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  1. #1
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    How to inspect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    How to inspect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight


    Swirls and scratches are the most common consumer complaint when it comes to a car's appearance. If you're new to detailing, here's one simple method you can use to inspect a car's finish for swirls.


    First you need a sunny day with bright overhead sunlight.

    Then stand to the side of your car where you can see the sunlight reflecting off the hood. If there are any swirls they’ll show up.





    As I look at the finish on this brand new Audi, I happy to see that there are NO SWIRLS. This is how a nice or new paint job should look in the sun.

    NOTE: This car would NOT work for a demo car at a car show to show attendees how to remove swirls.







    You cannot inspect for swirls with the sun at your back as this is the wrong position to see sun rays bouncing off the car's finish.






    What do swirls look like?
    If you have a car that’s a few years older than chances are there are swirls in the clearcoat paint, especially if the car has been taken through an automatic car wash. To show you what swirls would look like using overhead sunlight, here’s the hood of an older BMW I detailed. These are the before shots when I was inspecting the paint.











    Swirls in Artificial Light
    You can also use bright, overhead florescent lights. Here’s the same BMW in the above pictures in Autogeek’s Show Car Garage with overhead florescent lights shining down on the hood.



    Using artificial light to inspect for swirls and scratches

    You can also use overhead lights like florescent lights or swirl finder lights to inspect for swirls. Here you can see the damage inflicted to the paint at the dealership. Luckily it appears they only used a rotary buffer on the hood but their were still sratches in all the paint from being washed at the dealership.









    BMW pictures taken from this thread...

    2014 BMW 535i - Removing Dealership Holograms, Swirls and Scratches



    Technique Tip
    So basically, you need bright overhead sunlight, then stand on the side of the car's hood or trunk lid, (a surface you can look down on), in a way that when the sunlight is beaming down on the hood the light is being reflected back to you and your line of vision.

    This works best on dark colored cars. You can use the sun to inspect for swirls and scratches on light colored cars you'll just need to look more intensely at the paint surface to see them.




    Mike Phillips
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  3. #2
    Senior Member The Guz's Avatar
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    Re: How to inspsect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Great tips Mike. Another excellent write up.

  4. #3
    Senior Member PaulMys's Avatar
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    Re: How to inspsect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Oh, Jeez. Don't remind me Mike!

    I can see swirls on my truck from a mile away in the sun now. Lol

    Waiting very anxiously for that first warm snap.
    It is no coincidence that man's best friend cannot talk.

  5. #4
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: How to inspsect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Continued...


    Here's another simple test a person can do to check if a car has contamination and needs to be clayed. And for people "new" to car detailing, detailing clay is a special type of clay used to remove bonded contaminants off of car paint, things like,

    • Overspray paint
    • Airborne pollution
    • Industrial fallout
    • Tree sap mist




    Here's an article I wrote after showing AJ how to test for contamination on paint by using something we all know about, The Baggie Test.


    The Baggie Test









    The Baggie Test

    The Baggie Test is a simple test anyone can do at home in their garage to check and inspect if their car has contamination that needs to be removed.

    You should alwasy do the baggie test to a clean, dry car. So wash and dry your car before you do the Baggie Test. And keep in mind that if you discover little bumps on the paint when you feel the paint through the sandwich baggie AND you just washed and dried the car - this means these contaminants have a strong enough bond to the paint that they DIDN'T WASH OFF and this means you need to use detailing clay to remove these contaminants.


    How to use the Baggie Test to inspect your car's paint


    Step 1: Wash and dry car.

    Step 2: Feel the paint first with your clean, dry hand.

    Step 3: Now feel the paint with your hand inside a clean plastic sandwich baggie.


    NOTE: Use a light touch so you don't accidental scratch the paint anytime you're doing the baggie test.




    Results from the Baggie Test?

    If you feel little bumps on the surface this is a sign that your car's paint is contaminated and needs to be clayed.



    Mike Phillips
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  6. #5
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: How to inspsect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Continued...


    How to clay your car


    For Kyle Tucker's 1970 Chevelle "The Villain" - we used Mothers California Gold Clay Bar Paint Saving System.



    Step 1: Kneed the Mothers clay bar into a patty about the size of a pancake.

    Step 2: Spray some Mothers Instant Detailer onto a section of paint.

    Step 3: Rub the clay patty back and forth using straight line motions over the section of paint.

    Step 4: After you feel the clay patty begin to glide effortlessly over the paint stop claying and use a clean microfiber towel to wipe off the residue.


    This section is now clayed and you can now move onto a new section of paint. Divide body panels of your car into smaller sections, about 2 feet by 2 feet or smaller and after claying a section and wiping it dry, move onto a new section until you have clayed all the horizontal surfaces. If you feel contaminants on the vertical panels using the baggie test you can clay these surfaces too.

    After claying your car you should apply a fresh coat of wax. The Mothers Clay Bar Kit includes a sample of Mothers Synthetic Wax which contains enough wax to cover an average size passenger car.


    Here's AJ about to inspect the paint using the Baggie Test




    Use a light touch - that's all that's needed to inspect your car's paint for contamination.






    You can also inspect glass and other hard surfaces and if you discover little bumps it's okay to clay these surfaces also.





    Mike explains where contamination comes from, which are any type of air-borne contaminants like,

    • Overspray paint
    • Industrial fallout
    • Traffic pollution
    • Tree Sap Mist






    Mother's clay bars come in a protective plastic wrap to keep them clean until ready to use. Before using the clay bar remove it from the plastic wrapper.





    Next using your thumbs and fingers, knead the clay bar into a patty about the size of a pancake.





    Spray a section of paint using the Mothers Instant Detailer. Use enough product to make the surface wet so the clay patty will glide over the paint.





    Then placing your had flat against the patty of clay, rub the clay patty in a back and forth motion over a section of paint.






    Normally you'll feel the clay patty drag a little as it is removing contamination. As the contaminants are removed the clay will begin to glide effortlessly. This is a sign the contaminants on this section of paint have been successfully removed.






    Next step...

    After claying a section, use the Mothers microfiber towel to remove the residues and then move onto a new section. Repeat this till all the contaminated panels are clean and smooth.



    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
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  8. #6
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: How to inspect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Quote Originally Posted by The Guz View Post

    Great tips Mike. Another excellent write up.
    Hi Michael,

    This is something that we as detailers already know how to do and why to do it but people that are new to car detailing may not know this simple technique. Heck a lot of people don't even know what swirls are until you point them out and then say the word, "swirls".

    Nothing wrong with that, we all started out at the same place and that's not knowing anything, yours truly included.



    Quote Originally Posted by PaulMys View Post

    Oh, Jeez. Don't remind me Mike!

    I can see swirls on my truck from a mile away in the sun now. Lol

    Waiting very anxiously for that first warm snap.
    Ha ha... I hear you... I can't walk by any car without instinctively, and reactively looking and inspecting the paint for swirls and scratches.


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
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  9. #7
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: How to inspect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
    IDA Board Member - Certified Detailer - Skills Validated Detailer - IDA Recognized Trainer
    Mike Phillips Facebook Page
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    Sign-up for Mike's Tips & Techniques Newsletter


  10. #8
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    Re: How to inspect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Polarized sunglasses help a ton in sunlight for spotting swirls.

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  12. #9
    Senior Member Finick's Avatar
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    Re: How to inspect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Quote Originally Posted by yakky View Post
    Polarized sunglasses help a ton in sunlight for spotting swirls.
    I hardly ever see this mentioned, but polarized lenses really are priceless.

    I got a pair back in like 2006 when I was polishing the hulls of boats with a rotary, and simply couldn’t frickin see what I was doing and it was killing my eyes. I kept missing spots and wasn’t able to see the residue I was wiping off.

    Friend took me to the store and bought me a pair and it was like a whole different world. I still have them in my car for when I’m driving (they hug my eyes really tight so they’re less stylish looking than I’d prefer to walk around with) and appreciate them every time I throw them on.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  13. #10
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    Re: How to inspect paint for swirls using overhead sunlight

    Quote Originally Posted by Finick View Post
    I hardly ever see this mentioned, but polarized lenses really are priceless.

    I got a pair back in like 2006 when I was polishing the hulls of boats with a rotary, and simply couldn’t frickin see what I was doing and it was killing my eyes. I kept missing spots and wasn’t able to see the residue I was wiping off.

    Friend took me to the store and bought me a pair and it was like a whole different world. I still have them in my car for when I’m driving (they hug my eyes really tight so they’re less stylish looking than I’d prefer to walk around with) and appreciate them every time I throw them on.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    I try to not look at my paint when I wear polarized shades... I always find something!

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