Paint Protection 101
The basics of paint protection
Let's face it, we all love the idea of keeping our cars pristine, shiny and in tip top condition, however, the paint deteriorates the moment the car is driven out of the dealership. We inadvertently install scratches into the paint work of our cars as we strive to keep our car clean through improper washing technique.
Here's a simple test, take a torch to your car and shine at it from an angle while glancing behind the beam of the torch. Doing this immediately highlights the imperfections in the paint and the "love marks" we accidentally leave the car with as we seek to keep it clean.
The solution here is 2 fold. The first is paint correction, the second is perfecting your washing technique.
Paint correction involves bringing the paint back to as close to show room condition as possible. This involves the leveling of the surface of the paint to remove the scratches that had been made and to bring back that show car shine it once had.
You can either pay someone to do it (and pray hard the person actually knows what they are doing, however the true detailing professionals do not do such work cheap - you'd be looking at anywhere between $400 to $700 for paint correction on a car with average paint condition and higher cost for even worse paint conditions).
Do it yourself! Get the tools you require to do it yourself (in a safe manner of course) and be able to repeat the process as and when you need. Obviously as your cleaning technique improves the frequency of paint correction should decline dramatically.
How to prevent spider-webs, swirl marks and scratches on your paint?
- Wash in the shade, out of direct sunlight.
- Wash your vehicle systematically in sections (front, then passenger side, then rear and finally driver side).
- Use a pre-wash soaker or dip your sponge into the clean detergent bucket and squeeze the water onto the panels you will be cleaning to further lubricate the sections you are going to be washing if they start to dry.
- The motion of cleaning should always be done in long straight strokes not circular motions (which causes the swirl marks).
- Ensuring your cleaning mitt/sponge is clean is also paramount to ensuring that dirt removed from one spot does not get reintroduced to another part of the vehicle or even worse ends up scratching another part of the vehicle. This is why grit guards are an absolute necessity.
- After washing, ensure that the panels are still wet when drying off your vehicle. Use a quick detail spray in conjunction with your drying microfibre to ensure that the surface is wet prior to contact with the microfibre towel. Unsurprisingly, a lot of scratches are installed in our paintwork inadvertently when we run over the dry surface with the microfibre towel (even after the car is cleaned, dust still settles on the surface before wipe down).
How do I get rid of swirlmarks/spider webs/ scratches?
The only way to get rid of the swirl marks/scratches on the surface of the car is to polish back the surface of the vehicle.
Polishing back the surface of the vehicle will level out the surface of the paint, thereby bringing back that shine the car once had.
There are multiple ways of doing this whether by hand or by machine. Polishing by hand is possible but it is an excruciatingly slow process but also the safest. Polishing by machine (rotary polishers) is significantly faster but it comes with it added risk of “burning out” your paint. Professionals use them and they’re fantastic for them as rotary polishers level paint the fastest but think about them as a scalpel. Extremely precise and useful in the right hands but incredibly dangerous otherwise. This is why dual action polishers are the tool of choice not just for enthusiasts but also for professional detailers. You can read more about the advantages of dual action polishers here. Dual action polishers offer almost the same speed of correction of a rotary polisher but is far safer to use on the surface of your vehicle because of the orbit motion or throw which disperses the pressure applied to a particular surface area at a time.
Once the surface of the panel has been corrected, it is ready to be sealed/protected to preserve its condition. Whether using a wax, synthetic sealant or ceramic coat, each type of sealant has advantages and disadvantages that come along with it.
Finally, ensure that your washing technique is on point and you won’t have to see those dreaded swirl marks again.
Best washing practices during warmer days
- Wash your vehicle early in the morning or later in the evening when the sun has started to set.
- If the heat is too much to wash the whole vehicle at one time, it may still be cool enough outside to wash one part of the vehicle at a time. Clean small areas at a time, being sure to dry off each spot right away so that the water doesn’t dry up.
- Keep your vehicle polished and waxed, this reduces the amount of dirt and grime that can stick to the surface of the paint.
- Clean the inside of your car when its hot, that way you can leave the exterior wash to when its not as hot.