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Car Detailing – Paint Correction for DIYers

Simple But It Ain't Easy

Paint correction has a simple order and processes that requires time, patience, and the right tools for the job. Also be willing to invest time, blood, sweat, and tears; it can be incredibly satisfying to see the end result.

Here we’ll explaining the do's & don'ts, in simple steps to complete the project correctly for all DIY’ers.

What is Paint Correction

Paint correction is removing imperfections in the clear coat or top coat, restoring and refining the clarity and reflection of paintwork on a vehicle. Pro correction involves a few important steps.

  • Cleaning the exterior completely, debris free

  • Wet sanding (For deeper scratches if needed)

  • Compound if you need

  • Polish for superior smoothness

  • Sealing the Paint for long-lasting protection

  • Wax if you want

What is Being Targeted While Paint Correcting

Spider webbing: These are caused by poor washing and drying techniques, abrasive towels, soaps or using automated car washes frequently. If you wash and dry your car with incorrect, contaminated materials and/or contaminanted rinse water, then you risk inflicting tiny hairline scratches that only show up in circles or spider web patterns. Everyone thinks that they are from circular washing or drying motions, but they are only seen that way dew to light reflection angle.

Fine scratches: These scratches occur for several

reasons – mostly just like spider web scratches. They can also be created by excessive exposure to debris and/or fine particles hitting the vehicles surface while driving at high speed. Can also just be prolonged high winds blowing debris that contacts your cars finish.

Water spots: These are created by dried up water that contain minerals, like magnesium, calcium salt or other types of stuff like road grime can slowly eat away at the clear coat. When a bead of water with mineral content evaporates, it leaves the mineral content behind, solids can’t evaporate like liquids do; that’s just physics. Add exposure to direct sunlight – and this can make for some serious paint damage.

Animal crap: Birds, squirrels, and other animals don’t care where they release their waste. Failure to remove these turds quickly can cause damage to the clear coat; due to acids in animal waste eating away your vehicle’s surface.

I like this pic from It actually fits nice right here.

Rub, Don't Scrub

Do I need correction or can I just polish it?

Washing your car by hand or an automatic car wash, the soap this helps to break up the layered dirt. Rub it but don't scrub on the surface (no additional pressure) with just the weight of the microfiber mitt, rinse off, then move to another section. Why rub, and don't scrub? Simple, dirt is being ground into the surface if you scrub too hard. This scrubbing creates scratches in the clear coat – even when you’re using a microfiber towel. While washing your car with conventional products, not all of the contaminants are removed. To get #TheHealthiestCarWash get help from the #BucketGritBlaster. In fact, it's the only products that removes 100% of the dirt and debris from the wash mitt and environment helping to preserve your cars surface shine. Drying the vehicle with a terry towel will leave microscopic residue that is jagged-edged. And then when you apply the wax with these microscopic particles, and other jagged-edged still on the surface, you’re simply grinding those particles into the paint’s clear coat layer. The only way to fix the scratches and swirl marks that are ground into the paint clear coat is through paint correction.

Paint Correction Is Important?

Paint correction is an important step in maintaining the shine, slickness, and the smoothness of your cars finish. When your cars clear coat is damaged, dirt and debris can penetrate the surface and leave the color layer exposed to the elements of the environment. This can lead to paint chipping, sun damage, and premature fading of your cars color. This is what causes your car to look dull. It cannot reflect light fully and does not appear shiny (smooth).

To keep the paint looking shiny (smooth), car owners need to have their paint corrected either attempt it on their own or having it done professionally. Paint correction essentially removes the ugly imperfections, then a layer of protection should be applied like a ceramic coating or paint sealant. Paint coatings and sealants helps to reduce the potential of reoccurring damage that was just removed.

DIY Paint Correction

Now is your time to complete a paint correction process on your own ride. Sounds great, RIGHT!

The steps below are GENERAL guidelines. Trial and error is required to truly master the art of detailing. Find an old car, or a old car panel to practice on. Jewelry, watches, wedding ring (sorry Boo it's only temporarily) should be removed. Avoid wearing belt buckle if possible or just make it's totally covered by your shirt.

Here is a basic list of things to used in the correction process. This is not a total list, but it will get you started. Microfiber rags, clay bar, liquid detailer, bug/tar remover, a DA buffer or rotary buffer, paint compound, wax, and last but not least, an LED headlight. All of this equipment is essential, and can be had for a few hundred bucks. You could easily spend ten times more but, don't let me get started talkin bout, you need more tools. But, think of it as an investment that you can continue to use with all of your other cars for years.

I should mention, consult with an expert to determine whether paint correction or re-spray is the best course of action if you have any concerns.

Below are general steps for removing swirl marks in your vehicles paint. As with all products, follow manufactures recommendations and suggestions. Any server paint damage should be repaired by a professional.

Step 1 Wash: The Preparation Process Is Most Important

The first step is prepping the vehicle with a bath. In some cases there is no running water, that’s alright. AMMO, Griot’s Garage, McKee's, and others sell products that you can use without running water. These are called, "waterless car wash". You can safely wash the exterior of your vehicle without running water, if it NOT that dirty, or when in a pinch.

I myself use the Bucket Grit Blaster, the grit removal system that removes 100% of the grit from my wash mitt for the #healthestcarwash. You can use the two bucket method or whatever you must. Try to use a wax and polish stripping product, some express that they are a prep wash. Remember, the more you touch your paint, increase the risk of scratching it while cleaning it. And once again, "rub don't scrub".

Here are some general steps you’ll want follow during the preparation process:

  • Start with the wheels and make sure you get the barrel of the rim and the caliper.

  • Wet the car and use the water to rinse off all loose dirt you see. The water also saturates the hard to loosen debris.

  • Wash your car using a high-quality wax removal cleaner.

  • Use the softest microfiber wash mitt or similar product

  • Rinse your mitts often, use "Bucket Grit Blaster" to remove 100% of the grit to retain 100% of your cars shine.

  • Rinse off each panel after washing it. Try to move with urgency and efficientancy so neither the water or soap dry fully on the paint. It's necessary to rinse each panel as you go to keep the car wet.

  • Pro tip - Spritz your drying towel and then wring it. This will improve the rate it dries the finish. Or you can even use a leaf bower, if you can handle it. They make blowers just for drying cars if you want to spend the loot.

  • Make sure you get the hidden water in door sills, spoilers, gaskets, grilles, and open the hood and the truck, they retain water. You’ll be surprised how much water is hiding in these places that will drip out while compound

Drop a comment below if you feel differently about any of these steps.


Just before you got into using some compounds there is one more preparation to preform. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! Clay! This is so easy and quick. Before you pick your clay feel your cars surface. you will feel the particles that the clay will remove.

There are a few varieties of clay. I just use the medium clay bar and mold it to fits across my four fingers. You can also use the new thing called a Nanoskin mitt or towel. You can use a liquid detailer, but I use the wax and polish remover soap that you used to wash the car. Use only back and forth motion, and most important, keep the clay and the panel very lubricated (wet). Fold the clay into it self about 5 or 6 times after each panel to keep the dirt on the inside (the middle) of the clay. One panel at a time, dry with a clean microfiber towel. You will be able to feel the difference, before and after the claying process. The surface should be MUCH SMOOTHER. If you still feel bumps, clay a bit more. You will need it to get it SMOOTH as can be. Put your hand inside a plastic shopping bag plastic from your favorite grocery store and feel the surface for leftover contaminates.

Don't rush, You got this! If you find tar or something use Goof Off, but ONLY ON THE PAINTED PARTS or used a "bug & tar remover", along with a MF cloth to get it off.

Step 3: Leveling, Correcting The Paint

This is where you’ll use your rotary polisher, or DA (dual action) polisher combined with a foam, wool, or fiber cutting pads, a high-quality cutting compound and plenty of quality microfiber rags to remove leftover compound.

Always start with the least aggressive compound then if you need to you can move to a more aggressive compound and/or pad to gauge the level of correction needed.

Remember, you only have a certain amount of clear coat to work with. DO NOT REMOVE MORE PAINT THAN YOU HAVE TO. Remember, not to go for perfection as you’ll run out of clear coat. This can also be done by hand with microfiber rags or pads, but it’ll take much longer and you will not remove the paint nearly as fast.

One last Tip: For daily driver please try not to aiming for perfection, just correction to remove swirls, hazing, and the very small scratches.

Here are some general steps you’ll want follow during the cutting process:

  • Use cutting compound with you electric polisher along with your choice of foam or microfiber CUTTING pad. Put three or four pea-sized dots of cutting compound on the pad. Set the speed to low like 3 or 4. Place the buffer on the panel. Only turn on the buffer when you have it on the panel. Light to moderate, even pressure. Move the buffer vertical, then horizontal, then diagonal across the work area. When you finish working the area turn off the buffer while it is still on the panel, then remove it from the surface, and wipe off the leftover compound with a clean microfiber rag. If done right you will see a smoother finish. You will get better. Remember, "You got This."

  • Make sure to CLAEN or REPLACE the cutting PAD often. I like to do this every panel and 3 to 4 times for the hood, the roof, and the trunk cause these are the largest panels. If you don’t you’re basically just grinding in more swirls.

  • REPEAT these steps until you’ve done the entire area(s) you are focusing on.

Step 4: Polish

Polishing is the second part of the paint correction process. Using your buffing or polishing machine and LOTS of fresh microfiber pads polishing will add a layer of protection to you car.

If you completed step 3 correct, you’ll be looking at a smooth but dull finish. This is where you will choose your choice of wax, probably a cleaner wax. Plenty of them will not only polish but they will fill in the tiniest scratches in the clear coat were caused by the initial leveling process.

Here are some general steps you’ll want to complete during this process:

  • Use a fresh polishing pad. This makes sure that you don’t mix cutting compound with your polishing. Use the proper amounts of wax. Read the label. You want to see the product coating on panel.

  • Apply the cleaner wax with a soft finishing or polishing pad fitted on the polisher. This adds protection and helps fill tiny scratches. Follow the body lines of the vehicle mostly when possible.

  • Keep changing and/or cleaning the pads frequently. I generally apply 1 to 3 coats of polish on a FRESHLY leveled clear coat.

  • Pro tip - If you leave the wax on as you work around the car you know where you waxed from where you didn't wax and this will help you to work efficiently!

Step 5 Protecting (Waxing, Sealing, or both)

At this point, your correction has been completed. If you took your time with the previous steps, I'm sure that you’ve done a pretty good job of removing the swirls and scratches in your vehicles painted finish.

In this step, you have two option to choose from. This is important so you need to make it count. You do not have to use both. You can also use one or the other. What you’re really choosing between is, A - If you want the "best" visual enhancement, you will want to pick wax. Or B - Do you want the "best" in protection, you pick sealants. Both together could be the ultimate in a perfect world. But if we were in a perfect world I would have to share information about scratches and swirl marks in your paint, RIGHT!

Here's my tip: If you use both, sealant first! Sealants can't stick (adhere) to the surface if you waxed it. Wax is slippery, that's what it does, helps to repel stuff from sticking to the surface it's applied to. That's its function for protection. Futher more, sealants & ceramic-based protectants are also slippery, but they only work properly when bonded and cured to the vehicles finished surface. So you MUST make sure you use an alcohol and water mix BEFORE applying these coatings. These sealants & coatings bond to the paint so nothing goes between them.

The wax may not adhere to the surface coated with sealant or ceramic coating either. So my take on this point is JUST CHOOSE ONE AND DONE!

A: Waxing

A traditional wax treatment leaves behind a thin coating of wax that is hydrophobic and reflective. The wax may wear out sooner than you’d like, I'd say about a month or two and then it will need to be re-applied. Synthetic wax last longer, but you will give up a bit of reflective nature. Carnauba based waxes is a natural organic product. It enhances almost any smooth surface you want to protect. Waxes don't provide much in the way of UV protection. It protects the clear coat by helping to prevent stuff from sticking to the clear coat, the clear coat protects the paint color by blocking UV rays. Some cleaner waxes that contain abrasives & solvents can even remove light oxidation. Carnauba waxes is microscopically porous also, it allows the surface underneath to breath which is important to paint. Choose the a highest grade carnauba wax to fit your pocket. The high quality stuff contain polymers and other synthetic ingredients to get the best compromise of durability and luster.

B: Synthetic Sealants

Sealant is like car wax times 10. Sealants are man made formulas engineered to do specific jobs. Sealant are way more durable compared wax. Sealants are chemical compounds that may contain acrylic resins, polymers, and aminos, and some amounts of wax as a filler to add to the smoothness for a higher gloss. Appling a good sealant extends the life of your cars paint. Moreover, a professional grade DIY ceramic coating can last up to five years if it's properly installed and maintained. Most sealants currently on the market offer excellent clarity and reflective properties making their look ideal for colors that don't typically benefit from waxes like metallic silver and white.

Art imitates life, like sealant, imitates a wax, but is made of synthetic fomulas rather than organic materials.

C: Ceramic Coating

Ceramic protection is a more recent technology. You probably heard words like, SiO2, quartz, silicone-dioxide, or Silica Resins. Ceramic coatings are different from a wax, it will actually create a chemical bond with the surface its applied on. After it cures, it becomes very resistant to soap, water, and other environmental contaminants. Ceramic coatings resist heat, the suns UV rays, environmental contaminants & sever detergents much better than wax.

5. Wrapping It Up

A professional can charge up to $2,000 for some paint correction services. Some projects you may want to leave to a professionals, the process and steps we provided above for removing paint swirls work quite well. The important thing you need to consider is how you’re going to prevent this from happening again.

Take some time to learn more about #thehealthestcarwash; as you’ll quickly discover why it’s better than the same old two bucket method. This poduct will help you to not only protecting your vehicle – but it will also making it easier to wash and retain a long lasting brilliant, smoother shine.

Thanks for reading and hopefully we can get to know one another through our words.

Best Regards,

Creator J. Robert Freeman

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