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Does this scenario ring a bell? You just spent an hour hand washing your car – using the most expensive car shampoo, soft Korean microfiber, and air drying the ride. You step back to enjoy that shiny paint finish and notice what looks like tiny spider webs in your car’s paint. Instantly a look of frustration appears on your face – as you realize paint correction or polishing your ride is the only solution.

If you’re an average car enthusiast, it’s quite possible you feel comfortable washing your car, even applying a spray on coating or hand waxing. But when it comes to polishing or buffing a car in the process of correct paint correction – many of us instantly hesitate. And there is a good reason for this feeling of concern.

So, let’s take some time to bust some myths about polishing a vehicle. In the information below, we’ll explore a few of the facts about paint correction. What does it accomplish, when do you need it, why is it needed, and once it’s done – how do you protect your vehicle paint from damage in the future?

A professional detailer polishing a car with an orbital polisher.

What is Paint Correction?

Paint correction is the process of removing minor scratches and imperfections found in the vehicles clear coat. Using an electric polisher, a microfiber buffing pad, and a special cutting compound, the detailer or you will cut into the clear coat of a vehicle’s paint till the scratches are leveled or removed.

When completed correctly and taking your time – there is no need to stress. However, if you try to rush the job, it is possible to damage the clear coating past the point of repair. That all said, paint correcting a car’s paintjob is a critical step if you plan on applying a nano ceramic coating or paint protection film.

Paint correction can be broken down into multiple stages – based mainly on the damage to the clear coating.

Stage 1 Paint Correction

This one is self-explanatory. It’s a single step polishing job using a cutting compound (or the liquid polish) and a pad. The single stage paint correction is intended to remove small marring and swirl marks that are lightly removed.

Stage 2 Paint Correction

When the car’s paint has moderate or medium swirl marks and scratches that are embedded in the clear, stage 2 is the next progression. At this point, you’re going to use (2) different polishes and pad combinations. Typically – it starts by using a more abrasive polish first, then stepping down to a finer compound, to remove any light scratches left by the first step.

Stage 3 Paint Correction

If you get to this point – it’s a good idea to do some careful research and perhaps defer to a professional. This is a three-step program, where the car’s paintjob has heavy swirl marks, marring, or other defects. The first step involves using a heavy cutting compound, with a machine polisher, and polishing pad – to really dig into that paint damage. The second step progressively decreases the grit, and finally, a light polishing compound should smooth out the damage.

Why is Paint Correction Completed?

At the source, machine polishing is intended to remove imperfections on the vehicle’s painted surface. It’s a service that is completed typically to prep a vehicle for a protective coating or film. The process is always customized based on the type of paint, surface imperfections, and the request of the customer. The detailer will polish a vehicle to remove a few individual imperfections including:

  • Removing fine scratches
  • Remove Spider Webbing or Swirl Marks
  • Get rid of stains left by animal waste (bird droppings and bug splatters)
  • Remove calcium deposits (water spots)
  • Damage or high / low spots by poor installation of DIY protective solutions
  • Removing wax, paint sealants, or ceramic coatings from paintwork

There is some liquid, chemical products that can be used to remove existing ceramic coatings. However, the risk of using these products is similar with being too aggressive with polishing – as it can damage the clear coat of the vehicle’s paint.

As a vehicle sits outside, powerful UV rays beat down on the clear coat, eventually leading to oxidation. This creates the faded paint look you see in this image. At this point, paint correction is more technical – and should be completed by a professional detailer for optimal results.

Does Paint Correction Remove the Clear Coat?

Essentially – YES. The process of polishing involves using a gritty substance called a cutting compound. When you activate the electric polisher, the polish liquid or paste is spread evenly on the vehicle’s painted surface, creating friction to cut through the clear coat of your paintwork. The polishers are made in multiple grit levels, some of them are intended to fill a scratch – while others are designed to remove the clear until the scratch is removed.

This introduces that potential risk we spoke about above.

If the scratch is deeply cut into the clear coat, it is better to consult with a professional detailer or auto body repair company prior to starting to remove the damaged. If you cut the clear too thin, then protective coatings will have a hard time bonding to the surface. Additionally, the paint will not “pop” or shine as well as you’d hope.

Is Polishing Needed Prior to Applying a Ceramic Coating?

It really depends on the condition of the car’s paint. When you apply a ceramic coating – regardless of the different formulation or application method, the coating’s job is to bond directly to the surface, harden, and provide a protective layer. When the coating hardens, it is transparent – making it act like glass. This amplifies the paint underneath.

So, a gloss finish will appear ‘more-glossy’ while a matte finish will provide more depth. Any tiny or hard to see scratches will be amplified or enhanced. Any swirl marks will stand out – not be covered up. This is one of the biggest myths about DIY ceramic coatings and other paint protection coats – that they fill scratches and improve the condition of paint.

Unfortunately, that’s only possible through paint correction. As such, if you have ANY imperfections in the vehicle’s paint surface, it’s highly recommended to have a professional detailer polish or buff the paint as part of the prep work.

Do You Need to Polish Small Scratches Before Applying PPF?

The answer to this question will depend based on the type of scratch – and the brand of paint protection film. If the PPF is infused with nanotechnology, such as Ceramic Pro Kavaca Instant Healing PPF, minor paint damage can be filled with the adhesive. Heavy defects will require paint correction or body repair.

Ceramic Pro Kavaca Instant Healing paint protection film is engineered to repair the top layer if it’s scratched. However, the same technology, along with proprietary ingredients in the adhesive has been shown to repair minor oxidation on a clear coat, fill small swirl marks – and even some scratches.

Kavaca instant healing PPF being installed on a new car.

While it’s always recommended to ensure that your paint is in optimal condition before applying a paint protection film, there are situations when you can reduce this issue – if you use the RIGHT PPF.

What Should You Use to Protect Your Vehicle from Future Damage?

While traditional car wax and synthetic paint sealants have been the go-to solution for years, modern technology has introduced many longer-lasting alternatives. If you’re looking for the optimal protection that can reduce the potential of swirl marks on the vehicle’s surface, paint protection film or a professional-grade nano ceramic coating is the way to go.

Ceramic Pro offers both solutions – Kavaca Instant Heal Paint Protection Film and Ceramic Pro 9H nano ceramic coating. Ceramic Pro 9H is offered to vehicle owners in four different packages.

  • Sport Package – Six Months of Protection
  • Bronze Package – Two Years of Protection
  • Silver Package – Five Years of Protection
  • Gold Package – Lifetime of Protection

Our nano coating cures to a hardness of 9H – or as strong as quartz. Unlike DIY coatings, our formulations are designed to build layers – which increases depth, for added protection and longevity. This technology combined with annual inspections can justify why we offer a warranty – when other companies simply can’t.

With Kavaca PPF, you can decide what parts of your vehicle need protection from potential paint defects.

  • Front Bumper – This is the entry-level PPF, where the film is applied to the front bumper, headlights, and fog lights.
  • Partial Front / Clear Bra – The clear bra installation is applied to the front bumper, top of the hood, headlights, and frontal exposed area.
  • Full Front – The full front expands the coverage to include the entire hood, front fenders, and sideview mirrors. It also includes the door cups, or the background of door handles.
  • Entire Vehicle – With the full vehicle PPF, the entire vehicle paintwork is protected against rock chips, road debris, ice melt, gravel, and blowing sand.

If you’re going to invest the sweat equity or money in having a professional detailer paint correct your ride, it makes sense to apply a high-quality paint protection solution. Click the button below to request a free estimate for Ceramic Pro 9H or Kavaca PPF.

Tim Charlet

Author Tim Charlet

Tim Charlet serves as the Pai Mei of Ceramic Pro Americas content management team. He also formulates and improves Americana Global detailing supplies, and serves as a Key Accounts Manager for Ceramic Pro and Americana Global products.

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