What is paint correction?
Paint correction is the removal of swirl marks, scratches, insect & bird dropping etchings, oxidation, over spray, finger prints, scuffs, buffer trails, sanding marks and other defects from automotive paintwork.
This is achieved by safely removing a small amount of the uppermost layer of the paint through machine polishing. This reveals factory fresh paint underneath to restore gloss, reflectivity and clarity.
Some defects such as stone chips, severe scuffs and scratches penetrate too deeply into the paint to be resolved by this process. However, they can be substantially improved. Stone chips can be touched in and the edges of deeper scratches rounded off to be taken away from the eye.
Bringing metallic black paint back to life by removing heavy swirl marks & sanding haze.
What is the difference between paint correction & gloss enhancement?
Gloss enhancement removes the haze created by light being scattered by swirl marks, light scratches and oxidation. A single stage of machine polishing breaks down an abrasive compound to remove a small amount of paint in which the damage lies. The abrasive compound diminishes in size throughout the polishing process and refines the paint to a high gloss and reflective finish.
It reduces deeper swirl marks, scratches, etchings, sanding marks, oxidation and over spray, but it does not remove them. Additional stages of machine polishing are required before this step to remove a greater amount of paint in which these types of damage lie. This is paint correction. In this case paint depth readings are taken to monitor the rate of removal and ensure the integrity of the paintwork is never compromised by attempting to fully remove defects that have penetrated beyond the uppermost quarter of the clear coat.
Please see below the grey and hazy finish on a Bentley Mulsanne. After a single stage of polishing the gloss and clarity is dramatically improved, but some deeper marks remain. A subsequent stage of polishing removed these marks to restore mirror like clarity and a high gloss finish.
The difference between good and bad machine polishing
Not all paint correction is equal. I know this for two reasons. The first is that it took me hundreds of hours of practise to become competent at machine polishing and many hundreds more to become proficient. Owning a machine polisher, pads and abrasives does not mean someone can safely remove paint defects. In fact, poor machine polishing does more harm than good. Remember, you only get the paint once, so its removal shouldn't be undertaken lightly. Experience really does count along with investment in a range of quality machines, pads, abrasives, methods of residue control, inspection lighting and a clean indoor space.
The second reason is that I commonly see the damage inflicted by previous attempts at machine polishing. Some types of damage can be removed. The most common are buffer trails result from the improper use of rotary machine polishers and usually show the haphazard approach of the user. These are shallow defects and can be removed with one or two stages of machine polishing.
Buffer trails removed from a Bentley Mulsanne.
Less common are sanding marks left from attempts to remove orange peel and level the paint through sanding with dual action machine polishers. I commonly see this on Bentleys and Aston Martins where the paint is flattened at the factory. The tell tale tight circles of deep marks are time consuming to remove.
Pig tails are caused by polish residue building up on the edge of the pad, which is ground into the paint if the pad is not level on the panel. This deep scoring with large clumps of abrasive is very difficult and time consuming to remove.
Pigtails on a brand new Aston Martin DB11 after 'detailing' by a dealership.
Some damage cannot be rectified through paint correction. This includes:
The scouring of delicate trim adjacent to paintwork . This can amount to thousands of pounds of damage.
Panel edges and lips being burned through. A respray of the panel is required to resolve this.
Other problems are:
Polish being forced into panel gaps. This can usually be removed, but sometimes it is so deep it cannot be reached.
Polish forced into rubber trim, plastic and convertible tops. This can normally be removed, but at time and expense.
Other types of paint defects & their causes.
Swirl marks from improper washing and drying
A severe scuff on a Tesla Model X. Several stages of polishing were required to remove almost the entire defect, leaving only one faint mark.
Paint over spray below the removed indicator. After several stages of machine polishing this was removed along with substantial oxidation. The bright white light in the second photo is the same light source as present in the first photo. This provides an indication of how dull the finish was and how reflective it became after paint correction.
Compare the lower panel that is lifeless due to heavily oxidation to the sharp reflective paint above. Over time paint can be broken down by UV radiation and extremes of pH to leave a dull finish. Only a small percentage of the paint oxidises and can be removed through machine polishing to restore gloss, reflectivity and clarity.