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How to Remove Swirl Marks

How to Remove Swirl Marks

Unfortunately, over time and despite routine cleaning, a car’s paintwork becomes dull and perhaps slightly rough to the touch. This is thanks to an accumulation of surface contaminants that are too firmly bonded to be removed by normal washing alone. This is why regular paintwork detailing is recommended, over and above washing alone.

Paintwork can be dulled or surface-damaged in various ways but first up let’s deal with swirl marks; and we only have ourselves to blame for this.

What Causes Swirls In Car Paintwork

Dull light can hide damage but inspecting paintwork closely in good light will reveal swirls marks, which are often a result of a poor car cleaning regime. Thinking that a good drubbing by the local automated car wash will help remove surface contaminants prior to waxing doesn’t work. The machines are simply too harsh and if anything make the situation worse.

Further when home washing, the ever-popular high street wash sponges, despite regular rinsing, are not ideal and can retain tiny particles of grit. The rotating action of washing is what causes swirl marks to appear. You can’t see them through the soap, but they are there. Similarly, using towelling or cheap cloth to dry off can impart swirls too, for the same reason.

So, the choice of cleaning materials and products is paramount. Use a premium shampoo, a top-quality wash mitt, rinsing often, and dry with a soft microfibre cloth. It isn’t possible to eliminate swirling altogether, but minimising it will save labour later. Make sure, before using detailing products, that the surface of the vehicle is completely free of those hard-to-shift contaminants like tar, insect strikes and road grime.

Removing Swirl Marks

A premium quality car polish is the solution to swirl marks. Car polish is a micro-abrasive will gently remove light swirls and oxidation caused by sunlight from the paint surface, producing a smooth and glossy finish.

There are two ways to remove swirls and renew that showroom shine; by hand or machine. To differentiate it from wax, the purpose of a car polish is to remove small amounts of the paint surface although of course, this is at a microscopic level, the idea being that swirls will be removed. There are two methods:

How to Avoid Swirl Marks

The solution to preventing swirl marks is to have a very careful washing regime. Save the sponges for the kitchen floor and wash instead with a proper wash mitt, designed for the purpose. These can bought in various materials, cotton, lambswool but the best type are manufactured using microfibres in that appear in the form of ‘noodles’ on the surface of the mitt.

Imagine how a sea-anemone moves in the water to trap nutrients, well, that’s essentially what a wash mitt does. Instead of simply moving the grit around, a mitt will attract and draw in particles, away from the paint.

Use the two-bucket method of car washing, one for the shampoo and one for the regular rinsing which washes away the grit into the bucket where it sinks to the bottom. When the wash is complete, don’t be tempted to throw the remains of the shampoo water over the car. You will just be throwing the grit back.

How to Hand Polish a Car

Working by hand requires a little more effort but still does the job. Apply the polish to the cloth and work evenly and sparingly into the paintwork using a circular motion, covering small areas at a time. Quickly the polish will dry to an opaque haze. Now take a fresh clean microfibre cloth and again using that circular motion, buff off the polish making sure to turn the cloth frequently to a clean area. Continuing with a soiled cloth is just transferring the residue back to the paint! Swirls should be greatly reduced or even illuminated completely.

How to Machine Polish a Car

The elimination of swirls by mechanical means is not difficult but does require a certain level of skill as will be seen. It can however make for a better long-term solution.

At the start of this article, it was mentioned that the third factory stage involves applying a clear coat to protect the main paint surface. As with the hand method, a mechanical polisher fitted with a soft buffing cloth, spins on a single axis and, with due care, removes a thin layer of clear coat down to a level where there are no swirls. The process requires heat generation and to achieve this is why a machine is used. That heat is simply too difficult to achieve by hand alone, unless the owner has a bionic arm.

Apply a small quantity of polish to the polishing head and then spread the polish onto the paintwork working in small areas thus:

1. Carefully place the pad onto the paintwork and make sure the device is on a slow setting.
2. Deploying a circular action, move the buffer spreading the polish evenly allowing it to dry to a haze.
3. Changing the buffer cloth, increase the speed and, applying light, even pressure, polish up the shine.
4.Finish off any remaining residue by hand with a microfibre cloth.

The Final Touches

Always follow up the polishing stage with a waxing or a ceramic coat to give that ‘wet-look’ to the shine and top it off with a quality sealant for a long-lasting effect.

A coating of ceramic wax will provide paint protection, a deep gloss and incredible water behaviour.

To go the extra mile, try a ceramic coating which provides a long-lasting shine and protection making the job of washing that much easier.

It may seem like a chore but doing this job every six months or so will help to keep delicate paintwork free of swirls and looking its best.

Finally, stand back and admire your handiwork.

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