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I figured I would make a thread on the different ways you can remove scratches and swirls out of your paint job, depending on what you got at home and the amount time you want to put into it. I'll rate it on difficulty as well ranging from 1 to 5 (1 being so easy my dog can do it, and 5 being pretty difficult, so research and read before you do)

Lets start with taking a look at your enemy closely to see what you are up against:



Overspray/Industrial Pollution: A paint imperfection that occurs when chemicals in the air (like paint, acid raid, insecticides, and other pollutants) land on your paint and stick to it. Removing these imperfections is like detailing your car a few times. The droplets must be removed from the paint, and then the paint underneath must be recleaned, polished, and protected with either a sealant or a wax.

Brake Dust/Rail Dust: A paint imperfection that occurs on a normal basis. When you apply your brakes, the dust from the brake pads does not only attach to the wheels, it also finds its way onto your paint. This is a relatively easy imperfection to remove, if vehicle is washed weekly. It is removed with a proffesional clay bar application before the vehicle is waxed or sealed.

Scratch: A paint imperfection that occurs when a sharp object (such as a finger nail, ring, shopping cart, etc.) rubs into the clear-coat layer or your paint or beyond. An average clear-coat is half of the thickness of a human hair. Removing this imperfection requires the use of a compound, wet sanding, or a polish on a machine or by hand. Some scratches that go beyond the clear-coat cannot be removed through a professional detailing service and must be filled by a body shop.

Swirls: A paint imperfection that occurs on a daily basis, when particles such as sand, dirt, salt, etc. are picked up by the wind and rubbed against your vehicles paint. Automatic car wash brushes also create deep swirl marks. Like a scratch these are removed by the use of a compound, wet sanding, or a polish with a machine or by hand.

Acid Rain/Bird Dropping Etches: A paint imperfection that occurs when a vehicles is subjected to an area where acid rain could fall onto the vehicle. The highly acidic chemicals eat away at the clear-coat of a vehicle. Bird droppings have similar acidity and thus need to be removed as quickly as noticed to avoid the acids from eating away at the clear-coat. Again, these are removed from the surface with the use of a compound or polish with a machine or by hand.​


What it means to remove a scratch:
Basically it comes down to this, the scratch/swirl will only be removed when the material around the defect is removed as low as the depth of the defect. Does that makes sense? Meaning you have to remove as much clear coat around the scratch that it levels out that area. General rule of thumb is if you can run your fingernail across the scratch and your nail catches the scratch you can't safely remove it with detailing products and it must be filled with paint. See Here

Before you do any kind of paint reconditioning, you need to prep the paint for cleaning. Do a very good wash and dry, sometimes even 2 washes are needed. Follow the wash with a clay bar application. There are steps on a proper car wash that are stickied at the top of this page. I personally like using a foam gun with 1 bucket and a grit guard, but the 2 bucket method is better then one bucket.

Also do this in a shaded area, where the surface is cool, otherwise the product will get baked on your paint and will very very hard to remove. If you don't have a shade borrow a friend's garage, go to walmart and buy a 10x10 ez up (comes in a blue bag) for $90. If you still can't do anything about the shade, work in very small areas, I'm saying 1' by 1' areas.

Before you start: wear comfortable clothes with no jewelry or belt (you don't want to accidentally scratch a panel you just worked so hard on). Also, when you get frustrated take a break, no one is rushing you, do the best you can! If it didn't turn out the way you expected, take a second think of what went wrong, ask in this thread, etc...

1st way of removing defects is by hand:

skill level: 1
what you need:
-compound (Meguiar's Scratch-X, 3M Rubbing Compound, ect. all can be found at your local automotive store)
-polish (a pure polish, not one that says cleaner polish, wax cleaner, etc.) like Meguiar's M205
-foam application pads (I realized the foam ones work better then the cotton ones in removing defects, save the cotton ones for waxes, glazes, and sealants)
-terry or microfiber towels

start by applying a dime size amount of product onto your pad, place the product at the top of your pad as that's the only place your fingers will create pressure, like so:

Rub your little heart out in the following directions:
-side to side (black)
-up and down (red)
-diagonally (green)



The compound you use will determine when you should stop. When you see the product drying and starting to haze, that means you're done. wipe it off with a clean towel. It might take more then 1 application. Once you get your scratches removed, use the polish to bring more shine back to the paint, using the same method as before. When you are removing any product with a towel, remove it with one side, then go over the area again with a different clean side of the towel to remove any dust. It's easy if you do a 2' by 2' section at a time and just go over everything slowly and carefully.

Wash and dry your car before waxing to remove polish/compound oils.


Before:


After:


2nd way of removing defects is with the use of a Dual Action Polisher:

skill level: 2-3
what you will need:
-dual action polisher (Meguiar's G100 or G110, Porter Cable 7424, Flex XC3401 to name a couple)
-Polishing pads will work, cutting pads require a little more skill and experience on a DA
-same compounds as by hand can be used, but I recommend Meguiar's M105
-a pure polish
-clean terry or microfiber towels

Before doing anything it is wise for you place tape around all plastics and cracks of the vehicle so that the compound dust doesn't get into places you can't wash out like so:


Start by applying a generous amount of product on the pad your first time (as you use more of the product apply less). Apply product by either making an X on the pad (I like this way) or making a swirl of the product on the pad like this:

OR

Once you got your product on there spread it over the are you are going to work with by simply pressing the pad on the DA in the 4 corners of the area and one in the center like so:

Set your DA speed to 5, if you are using a Flex, set it to 4. Use medium pressure on your DA (about 20 lbs) and work the product in the same directions as you by hand with SLOW arm movements, let the machine do its work for you. When the product hazes, stop, wipe it off. If you still see the scratch/swirls, do it again. If that doesn't work, try upping your speed on the DA by half a turn, if that doesn't help, use a more aggressive product. When finished go over everything with a polish to remove any marks left by the compound. If you see that you are having a hard time removing the compound/polish with a towel you are either polishing too long, your pad is dirty, you're not using enough product. To remove stuck on polish/compound spray some quick detailing spray you got with your claybar kit on the area, and it will help remove it easily. IMPORTANT: clean your pads on the fly after every body panel you do!!!!! What I mean by this is when you are done with a panel and you are using a polish or compound, take a clean towel, set your DA to 5 and run the pad on the clean towel to break up any built up polish. This will prevent you from creating haze marks on your paint!

Wash and dry your car before waxing to remove polish/compound oils.

Here's a 50/50 shot of a hood. Right side was done using a DA

3rd way of removing defects is with the use of a Rotary Buffer:

Skill level: 4-5
What you need:
-Rotary buffer (Milwuakee, Dewalt, Vector, Flex all make great products, Vector being the cheapest)
-Polishing Foam Pads (if the defects aren't too bad)
-Wool cutting pads (if the defects are deep)
-Rotary compounds (not sold in most stores, a good example is the Meguiar's #4 Compound)
-Dual Action polisher
-Polishing pads for the DA
-Pure Polish
-Terry or microfiber towels


The DA is much safer option for any beginner. It is much easier to burn through paint with a rotary so if this is your first time with a rotary try it out on your least favorite/expensive vehicle. However, a DA will not remove all of the deeper defects as it is a little limited in the amount of defects it will remove. The rotary comes in handy when you have deep scratches or swirls or working on a boat.

Again tape up your car like explained before.

Apply your compound like explained before for the DA on your pad. Set your rotary to 1000 RPM's. Again spread your product like you would for the DA. Don't apply as much pressure as you would on the DA, and use medium arm speed. Don't let the rotary sit in one spot too long or you will have burn marks! If you didn't remove anything, do it again the same way. If still zero improvement move your speed up. I would not recommend ever going past 2000 RPM's on a rotary on a clear coat if you are just learning how to use it. If you see that you are having a hard time removing the compound/polish with a towel you are either polishing too long, your pad is dirty, you're not using enough product. To remove stuck on polish/compound spray some quick detailing spray you got with your claybar kit on the area, and it will help remove it easily. IMPORTANT: clean your pads on the fly after every body panel you do!!!!! What I mean by this is when you are done with a panel and you are using a polish or compound, take a clean towel, set your Rotary to 1500 RPMS and run the pad on the clean towel to break up any built up polish. This will prevent you from creating haze marks on your paint!

WHAT I LIKE TO DO WITH A ROTARY IS THE FOLLOWING:
For a compound:
-SPREAD THE PRODUCT ONTO THE CAR WITH 500 RPM'S
-WORK PRODUCTS IN WITH LIGHT PRESSURE AT 1200 RPM'S
-MIST AREA DOWN WITH A SPRAY BOTTLE CONTAINING ONLY WATER
-WORK PRODUCTS FURTHER WITH 1500 RPMS AND MEDIUM PRESSURE

For a polish:
-SPREAD THE PRODUCT ONTO THE CAR WITH 500 RPM'S
-WORK PRODUCTS IN WITH LIGHT PRESSURE AT 1200 RPM'S
-BURNISH PAINT WITH 800 RPM'S


Once you are done, get your DA and go over the cart again. There are very high chances (unless you are knowledgeable about rotaries) that you have left hazing marks with the rotary. The DA with some polish will get rid of those. There are also special methods of using the rotary to "jewel" paint which will not have the same results when using a DA, but this basically involves using a very very fine polish (like the Menzerna PO85RD with a finishing pad, or any other non-abrasive pad) to jewel the paint and remove any faint imperfections in the paint. It is a longer process through which you take the gloss and shine of your paint to a whole new level before protection

Wash and dry your car before waxing to remove polish/compound oils.

Before:


After:


4th way of removing defects is with wet sanding:

Skill level: 5
What you need:
-2000 grid sandpaper
-3000 grid sandpaper
-sanding block/backing plate
-Dual Action polisher
-Polishing pads for the DA
-Light compound
-Pure Polish
-Terry or microfiber towels

Sometimes it is easier to simply wet-sand a body panel rather then use a rotary buffer. It's what you are more comfortable in doing. Also wet sanding is an easier process for removing heavy orange peel. I would highly advise against wet-sanding your car if you still have factory paint! doing spot here and there is ok, but not your entire car. The clear-coat from factory is very very thin and it leaves very little room for error.

Tape up you car.

Get your 2000 grid sandpaper. Soak any paper in water for 15 minuted before use. Use your 2000 grid paper with medium pressure against your paint going only side to side (black). Do the same with you 3000 grid paper but sand in an up and down motion (red).


Here's a wet sanded hood:

Once you are done wet sanding (weather it be just one little spot or your entire vehicle) wash your car to remove any dust.

Grab your DA and some pure polish and polish out those sand marks! Here's a couple 50/50 pics of the marks polished out (if you do 2-3 passes and swirls/scratches are still visible then use a compound and re-polish):




Wash and dry your car before waxing to remove polish/compound oils.

For what it matters, here are my personal recommendations as far as products go. I'm not trying to promote Meguiar's products, but they are all I have ever used and I have no experience with much anything else. If anyone else has any good recommendations please post them up!
Clay Bars:
Blackfire Clay Lubricant
Meguiar's Clay Bar

By Hand (in order of least to most aggressive)
Meguiar's Swirl-X
Meguiar's Scratch-X
Meguiar's Ultimate Compound

By DA (in order of least to most aggressive)
Menzerna PO85RD
Menzerna Super Finish PO106FA
Meguiar's #80 Speed Glaze
Meguiar's #83 Dual Action Cleaner/Polish
Meguiar's M105 Ultra Cut Cleaner/Compound
Meguiar's M205 Polish (if followed after the 105, it is arguably one of the best combo's out there right now)


By Rotary (in order of least to most aggressive)
Menzerna PO85RD
Menzerna Super Finish PO106FA
Meguiar's M95 Speed Cut
Meguiar's M01 Medium Cut Cleaner
Meguiar's M04 Heavy Cut Cleaner


Removing swirls out of metal is the same concept, whether it would be wheels, or exhaust. Remember metals are actually a little soft just like paint so do this a little by little. For better steps and pictures visit this page:
http://www.rs25.com/forums/f138/t116166-metal-polishing.html


Enjoy,
Rafal

Let me know if you have any questions.

One more thing, you should be thinking on how to protect your clean, smooth, shinny paint right? From experience here's your best bet:
-get a really nice sealant, they might not be cheap but well worth every penny. Put a coat on and LEAVE IT ON YOUR CAR IN THE SHADE/COOL/DRY PLACE for at least 1 HOUR so that it has time to properly seal. If you truly want a sealant to last 4-5 months, leave it on for the full 12 hours which is the average time of sealant's curing time. Now remove it. Follow it with at least one more coat of a good wax. Get a wax that is rich in oils and high carnauba wax. Let that sit for another at least 30 min. and remove it. Here's what I do after I spent the past 6-10 hours removing stuff: 1 coat of Meguiar's #M20 sealant left for 12 hours, then a coat of Meguiar's #M07 Show Glaze, Followed by 2-3 coats of Meguiar's M26 wax. I'm really done now.


Here's some helpful links in buying all the products you could ever want/need:
www.AutoDetailingSolutions.com
Car Care Products,auto care products,car waxes,car polish,detailing supplies
Detailing Supplies, Car Accessories, Camping, Picnic and Travel Accessories online! Car wax, auto sun shades, professional detail products, pet travel, child travel, garage, tailgating and auto accessories.
http://www.chemicalguys.com/
http://www.sparkleauto.com/
http://www.adamspolishes.com/default.aspx


If you don't have any products at all, and would like to purchase a "starter detailing kit" here's what I would suggest you need. Also, these are just a small sample of products that are very easy to use. Remember proper auto care is THE BEST preventative maintenance you can do on your car:

1. Dual Action Buffer w/pads (you will need at least 2 polishing pad, at least one finishing pad for applying wax/sealant, 1 cutting pad, couple cotton bonnets for removal of wax/sealant. I do not recommend using a cutting pad on the DA, but it is good and sturdy to put your cotton bonnet over to remove wax/sealant):
http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/g110-kit-1.html

http://www.autogeek.net/poca74pofcop.html

2. Paint cleaners and Compounds:
http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/m10512.html
http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/m8312.html
http://www.topoftheline.com/p2painclean.html
http://www.topoftheline.com/blackfire-src-compound.html


3. Polish:
http://www.topoftheline.com/blackfire-gloss-enhancing-polish.html
http://www.autogeek.net/pbpp16.html
http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/m20512.html
http://www.adamspolishes.com/p-140-adams-fine-machine-car-polish.aspx

4. Wax or Sealant (get both if you can):

http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/m2616.html

http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/m2016.html
http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/g12718.html
http://www.topoftheline.com/blackfire-wet-diamond.html
http://www.topoftheline.com/klasse-sealant-glaze.html
http://www.adamspolishes.com/p-139-adams-machine-superwax.aspx

4. Clay Bar kit:
http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/g1016.html
http://www.adamspolishes.com/p-37-adams-clay-bar-detail-spray-combo.aspx
http://www.topoftheline.com/smartwax-clay-kit.html

5. Random stuff that will be needed:
-microfiber towels (get a Costco card for this, the $50 Membership is well worth it). you can get 36 towel for $19.99, use them a couple times, put them in an oil rag pile...
-sheepskin washmits (again costco, 4 for $19.99)
-at least 2 buckets w/ a gritguard (I prefer the Gilmour Foamaster: http://www.autodetailingsolutions.net/75qgfmr.html)
-drying towels, make sure your drying towels are 100% cotton
-jelly blade (cuts drying time by a ton)
-tire shine
-glass cleaners
-vinyl cleaners

I know this looks like a long list, and will end up costing your anywhere from $250-$400 depending on products you get, but again this is something important to do and have and is well worth the investment. Also, if you detail your car every few months, these products will last for a while, just make sure you keep them closed!



on a side note if you don't tape up your car and you get wax or polish even after you wash the car... get some All Purpose Cleaner and a little brush and go to town on all the crevices in your car.. it'll take a while so just prepare yourself.

a product review thread: click here
interior detail: http://www.rs25.com/forums/f189/t107242-proper-interior-cleaning.html
 

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Very nice write up! Thanks for this. I was just thinking about fixing the minor scratches on my car and this will definitely help.
 

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2000 Impreza Sedan
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Discussion Starter #4
I'm just home sick and bored... so I decided to do something productive...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Wow, that's incredible. Can you come to NY and get my key marks out?


Plleeeaaaassssseeee? :puppy_dog
surprisingly Key marks are probably the easiest things to get out, or door handles by hand most of the time, I don't think I spent more then 15 minuted on a door handle to remove all scratches by hand before...
 

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project blackbird.
'01 RS, '81 Fiat Spider
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Want to trade use of my garage for your scratch removal skillz? I remember you were looking for a local one to use awhile back, and my car could use your help.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Want to trade use of my garage for your scratch removal skillz? I remember you were looking for a local one to use awhile back, and my car could use your help.

I actually moved into a house with a garage but thanks! If you need help you're more then welcome to stop by my house someday and I'd more then happy to give you hand, I got enough tools n products...

Rafal
 

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project blackbird.
'01 RS, '81 Fiat Spider
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I actually moved into a house with a garage but thanks! If you need help you're more then welcome to stop by my house someday and I'd more then happy to give you hand, I got enough tools n products...

Rafal
Cool dude! Congrats on the house. I may indeed come to you for paint help later in the year when my swap is done and I want it to look all shiny again. The car is covered in garage dust from the past three months' downtime.
 

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The Silverback Mod
05 Black OBS
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This puppy is STUCK. (As in 'sticky')

Great write up and excellent work. I once color sanded (wet sanded) my brand new 911 (two weeks old). It was a leap of faith, but I detailed high line cars to get through college and felt brave.

When I first started I decided I was crazy... but stuck to one panel at a time. The worst is when the 'mountains' are dull and the 'valleys' of the paint are shiny... I almost cried.

But, when I was done and brought it back, I had the smoothest, deepest paint at any of the PCA 'track days' and 'shine and shows'! More then a few jaws dropped over my black 911S. :clap:
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Here's a couple of pics of the damage that can be done with a rotary buffer, this isn't to scare anyone away, but make sure you have read about how to use this machine, or ask as many questions I will be more then happy to help you. Best way is to go down to local body shop and ask them to get some free damaged body panels they are throwing away (that's how I learned in my apartment...):
a burn caused by having the buffer at an angle and allowing the tip of the pad to spin in one spot for too long (too long maybe even 7-10 seconds):


the hazing cause most of the time by a rotary buffer, it will happen, you can't escape it, that's why you have to us a DA after a rotary, look at it this way, different tools in your tool box for different purposes:


this is a good pic, because you see the hazing cause by a buffer clearly, and you see all the compound dust created when buffing, this is why it is important to tape!
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
This puppy is STUCK.

Great write up and excellent work. I once color sanded (wet sanded) my brand new 911 (two weeks old). It was a leap of faith, but I detailed high line cars to get through college and felt brave.

When I first started I decided I was crazy... but stuck to one panel at a time. The worst is when the 'mountains' are dull and the 'valleys' of the paint are shiny... I almost cried.

But, when I was done and brought it back, I had the smoothest, deepest paint at any of the PCA 'track days' and 'shine and shows'! More then a few jaws dropped over my black 911S. :clap:
black cars are probably the most beautiful cars to own and show, black is actually the color that all companies manufacturer and test their products on. The misconception is that some products are better for lighter cars and some for darker.. that is a lie!!!!! most cars now come clear coated which is a clean resin with no pigment. The reason why black and dark cars look better waxed and lighter cars look better sealed is actually all in your eye, white and silver don't have the depth of black and navy blues. Don't let anyone tell you that a specific wax is better on a lighter or darker car, it's not true. Don't waste your money on colored wax either, it doesn't work as well as quality wax, such as the Meguiar's #M26 high tech yellow wax or NXT 2.0 wax. At the same time, black cars are unforgiving in mistakes! :)
 

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ok now i gotta ask this,

Ok the rs i bought was painted at a mako for sure, for all the orange peel that is covering its whole body, if i do a 2000 grit wet sand on it, then polish it like you did would it get rid of the orange peel, and stay shiny for till they paint goes all weird, or will i have to polish it 4-6 months down the line because it will show that i wet sanded it? (sorry if i confused you, not sure if it will stay shiny like the picture on your hood, not sure if you make the wet sand marks go away forever or if they come back)


thanks,

Corey
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
ok now i gotta ask this,

Ok the rs i bought was painted at a mako for sure, for all the orange peel that is covering its whole body, if i do a 2000 grit wet sand on it, then polish it like you did would it get rid of the orange peel, and stay shiny for till they paint goes all weird, or will i have to polish it 4-6 months down the line because it will show that i wet sanded it? (sorry if i confused you, not sure if it will stay shiny like the picture on your hood, not sure if you make the wet sand marks go away forever or if they come back)


thanks,

Corey
good question. I would do the 2000 grit and then 3000 grit as well. The reason for using the 3000 grit is that you're human, you can't honestly say you will use the same amount of pressure on every pass with the 2000, leaving some marks a little deeper. the 3000 will come as close to getting everything out as you can and be very easy to remove with a buffer. Here's a little diagram to help explain what will happen:

This is a diagram of your clear coat after a scratch:


After you wet sand it, the area of clear coat is lowered to the lowest point of the scratch, but it creates smaller scratches:



After polishing, that area is completely smoothed out, leaving you with a fresh surface to protect:




so to answer you, once you have completely got rid of scratches and swirls and orange peel, it will not come back once removed and protected. You have keep up with you waxing, but the sand marks will never come back. If you let the paint go without doing anything, the orange peel will never come back, but it will be replaced with swirls and scratches.. That's why waxing is so important. Does that make sense? I know you want to get rid of orange peel and not scratches, but I think this will help you visualize what happens.

Rafal
 

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For a situation with a lot of swirl marks/small scratches and some larger more apparent scratches. What would you recommend? Learning to rotary buff and buffing, or wet-sanding the car?
 
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