What is Paint Correction, and How Does it Work?

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What is paint correction and how does it work

When you hear “paint correction”, what comes to your mind? Filling in scratches? Removing swirl marks? Hold that thought.

A brand new car looks beautiful because, like everything else that makes up the car, its paint job is fresh out of the factory. But after the car is driven for a bit, you begin to notice scratches, swirl marks, and cracks in the paint as a result of natural wear and tear over time.

Everyone agrees that scratches, marks, and other blemishes on a car’s paint make it less appealing. If your car currently falls in this category, have no worries! Paint correction can save the day.

To get you started, we have compiled a detailed, simple, step-by-step process that will guide and inform you on what paint correction is, how paint correction works, and the best materials to use. Dig in!

What is Paint Correction?

Paint correction is an auto detailing procedure that removes hazing, minor scratches, marring, swirl marks, and other blemishes on the vehicle’s clear coat. It does this by using specialized machines and polishing compounds to slowly remove microscopic layers of clear coat until the surface is smooth again.

Once the paint correction is complete, your car will no longer have swirl marks, scratches, or other imperfections that are visible to the naked eye.

Before we hop into the paint correction process, let’s take some time to understand what makes up car paint and how each paint layer helps restore your vehicle’s appearance.

What’s in car paint?

Car paint consists of a primer, a base coat and a clear coat. The primer is applied to prepare the car for the painting process. Next, the base coat is applied on top of the primer and gives the car its color. Finally, the clear coat is applied to protect the outer layer of the car and gives it a shiny, protective finish. .

The steps involved in painting a car are as follows:

  • Preparation stage: Media blasting

Media blasting removes flaws, rust, and other contaminants from the vehicle surface or frame. It does this by using pressurized air to shoot tiny pieces of material (e.g. walnut shells or plastic beads) out of a nozzle to strip off the affected paint. This crucial step prepares the body of the car for a smooth paint finish.

  • Applying Primer coat

Next up is applying the primer. A primer is a type of paint made of resin, solvents, and additives that prepares the surface of the car for actual car paint; the base coat.

You need a primer coat to even out the automobile’s body surface and get rid of any production flaws. It also protects the car’s metal body from rust, extreme heat, shards of stone, and the sun’s UV radiation.

  • Applying Base coat

The base coat, or color coat, application is the third phase of car painting. Base coat is the actual colored paint that goes on top of the primer layer, providing the foundational color and complexion for the vehicle.

Base coats come in four different types: matte, pearlescent, metallic, and solid. Each of the four types has unique qualities and produces a different finish. The matte finish is better at hiding scratches, while the pearlescent finish makes the paint glow and changes colors under different light shades. The metallic car finish is more bleach resistant, and the solid finish is the easiest to repair.

  • Applying clear coat

The application of the clear coat is the final step in the painting of automobiles. It shields the base coat from external degradation and is resistant to ultraviolet radiation. You need to ensure the clear coat is durable and reinforced frequently, so it lasts as long as possible despite coming into direct contact with the environment.

You can make the clear coat stronger by waxing or polishing. Either process is effective so it comes down to your preference and access to materials; but in general, wax will be a better clear coat reinforcement than polish.

Car waxing

Tools and Compounds Used in Paint Correction

  • Machine Polisher: A machine polisher is used to polish the paint to remove scratches. It cuts into the car’s clear coat, leaving your car looking smooth and increasing your paint’s lifespan.
  • Polishing pads: Polishing pads are attachments that go on the machine polisher and are used to eliminate stains, swirls, and scratches. It can be manufactured in various sizes, and with different materials including foam, microfiber, and wool.

    Foam pads are perfect for casual use and easier to work with while microfiber is able to cut through harder ceramic coats. On the other hand, wool pads generate less heat and give better results on sticky paint.
  • Polish or Compound: A polish can serve as the main chemical used to restore the car to its original color. Compounds are more aggressive and used for removing heavy scratches and etching, while polish is less aggressive and used to remove light scratches and the marks left by compounds.
  • Car Paint Sealant: A car paint sealant is made of synthetic polymers which repel external forces like excessive heat, acidic rain, and UV rays; thereby protecting your car paint from direct contact with forces that might damage them.

How Does Paint Correction Work

A typical paint correction process involves using an electric polisher, microfiber buffing pad and special buffing compound to cut into the vehicle’s clear coat until all scratches are removed.

Here are the processes involved in paint correction:

1. Clean the spot you want to work on

To achieve the best results, it is necessary to remove all contaminants on the surface of the affected area before the paint correction begins.

First, use a decontamination procedure to remove dirt, sap or insects that can obstruct the paint correction stage. Professional detailers use a decontamination spray, iron or fallout remover, or a clay bar treatment as these ensure a deep cleaning down to the microscopic level, and lessen the possibility of further damaging the car paint. And of course, it is necessary to wash your vehicle prior to doing any sort of decontamination treatment.

2. Analyze the scratched surface

Now that the paint is clean, it’s time to properly examine the scratched surface to understand the cause and extent of the damage. After your analysis, you will know how deep the scratch is and the type of equipment to use. Here are some good ways to analyze scratches:

  • If your nail doesn’t catch the scratch, it’s likely only the clear coat was damaged. You can fix this with scratch and swirl removers, or even just a good coat of polish.
  • If you can see the metal part of the car, the base coat has been damaged. This damage is deeper than the surface and will take more than a clear coat restoration to fix. To learn how to fix this, head on over to our touch up paint article.

3. Level the surface

You will need a microfiber cutting pad set in order to properly level the surface using the process below:

  • Apply a cutting compound on the electric polisher and microfiber cutting pad, then buff it into the area. Keep buffing it in forward and backward motions.
  • When the cutting pad wears out, replace it with a fresh one. For the best result, replace your cutting pad after every six square feet to avoid making the scratch worse by cutting into the unaffected paint areas.
  • Repeat the process for all affected areas.

4. Polish the surface

Use a car polish to remove the scratches, marks and other blemishes on the car paint while retaining the car’s actual color.

Oftentimes, it takes numerous polishing stages to get the job done. The first is the most abrasive which removes the deeper scratches while the subsequent, finer polishing stages remove the lighter surface abrasions caused by the polish.

5. Recoat the car

Once the polishing is complete, apply a layer of reinforcement to the clear coat. Recoating the car protects it from scratches and shields it from UV rays and other environmental factors.

To do this, you can choose to apply car wax on the corrected surface. A good alternative to car wax is nano ceramic coatings which can last upwards of 3-5 years. They are more scratch resistant and some say they are more visually appealing.


The reality is that time eats at everything, from iron, to wood, to glass; your car’s paint is no exception. As time goes by, it’s bound to lose its luster due to human and environmental factors.

Once you notice the color is getting less vibrant, it’s a good idea to spoil your vehicle with a paint correction treatment. We wish you luck in your paint correction process and can’t wait to see the results!

If you don’t feel like doing this yourself, you can always give us a call at 425-243-9155, send an email, or simply schedule online and we will come to you. At Big’s Mobile detailing, we have over a decade of experience providing paint correction services and a professional range of tools that will restore your car to its original glory.

Hope to see you soon!

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These blogs are meant purely for education and demonstration purposes. It contains only general information and may not account for specific issues related to your particular vehicle or situation. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. Read full disclaimer.

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