of atomized chemicals misting/dusting onto the paint(and other surfaces), solidifying and then becoming a bonded substance. Sometimes overspray can be dissolved with the right chemical and sometimes it requires mechanical removal. Mechanical removal would be where you have to physically rub the surface with a wash mitt, clay bar or a decontamination pad. The more aggressive one must be to remove overspray, the more marring/scratching will be created and need to be repaired with paint correction.

Tree sap


Tree sap, when fresh is easily cleaned off with a citrus based degreaser and sometimes just a handwash. But if left to cure, it can literally become a part of the paint. After some time, tree sap will cause clear coat fracturing. These are tiny little cracks in the clear coat. They are unsightly and very harmful to the lifespan of your paint.

Road film

road film

Road film is the buildup of grime from driving on the road. In the northern states, road film can contain salts that are used to make roads usable during the winter months. But even southern states can have nasty road film buildup. Road film can contain tar, petroleum/oil/grease, harsh brake dust, metals and any other chemical that can spill onto the road.

Road film can bond creating a hard layer that is difficult to clean and can stain surfaces. Road film can also contaminate your wash media and lead to paint damage.

What causes paint defects? Now you know…but that doesn’t help you with the damage already created. How can the damage already on your paint be addressed?

There are 2 categories of clear coat damage on modern paint. One is above surface and the other is below surface. Above surface defects would be overspray and bonded contaminates. The below surface defects would be etched paint, swirl marks, deep scratches and holograms.

Being able to identify the type of defect you have is key in addressing the defect. Above surface defects should be decontaminated and stripped away. Below surface defects will require paint correction to level the surface down, permanently repairing those defects.

Before these steps can be taken though, one needs to remove all products that could artificially enhance the paint. In the detailing world, it is common place for shops to use products primarily intended to mask defects. These products are easy and very fast to use. The problem is that when these products eventually wash out, you are still left with your defects. Thus begins a nasty cycle of masking surface defects a few times per year when that should not be necessary at all.

Removal of filler products(wax, sealants, glazes, polish residues, etc.) may even reveal more defects that were hidden. While it’s not the most favorable thing to think of. At least once you are looking at the true condition of the clear coat you can begin to create a long lasting solution to have your car looking the best it’s ever looked and get it protected!

Once paint correction has been performed, you will be back to a smooth and highly refined paint surface. It should have a better luster and color, the reflections should be sharper and it will be buttery smooth. But the clear coat is also very exposed to the elements at this stage.

After the paint correction process, you should begin looking into having the paint protection applied. There are countless options for paint protection at this step. Which ones are best for you? We will review some of these options, how they work and how they can even work together for incredible protection and luster. We will begin with the easiest and least expensive options that protect the least and proceed up towards the best of the best.

1) Spray wax

Spray waxes are common in volume detail shop. The price is commensurate with the results. They may last days to weeks depending on the conditions and product used. The protection spray waxes offer is bordering non-existent. Unless you already have another form of protection on your car, a spray wax is a waste of effort and you should pass. As a quick-to-use buffer over other protections, a spray wax can fit the bill.

2) Silica sprays

Modern silica sprays are easy to use and may last months. The protection they offer is leaps better than spray waxes. User beware though! Many of these sprays contain a high silicone content which may increase congestion of the surface leading to requiring decontamination treatments more often.

3) Carnauba waxes

Carnauba waxes can be inexpensive or may cost over $1,000 for a jar of the highest quality waxes. Carnauba waxes are an experience for car enthusiasts that enjoy doing everything on their own. While waxing is not necessarily the quickest process, it is easy. Quality waxes can provide a beautiful luster on paint. Wax also has a natural ability to minimize the appearance of below surface defects by filling them in. Protection can last a few weeks or months depending on the exposure and elements the surfaces are exposed to.

4) Synthetic polymers (sealants)

Sealants provide a nice bang for the buck to the user as they can last months and are easy to apply. They offer, as a whole, superior protection to waxes.

5) Modesta paint coatings -as rendered HERE

Modesta paint coatings are inorganic silica/glass coatings that are applied to painted surfaces, paint protection film and wheels/calipers. Surfaces protected by Modesta coatings replace the need to wax or seal the paint. They create a membrane many times thicker than waxes. Where waxes sit on paint around .1 micron in thickness, the thickest Modesta coatings create a membrane as thick as 5+ microns! Modesta is the king of longevity with an inorganic membrane that can last as long as 10 years with proper care.

Modesta paint coatings offer industry leading gloss and protection in the world of paint coating protection. These coatings are chemically resistant, protect against oxidation and acids and they offer a hydrophobic or hydrophilic surface that is easier to clean than the alternative. And because Modesta offers 9 different coatings for paint and multiple options for wheel/caliper protection(along with other coatings for other surfaces on automobiles), they will have the perfect fit for every paint.

To find a local Modesta installation facility, check out the global installer map located here:

6) Paint protection film -as rendered HERE

Paint protection film, as a stand alone product, gives the ultimate in protection for paint. No other technology offers the impact resistance and scratch protection paint protection film (AKA “PPF” & Clear Bra) offers. Paint protection film is many times thicker than all paint layers together and because it is modular in nature, when the film gets beat up to the point you no longer like the looks, a single piece can be replaced.

7) Paint protection film with a Modesta coating layered on top -as rendered HERE

For getting the best of the best, nothing tops a paint protection film wrap with a Modesta coating over it. This gives the owner impact resistance along with chemical resistance and a surface that is as easy to clean as is possible. To cap it off, the gloss and shine possible with a Modesta coating makes even the most basic looking car look insane.

I have included the rendering of the paint cut away to give you a visual on what is happening with below surface defects that require paint correction and how paint correction levels those defects. It also includes a visual for how one may go with a Modesta coating, paint protection film or a combination of paint protection film and a Modesta coating.

Hopefully, your time was well spent reading this article on surface defects, what causes them, how they can be fixed and how you can protect your paint moving forward.

My name is Jean-Claude Corcoran and I am the owner of Detailed Designs Auto Spa which is located just outside of Atlanta in Conyers, GA. If you are in the area, feel free to reach out to us if you would like to learn more about what options are available to take care of your personal automotive needs.

Thanks for reading and be sure to share if you enjoyed the article!

Alabama Porsche GT4 comes to us for Modesta and a full body clear bra wrap

I am happy to share the latest project to leave my shop, Detailed Designs Auto Spa. A Porsche GT4 that we picked up from Alabama which the owner needed swirl marks addressed, paint protection film and a Modesta paint coating on the body and wheels. After transporting the GT4 from his own mechanic shop in Alabama in our enclosed car hauler, we got started on the work and this is how she came out.

After he picked this gorgeous bird up and got home he fired off an email to me with this dialog, ” I absolutely love the final result with my car!” –MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Fueling up early in the morning to head out of state to pick up the Porsche GT4. Intech car hauler trailer

The Porsche GT4 loaded up and ready to head back home to Conyers, GA.
Porsche car transport for our clients

After performing a thorough wash and decontamination to strip existing fillers off the Porsche’s paint we saw this.
Swirl Mark Damage
The end result was paint that looked perfect, was completely wrapped with clear bra, film/paint coated with Modesta BC-04 and the wheels and calipers detailed/coated with Modesta BC-06 and then layered with Modesta BC-08 for insane luster and eased maintenance needs. With this perfect combo, the Porsche GT4 had insane gloss and reflections while being protected and easy to clean.  We think it came out “pretty alright”. PPF wrap Atlanta Modesta Paint Coating & Full body clear bra wrap in Atlanta Modesta Paint Coating wheels calipers Porsche Paint Protection Film in Atlanta Atlanta Clear Bra Wraps Modesta Paint Coating Installation in Atlanta www.detaileddesignsautospa.comDetailed Designs Auto Spa Clear Bra Wrap in Atlanta

How to protect your car from rock chips, make it easier to maintain long term and look INSANE; Clear Bra and Modesta

Modesta BC-05 Atlanta

When you’ve purchased a new car the absolute first thing on your list of items to be addressed should be protecting it from rock chips. Rock chips can occur even within the first mile after leaving the dealership. So what can be done to have your new fine automobile protected from these tiny terrors ? Installation of clear bra is enough to give you the best protection possible against rock chips but when coupled with a Modesta paint coating, you will have protection from abrasions and impacts along with a surface that is easy to wash, protected from industrial fallout, is chemically resistant and sports a gloss and luster unlike any you’ve ever seen on a car like yours.

With Modesta you are sure to have a unique luster that will have your fine automobile stand out in the crowd. Because Modesta has protection solutions for paint, wheels/calipers and leather, you can have the most sensitive surfaces and those exposed to the harshest elements protected for many years. To locate a professional Modesta installation facility in your area, reference Modesta’s official installer map HERE.

Here’s a fine example of a recent visitor to a clear bra and Modesta installation facility, Detailed Designs Auto Spa. This owner had Detailed Designs Auto Spa perform a thorough new car prep and paint correction(to address swirl marks that came on it straight from the factory), install extensive clear bra protection(everything except for the rear hatch and rear bumper were wrapped), apply Modesta BC-05 on top of the clear bra and exposed paint, apply Modesta BC-06 to the caliper and wheels, install a 100% ceramic window tint and Modesta’s truly unique 2-part Leather Protection System (LPS-01 and LPS-02) to the seats.

Modesta Paint Coatings Clear Bra Installation in Atlanta
For the craziest gloss and shine, have a Modesta paint coating installed by Detailed Designs Auto Spa in Atlanta Modesta Paint Coatings and clear bra wraps Atlanta Installation

Modesta Paint Coating Installation Atlanta
The superior gloss of Modesta BC-05 Paint Coatings Modesta Paint Correction Clear Bra PPF Atlanta
It doesn’t get better than this for a glossy paint finish in Atlanta!`
Car detailing, paint correction, clear bra wrap, ppf, paint protection, Modesta paint coatings Atlanta
Detailed Designs Auto Spa shows how to prepare a new Porsche for the mean streets of Atlanta
Modesta BC-06 wheel and caliper coatings Atlanta
With Modesta BC-06, you can be sure that your wheels and calipers will be easier to clean than ever before. Clear Bra Atlanta Modesta Paint Coatings
2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S showing off the fit and finish Detailed Designs Auto Spa is known for
PPF wrap Modesta BC-05 Paint Correction Atlanta
Crazy gloss and luster from Modesta being installed over clear bra by Detailed Designs Auto Spa.
paint correction, car detailing in Atlanta
After paint correction, a full car detail, clear bra installation and Modesta paint coating your car will look better than it ever has!

Nitro Blue Focus RS Visits Atlanta’s Choice for Clear Bra Installation and Modesta Paint Coatings

Modesta Coatings

Over 2 years ago I met a fresh client that had just purchased a new Ford Focus ST. He came to us for clear bra protection, a Modesta paint coating and a wheel coating. We ended up chatting for some time about how great the car was but how we both wished that Ford would give the US a proper Ford Focus RS.

Funny enough, when the RS was announced he knew he would get one and sure enough when he took possession of his new RS he called us up to schedule a service to have our track package clear bra wrap installed, the necessary paint correction, Modesta BC-05 installed over the paint and clear bra, Modesta BC-06 applied over the calipers and wheels and to cap it off, our 100% ceramic window tint installed on the side glass, rear hatch, windshield and sunroof for maximum heat and UV blockage.

Here she is, his new baby all buttoned up and ready for many years of enjoyment after Detailed Designs Auto Spa performed all said service.

Modesta Coatings AtlantaModesta Coatings Atlanta www.detaileddesignsautospa.comClear Bra Installation Atlanta

Top 3 Mistakes Detailers Make When Performing Paint Correction

paint correction atlanta
Top 3 Mistakes Detailers Make When Performing Paint Correction

Paint correction is a process of eliminating surface defects on automotive paints. The purpose is to leave a car’s paint looking incredibly deep and lustrous while permanently removing scratches and light surface defects in the clear coat. Paint correction is all about the actual repair of the clear coat(top layer of paint) surface. Today you’ll briefly learn the top 3 mistakes paint correction professionals make when correcting automotive paints.

1.Not decontaminating thoroughly enough

Paint correction is technically about permanently fixing existing surface defects** such as swirl marks, scratches and holograms(AKA buffer trails). When performing paint correction, steps should be taken to thoroughly remove oils, lubricants and other substances that naturally “fill” the paint. These substances are, by default, a part of the repair process. Without them, polishes and compounds will only cause intensive damage. At the same time, without thoroughly removing these residues, a paint’s surface is artificially filled, or, enhanced. It will look nice enough for a little while but will eventually wash out leaving you with the defects the paint correction was intended to remove. In short, not decontaminating properly equates to incompetent masking of defects that will show up later. Not only does it fool the car’s owner but it also gives a false sense of completeness to the professional performing the paint correction.

the right way to correct paint

2.Not performing enough steps

When it comes to paint correction, one can think of it in similar terms of making marginal improvements when going from one product and pad combination to the next. With too few corrective steps on a more intensively damaged surface, you lose refinement, gloss and luster. Modern products have advanced what’s possible with fewer steps a long ways from even 5 years ago. But there is still no replacement for a thoroughly planned and executed paint correction process that utilizes progressively finer product and pad combinations without filling. Products specifically designed to fill and products not thoroughly decontaminated need not argue point #2….

Paint correction for nooks and crannies

3.Not giving lower sections and more difficult areas enough attention

Ergonomically speaking, the lower parts and more difficult parts of a car are a real pain to work on. Coupled with these areas requiring more time to get just right, many paint correction professionals choose to give them a little less attention. The end product in this case is not an ideally produced product and to a discerning eye, it will leave them feeling shorted. Paint correction is not about an easy buck….at least it shouldn’t be. It is a highly skilled craft and requires patience and genuine care. When it comes to a real paint correction expert, the devil’s in the details and these areas will not be neglected.

There you have it, my top 3 mistakes for paint correction professionals. Now that you are armed with more information, how do you locate a qualified paint correction specialist in your area? If you’re in the metro-Atlanta area, you can call my shop, Detailed Designs Auto Spa and schedule a consultation to learn what options are available to you. If you are in another area, I would urge you to do a Google search for “Paint Correction [City of Interest]”. This should net you a number of results. Speaking with the professionals in your area should start to give you an idea of what is available and how these shops do business. Of course, looking up the reviews left for businesses will give you some insight but there is no substitute for speaking with someone and learning more about them and the vision for each client’s car.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and look out for our next piece that should be released in the very near future!


**Existing defects are supposed to be repaired with paint correction but it does not mean an owner can not create new defects through wear and tear or neglect in the future. Ongoing proper care ensures a corrected surface stays looking incredible.