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  • Writer's pictureH2NO Car Wash

What does paint correction even mean?

Paint correction, polishing, compound, all in one, cleaner wax, finishing pads, foam pads, wool pads, microfiber pads, dual-action polisher, rotary machine, machine wax, hand wax etc.

This picture:

What does all that have to do with paint correction?

The rabbit hole goes quite deep when talking about paint correction. There isn't enough space in a 5-minute blog to go over every topic in detail.

BUT, we can talk about the basics of paint correction:

  • What it is

  • How it's done (generally)

  • Safety PSA

  • Why you get it done (expectations)

Let's begin


What is paint correction?

Paint correction involves getting your vehicle's clear coat as smooth as possible SAFELY. In most cases that means a flawless finish: no swirls, buffer trails, most scratches, blemishes etc. This is done by very carefully removing small amounts of the clear coat so the entire area is even and creates uniform reflection of light producing a high amount of gloss and shine.

Scratches, blemishes and rough sanding marks on a blue metallic paint.

There are circumstances where paint correction alone might not be enough. Deep scratches down to the base coat or primer. To tell if scratches are that deep, lightly run your finger nail across the scratch, if your nail gets caught and stops, it's likely too deep to be simply paint corrected out. A step up if possible is to have it "chip" corrected by sanding and repainting the area as you would for paint chip correction if it's not too big. If it is a very big and deep scratch, a total panel respray might be necessary. It depends on your desired look for the vehicle and its usage.


How it's done (generally)

There are 1-step, 2-step and multi-step methods. At H2NO, paint correction is usually done in multiple steps if the most flawless finish is desired and possible.

1-step involves a polishing pad with any kind driving force (DA, rotary or hand) and a polishing chemical of some kind. This will remove the finer scratches, swirls and imperfections. If your car is fairly new and well taken care of, this will bring a good amount of shine back to your vehicle. This is also the last step usually taken in a multi-step process.

2-step includes the same finishing process as above but is preceded with a harsher pad and compounding chemical. This process will remove the slightly deeper scratches and imperfections a polish cannot remove. This process leaves behind its own haze over the paint and needs to be followed up with the previously mentioned step. Not following with the other step will leave your car looking dull and weathered.

Multi-step includes the previous two steps but also includes wet sanding to remove deep scratches, imperfections and orange peel. This process is very dangerous and if not done correctly can damage your paint enough to require a respray. In a multi-step, these process aren't always done in a certain order. Though it is always best to finish with the polishing step, a respectable detailer will begin with this as well, to see what your cars paint tendencies are. From there they can then guide and evaluate the best process to get your vehicle that mirror finish.

Any detailer who immediately begins wet sanding has no concern for your vehicle. Immediately wet sanding produces the fastest results in the most unsafe way possible. Clear indicators that their time is more important the your vehicle. Always be cautious of your detailers.

At H2NO we have two main goals:

  1. Get your car the best finish possible

  2. Remove as little clear coat necessary for that desired finish


Saftey PSA

I mention "if possible" a lot because sometimes it isn't safe for your vehicle to get a multi-step flawless finish. At H2NO we ALWAYS measure paint depth levels before even quoting you on a paint correction. Clear coat levels very from vehicle to vehicle and paint correction should not be done often. There are limits to how much clear coat should be left on your vehicle. If you do not have enough, there is no UV protection and your vehicles base coat color will begin to fade, change and fail. If that were to happen, the only thing you can do is a respray of the panel or panels of the vehicle and pray that they match. Because if they do not, you will need to redo the whole vehicle.

It is extremely important that your detailer, measure clear coat levels and keep them in the safe range. Those who do not measure levels truly have no respect for you, the car or the detailing craft. Their goal is simply to make a quick buck and you will be stuck paying thousands for resprays when they make a mistake.

Some detailers say a car with failed clear coat like below can be restored with paint correction. The ABSOLUTE best you can get is a shiny surface that will last a month or two and then immediately look like this again. Waxes, sealants and coatings are not enough when you have unsafe clear coat levels. This will continue to happen and paint will continue to fade no matter how much wax you put on.


Why you get it done (expectations)

Typically you get your car paint corrected if this is the desired look of your car.

However, there are some things to keep in mind about paint correction expectations.

If your car is your daily driver, realistically there will always be some scratches and swirls from daily use. You can put a car coating on it to improve its resistances to scratches and swirls but nothing is 100% scratch proof. Paint correction and proper maintenance will significantly improve the look of your car and is always recommended. But to have your car completely flawless after a year of daily driving is extremely improbable.

If it is a show car or weekend only car, you can have realistic expectations of zero to minimal swirls/scratching after a year. This is because a show car will be driven less in three months than your typical daily driver does in a week.


Hopefully this helped shed some light on what paint correction is and how it is done. As mentioned here, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to paint correction.

If paint correction is something you're interested in having H2NO Elite Detailing perform on your vehicle.

Let us know!

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