Category Archives: swirl marks

Warranties on Paint Coatings: Why you should read the fine print

We’ve all seen the claims; levels orange peel/texture in paint, prevents rock chips, protects your paint from swirl marks and scratches, lifetime warranty, guarantees to not lose x% of gloss over a given period, fire resistance and more….

In the world of paint coatings, claims like these and others, are not uncommon and when one thinks about how there really is not an inexpensive car and even a decently nice car is pretty expensive, it is easy to know why owners want to protect their cars and the sensitive paint finish. If you look at the claims many coating companies make, some appear more appealing to you than others. But are you being given the real scoop or are you being fed a scoop of something?

I want to share my take on warranties for paint coatings after years of using multiple coatings and having played with many that are available. Is a factory paint/ceramic coating warranty a real value to you? Does it give real peace of mind or does it give a false sense of protection?

Let me begin my critique by stating that modern paint coating systems are amazing when applied in an ideal way and the owner understands their limitations (read more on this topic HERE).  They provide owners with a large measure of protection that waxes and sealants are incapable of giving, can induce a beautiful look that is long lasting and can ease long term care. But in many cases, paint coatings are put forth in a way that either says or infers that they are invincible and/or will last forever while giving you protection that appears unreal. At the core, what we are after is how coatings are presented and what you should realistically expect.

The concept of the guarantee for a paint coating

In the world of paint coatings, everyone is hunting to make themselves look like the best value and option. For some, a warranty is a great tool for doing so. After all, doesn’t a warranty from the manufacturer make you feel better protected than one with a shorter warranty term or maybe one that has no factory warranty?

Manufacturers know that warranties make people feel good.  And quite frankly, warranties in and of themselves are not bad. The concern comes in when you consider the claims against the fine print in warranties.

The claims and the fine print

Looking at the claims can make even the most skeptical person feel at ease. So what’s the deal then? The claims are awesome and the warranty protects you, right? This is where things can be a bit mixed up.

I am not going to pick on any specific coating but the key to knowing what is what and what is not is the fine print. If a company claims their coating will prevent your car from being scratched, isn’t it reasonable to say so in the warranty? From what I have seen, the written warranty fine print, in short,  allow manufacturers to dodge accountability for that same scratch you were told the coating would protect it against.  The way this happens is like this: The manufacturer claims scratch proof in the marketing/media and then the warranty fine print says that if your car is scratched, you clearly did not care for it properly and the warranty is voided. Only “proper car care” is covered. Well….isn’t that obvious? Isn’t it obvious that misuse or neglect would not be covered? Sure, but that’s not what is claimed in the marketing media. And there you are….you paid the premium for the product that made extreme claims and really have no protection. For some, they feel that they can perform less than ideal care and are protected. So they believe that car care just got crazy-easy because they can now take their baby through the swirl-o-matic(automatic car wash) because they paid a premium for the coating to be able to do so. But when that time comes and the paint is swirled up, the manufacturer has the paper to show you that you were not covered at all. For those performing proper car care, how can you prove you did not misuse the car? How are you able to protect yourself from that fine print? Can you? -I will leave that up to you to answer.

What about something like claims that the gloss will not degrade by x% over a period of time? How does one quantify that the gloss has degraded or not? Did the installation facility use a gloss meter(this is a real tool to measure gloss) and are you having that finish inspected regularly with the gloss meter? How is one supposed to make a sound argument that the product is not living up  to the claim? In all likely hood, they can’t….you can’t….it is hype and it is not a protection.

For extreme claims like fire resistance or impact resistance, there is no need for a highly specialized meter to tell you if there is a problem. You will clearly see the problem. What you need is the warranty paper to make a clear claim that you are protected. If the warranty does not implicitly state a type of protection, the claims made in media are worthless. You will not be protected.

The dollar value of most warranties/guarantees from the manufacturer is also suspect in many cases. In most cases, your max claim is capped at a very low dollar value and may be limited to only having the product reapplied. For ones with damaged paint, your factory guarantee only ensures you get that same sorry performing product back on your car. For anyone with an expensive repair due to an ill performing coating or one that caused damage, are you really going to want that product back on top of your paint? What value is your warranty providing you with at the end of the day?

The real-deal in protection for yourself

Historically, warranties in the service industry are honored by the company a customer dealt with, with minimal interaction with the manufacturer. This is no different in the coating industry. So a good question to ask is, is a factory warranty necessary? In my opinion, no and let me explain why.

If you ask the professional performing the paint coating installation on your car if they plan to stand behind their work regardless of the manufacturer, they should absolutely say yes. They are really your first line of defense should there ever be a problem. Their willingness to pass the buck or not will give you an idea of if you have real protection. We have already established the ease of dodging accountability in a warranty if the fine print allows such. So the installation professional really is your source for protection. There is a chain of accountability and it goes like this:

Private car owner < Installation facility < Product area distributor < Manufacturer

If a link of that chain is broken, the one that is a step below suffers. For the private owner, it doesn’t really matter what happens above the installer because he is the one you should be dealing with. And when given the support of those above the installer, the installation facility has the tools to support their client. No manufacturer warranty or guarantee is required for a private owner to make this the case. As a matter of fact, a warranty with fine print that excludes accountability really provides an installation facility with means to pass on the accountability if they decide to. It also gives a false sense of protection to an owner.

On this topic I always thought Tommy Boy(and his dad) said it a great way:

What you should be hunting is not a manufacturer warranty or guarantee. You should be hunting for the most qualified professional to be performing the work and standing behind that work after they have educated you.

There are plenty of industries where warranties/guarantees are wonderful. They may offer to replace a part that may be expensive and that is that. But coatings are not modular parts that can be easily swapped out. They are protective wear and tear layers that will age over time and for your satisfaction, it is important that you understand proper car care and how to take care of them. A false warranty does not do that. They give a false sense of security and may even have you taking poor care of the finish due to the idea that you are protected.

I also want to make this clear. A warranty or lack thereof a warranty does not take away the professional you are dealing with. A product can have a shoddy warranty that is as crooked as could be possible, but if your professional takes care of you, you are covered. The focus should be on education, ongoing care and support, not a warranty with exclusions of accountability.

But what is better is a company that uses products by companies that do not use snake-oil tactics and promotes proper car care from day one coupled with an industry professional that stands behind their work. Pay for a product based upon the merit of that product and not marketing hype. THAT is the recipe for being completely satisfied and having a car that looks gorgeous for years!

In conclusion, it is to your benefit to search out the fine print before paying a premium for a coating that makes extreme claims or really any claims at all. Do not lean on a manufacturers paint coating warranty as a security blanket, lean on the professional/facility you are using! Get the exclusions and examine them in a way that is a protection to you and your money. Properly maintain your car and be sure to limit exposure to harmful elements like those found in this article HERE.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to share!


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!