If this is you, then you're Car Crazy, and you're serious about the products that you use to make your car look its very best.
The most often stated complaint about new car finishes has transitioned from oxidation to "swirl marks"...those fine hairline, circular scratches that you see on dark-colored cars in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, swirl marks are all but impossible to avoid and almost as difficult to remove without the right products and techniques. The good news is that while they cannot be completely prevented, they can be easily removed when you are armed with the right products and information.
It's best to start with a basic understanding of today's base coat/clear coat paint finishes. While there are far too many variations to cover in this article, basically every new car is painted today with a base coat of pigmented paint covered with a top coat of clear "unpigmented" paint. Base coat/clear coat paint systems have taken over the industry because they protect the integrity of the pigmented paint on your car. The reason that cars no longer oxidize to a chalky white is that clear coats include UV screeners that stop the sun's ability to fade your paint.
If you can make the clear coat clear again, you can literally restore the finish of an old car to its original show room appearance today. This is the great advantage of a clear coat paint finish. The downside is that most clear coat paint finishes are abrasion sensitive, which means that they scratch very easily...some more than others. This inherent problem is aggravated by the fact that clear coat paint finishes actually magnify scratches. A typical microscopic scratch is 7 times more noticeable on a clear coat paint finish. This explains why swirl marks generate the most complaints about today's new car paint finishes.
There are a number of things you can do to slow down or even eliminate the appearance of swirl marks on your paint finish, beginning with the type of toweling you use to wash and wax your car. Contrary to popular opinion, smooth toweling, like cloth diapers or t-shirts, is the major culprit among those who work the hardest to prevent swirl marks. Tiny particulates trapped between the smoothness of the cloth and the paint finish are forced to skid across the finish, leaving impressions with each hand movement.
Whenever you wash, clean, polish or wax your car, you need to allow for whatever is trapped between your paint finish and your toweling. Always use separate, clean, soft toweling for each step. Make certain that your wash sponge or wash mitt is clean and abrasive free. Wash your car from the top down to avoid transferring the most abrasive road film from the bottom of your car to the higher surfaces. For best results, dry your car with a Microfiber Super Suede Drying Cloth, or Gold Class Ultra Plush Super Terry towel.
When applying cleaners, polishes or waxes by hand, always use a clean Even Coat Applicator Pad or foam pad. Only use non-abrasive products that are clear coat safe. Above all, avoid abrasive paint cleaners and rubbing compounds unless you are a professional using a high speed buffer. For wipe-off, only use a microfiber , such as Meguiar's Supreme Shine Microfiber, or 100% cotton terry cloth toweling. At the very least, you can avoid self-infliction of swirl marks by following these simple suggestions.
When it comes to removing swirl marks, it is important to understand that not all swirl marks are created equal. The products and techniques required to successfully remove swirl marks are completely dependent upon how deep the scratches are into the paint finish.
The most common form of swirl marks involves thousands of fine hairline scratches that resemble the appearance of a cobweb...thus the terms "cob webbing" and "spider webbing" that are often applied to this phenomena. You will find some amount of this affect on almost every paint finish whenever there is a point of focused light, especially on dark colors.
In most cases, it is possible to completely remove "spider web" type swirl marks by hand. The best tool for accomplishing this task is Meguiar's non-abrasive ScratchX which comes in a black tube. Work the product methodically and thoroughly into the paint finish using an Evencoat Applicator Pad or a clean, foam pad. Then, remove the residue with a Meguiar's Supreme Shine Microfiber cloth. Stubborn swirls may require a second application. For maximum protection and crystal clear reflections, follow with an application of Meguiar's NXT Generation Tech Wax 2.0, using a clean foam applicator for application and a Supreme Shine Microfiber for wipe off.
Moderate swirl marks require more aggressive tools and techniques. These are swirl marks that you still cannot feel with your sense of touch but are, nevertheless, too deep to be removed by hand. Even if you are a non-professional, you can still remove moderate swirl marks with ease using Meguiar's Dual Action Electric Polisher, Meguiar's Foam Polishing Pad and Meguiar's Dual Action Cleaner Polish. When finished, wipe the surface down using a Meguiar's Supreme Shine Microfiber cloth. To complete the process and for best results, follow with a coat of NXT Generation Tech Wax 2.0 applied with a foam applicator and wiped off with a Supreme Shine Microfiber.
Severe swirl marks are commonly referred to as holograms. These swirl marks are most often created with abrasive cleaners and compounds and a wool cutting pad on a high speed buffer being used by an incompetent operator. Because severe swirl marks are so deep, they require a high speed rotary buffer to remove them and possibly even color sanding by a trained professional. Meguiar's specialty is training professionals, and surface defects that require machine-applied professional formulas are best left to them to remove so that irreversible damage is not caused to the paint finish. As a rule of thumb, Meguiar's suggests that you always use the least aggressive product and method to get the job done.