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  1. #1
    Director of Training Mike.Phillips@Autogeek's Avatar
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    What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    One of the most common problems people want to solve when it comes to improving the appearance of their car's finish is to remove swirls, scratches and water spot etchings out of their car's clear coat finish.


    Below Photographs Courtesy of MeguiarsOnline.com


    Swirls



    Scratches



    Water Spots



    In order to remove any type of below surface defect out of a clear coat finish you need to carefully remove small amounts of paint surrounding the defect, (or defects), until the surface is uniformly level or flat. Of course some defects may be too deep to remove safely and in these situations you can often time improve the defect but not completely remove the defect.

    In other words, in order to remove a scratch out of an automotive clear coat you must remove enough paint surrounding the scratch until the upper most portions of the surface are level with or equal to the lowest depths of the scratch or defect you're trying to remove.


    Does that make sense?


    The idea being, you don't really remove a scratch, you remove the paint surrounding a scratch.


    The problem with removing below surface defects like swirls and scratches is whether or not you have enough film-build or paint thickness to safely remove the defect completely without going through the clear coat and exposing the basecoat also called color coat. Generally speaking, factory clear coats are thin so you need to be careful and take the cautious approach of using the least aggressive product to get the job done.

    If you remove too much paint and expose the underlying color coat the only way to fix the problem is to have the affected area repainted. The color coat is usually dull as it gets its gloss from the clear layer of paint.


    Products Mentioned
    Swirl Removers, Compounds and Polishes
    Buffers, Polishers and Pads
    Applicator pads for working by hand


    Further Reading
    Tips & Techniques for using the Porter Cable 7424XP
    The Final Wipe
    2008 Lexus IS 250 - Pinnacle Detail


    Resources
    Autogeek Online Detailing Forum
    Autogeek Online Store
    Last edited by Mike.Phillips@Autogeek; 08-20-2009 at 08:59 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    How do you know if your removeing scratchs, or just useing somekind of filler that washs of .

  3. #3
    Senior Member ASPHALT ROCKET's Avatar
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    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    Quote Originally Posted by Spot View Post
    How do you know if your removeing scratchs, or just useing somekind of filler that washs of .
    This is were your IPA wipe downs come in to play. Whoever thinks they are not needed is sorely incorrect. This will give you the true look of the finish and show you if the defects are removed, not filled.
    Last edited by ASPHALT ROCKET; 12-09-2009 at 11:45 PM. Reason: Added comma

  4. #4
    Senior Member detail viking's Avatar
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    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats


  5. #5
    Director of Training Mike.Phillips@Autogeek's Avatar
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    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    If the swirls you are trying to remove are pretty bad, as in fairly deep, then when you start to buff by hand or machine the improvement will be noticeable and real. When it gets to working out 100% of the most shallow swirls and scratches then you'll need to chemically strip the paint after working a correction product and inspect the finish in bright light.

    Quote Originally Posted by ASPHALT ROCKET View Post
    This is were your IPA wipe downs come in to play. Whoever thinks they are not needed is sorely incorrect.
    Doing an IPA wipe down will reveal whether the defects have been removed or not but a person must be careful because IPA is not a good lubricant to start with and you can mar the paint and if you use too strong of solution it can soften or swell the paint.

    I show the before and after results of wiping with IPA here,

    1-Step versus 3-Step Process by Hand


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  6. #6
    Senior Member turbos17's Avatar
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    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    Quote Originally Posted by ASPHALT ROCKET View Post
    This is were your IPA wipe downs come in to play. Whoever thinks they are not needed is sorely incorrect. This will give you the true look of the finish and show you if the defects are removed, not filled.
    Or if you have time you can wash the vehicle again. I know most people don't, but just another option.

  7. #7

    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    What are swirls and how do you get them, how do they appear?

  8. #8
    Senior Member FUNX650's Avatar
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    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    Mike, I would appreciate your input on this. Thanks

    RE: Deep scratches not through the clear-coat.

    I know this is really, really 'old school', but, whenever I'm in doubt of the actual film-build (paint thickness) of the clear-coat and there are scratches that have not penetrated into the underlying base (pigmented) coat, I will fill the scratch(es) with a dab of shoe polish of a contrasting color. While performing any paint correction process whether it be wetsanding/compounding/polishing and I see the shoe polish starting to disappear/dissapate--I stop. IMHO this should be enough fixing--I don't want to go through the clear.
    Be wary of the man who urges an action in which he himself incurs no risk~Joaquin de Setanti

  9. #9
    Director of Training Mike.Phillips@Autogeek's Avatar
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    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    Quote Originally Posted by FUNX725 View Post

    I will fill the scratch(es) with a dab of shoe polish of a contrasting color. While performing any paint correction process whether it be wetsanding/compounding/polishing and I see the shoe polish starting to disappear/dissapate--I stop. IMHO this should be enough fixing--I don't want to go through the clear.
    I could see getting shoe polish into a deeper scratch or scratches, but not sure how you would get shoe polish into masses of swirls and scratches.

    Never seen this done before, but if it works for you or someone else it might make for a good how-to article if you can capture before, during and after pictures.

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  10. #10
    Senior Member FUNX650's Avatar
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    Re: What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats

    Mike...Thanks for your reply. I'll try to post-up some before/after pics on a couple scratches when the weather clears up. I also agree that a mass of swirls would probably not necessitate 'a little dab' (will do ya) of shoe polish or other similar contrast media--I feel I would have a better than average chance of checking my progress in order to not burn through this larger area vs. a more concentrated deep scratch area. Thanks again.
    Be wary of the man who urges an action in which he himself incurs no risk~Joaquin de Setanti

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