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Paint Correction for Beginners

Updated: Jan 30


Paint correction can do wonders for a vehicle with faded or damaged clear coat.

Paint correction is a multi-stage process that involves removing imperfections in automotive clear coat (a.k.a. finish) and restoring it to as close to original condition as possible. Las Vegas Automotive Mobile Paint Correction & Polishing Packages | Top Star Mobile Auto Detailing ( Opposed to a straightforward DIY paint correction, professional paint correction involves a few additional steps, which we’ll describe in detail a bit later.

For all you DIY fans out here in Las Vegas, the following steps offer a generalized glimpse at paint correction procedures:

  • Cleaning/Removing debris via clay bar

  • Wet sanding/Leveling

  • Waxing/Polishing

  • Resealing the Paint


Spider webbing, or swirl marks, are one of the most common, and easily repairable forms of clear coat damage.

  • Spider webbing: It may sound like superhero splatter, but the term “spider webbing” actually refers to the swirl marks commonly found in clear coat. This is typically the result of improper circular washing methods, the use of dirty or overly abrasive towels, automated car washes, or high pH automotive shampoos.

Scratches that mar a painted surface’s clear coat, but don’t dig into the basecoat can oftentimes be repaired with paint correction.

  • Fine scratches: Scratches can be caused by many forms of contact. From backing into an overgrown bush, to the strong winds and airborne debris we have here in Las Vegas, clear coat scratches are about as unavoidable and unappealing as it gets.

In Las Vegas water spots from hard water, acid rain, or contaminated road grime are all factors that can really wreck a car’s clear coat if allowed to sit for too long.

  • Water spots: While some may assume that water spots are little more than a cosmetic inconvenience, certain kinds of water etching can lead to permanent damage. Water that contains salt, road grime, or high levels of minerals is especially dangerous, as it has the ability to slowly eat into clear coat, and becomes extremely difficult to remove when baked in the hot Las Vegas sun.

Animal excrement is not only unsightly, but it also comes loaded with acids and bacteria that will eat into a paintjob.

  • Animal crap: Damn those birds, squirrels, and other tree-dwelling critters and their airborne turds of impending doom. While it may seem like a royal pain in the ass, washing or wiping away animal excrement the moment you detect it will make a massive difference in the longevity of your car’s clear coat. Failure to do so will only allow the acids within the animal poo to etch into your vehicle’s external surfaces, thus causing the need for an even lengthier round of paint correction.

A prime example of the quality of work one can expect from an amateur auto detailer.

  • Inexperienced Detailers: There’s a simple truth here somewhere… oh yeah! There are entirely too many people in the auto detailing industry who have zero business being near a car’s clear coat. Poorly calibrated high-speed polishers and buffing tools, the use of overly abrasive polishing compounds, and entirely too much pressure are all too commonplace in the auto detailing scene.


There were a few life lessons that Mr. Miyagi actually got wrong. Proper washing and waxing etiquette was one of these things.

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

While Mr. Miyagi's method of washing and waxing is well recognized, his technique is just as known for its damaging tendencies as its cleaning and buffing powers. Is it good for teaching karate skills? Sure. But when it comes to safely decontaminating a car’s clear coat… well that’s a whole other story.

When a car is being washed by hand, or an automatic car wash, soap and pressure are applied to cut into any caked-on residue or contamination. The scuzzy surface is then agitated with a cloth or some form of scrubbing media, before the human hand or mechanized arm moves on to the next area.

The issue, is that humans and automatic car washes alike tend to grind whatever grime is sitting on the surface into the clear coat. This creates scratches in the clear coat, for without routine rinsing and a separate decontamination water bucket, even a clean micro fiber towel can become a weapon of mass destruction during a wash.

Car waxing offers a very similar scenario. While washing a car remains a crucial first step, not all of the debris embedded within the clear coat is removed at this stage. So when the wax-on/wax-off method is implemented later on, this same grinding of loose particles into the paint’s protective layer strikes once more, this time with the help of a waxy bonding agent.


A properly paint corrected painted surface is impressive to see when compared to what the clear coat looked like prior to leveling.

In order to truly remedy automotive detailing mistakes, and “buff-out” any marring or fading on a car’s clear coat, a paint correction procedure must be implemented. Las Vegas Automotive Mobile Paint Correction & Polishing Packages | Top Star Mobile Auto Detailing (

However, there’s this dated assumption that paint correction is little more than a visual enhancement. Paint correction does far more than just apply some shine to a painted surface. It fills in the gaps and scratches, lifts flaking clear coat, and prepares the surface for protective products like ceramic coatings.

When your paint’s clear coat is damaged, it is just a matter of time before dirt and debris penetrate the surface and start eating into the pigmented basecoat. In the past, this has been linked to paint chipping, sun damage, premature fading, oxidation, and other unsavory issues.


To repair a faded and scratched clear coat you will need a few DIY tools, including various buffing/polishing pads.

It may sound intimidating at first, but minor paint correction procedures are more of a time and labor intensive endeavor than anything.

The following steps will help guide you in the removal of swirl marks/spider webbing, the most common, and easily repairable clear coat imperfection. Any other type of paint damage, including deep scratches and etching, should be carefully inspected and taken to a professional. You don’t want to attempt an advanced paint correction process, only to realize halfway through that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

Disclaimer: These really aren’t rules, but guidelines. And when in doubt, consult an auto body expert to determine whether paint correction or a respray is the best course of action.


Cleaning, and removing contaminants, along with any previously applied waxes, polishes, or sealants must be completed prior to starting any paint correction project.

Before you can even start correcting a vehicle’s paintwork, all of the surfaces must first be cleaned and prepped.

Here are a few of the steps you’ll need to complete when prepping a car for paint correction:

  • Wash the car using the two-buckets method and utilize a high-quality surface prep shampoo.

  • After scrubbing down all of the exterior surfaces, break out a reusable clay bar mitt or towel, along with some clay lubricant, and get to scrubbing. This will help remove any stubborn particles that may still be embedded in the clear coat, and greatly reduce the risk of marring.

  • Once complete, wipe all of the surfaces down with a plush microfiber drying towel, and tape-off any areas you don’t want to see buffed with painter’s tape. This will likely include glass, light lenses, unpainted plastic trim, sensors, and chrome.


Leveling is a huge step in the paint correction process. This procedure is typically completed with the help of a buffing/polishing tool and tons of microfiber polishing pads.

For the next stage, which is the leveling process, you will need an electric polisher or sanding wheel, and a variety of high-quality microfiber cutting pads and cutting compounds in various grades of coarseness.

  • Apply some cutting compound to a microfiber cutting pad that’s been attached to an electric polisher. (You will start with the most coarse compound and buffing pad, and gradually work your way to finer grits with each completed pass.)

  • Replace the microfiber cutting/buffing pad frequently to avoid marring or cutting into the clear coat. Every other body panel is a good rule of wrench.

  • Complete this process until you’ve done the entire vehicle. Once complete, attach a milder buffing pad and apply some finer rubbing compound to its surface.

  • Repeat the entire procedure until complete, and then repeat it one last time with the finest grit buffing compound and softest pad.


Polishing is the next step in the paint correction process, as it removes many of the surface scratches and contaminants that still might be imbedded in a vehicle’s clear coat and will eliminate that “haze” created during the leveling process.

Leveling step completed, you’ll be greeted by a scratch-free, but rather dull-looking finish. This is where the polishing process comes into play, as you seek to both restore shine and fill-in any scratches in the clear coat that may have been caused by the leveling process.

  • Start with a brand-new polishing disk and pad, preferably an ultra-soft product that is intended purely for buffing.

  • Spread a small amount of ultra-fine polishing compound on the pad. Unlike cutting/leveling compounds, polishing compounds act as more of a lubricant than an abrasive.

  • Apply the buffing pad to the clear coat and follow a pattern that adheres to the body lines of the vehicle.

  • As you polish one panel at a time, don’t forget to change the pads as necessary, and work until every square centimeter of the clear coat has been polished. Depending upon the amount of leveling that was conducted, you may need to repeat this process another 2-3 times.


At this point, the paint correction procedure has been completed, and it is now time to protect that pristine exterior. A paint protection procedure will not only reduce the need for this clear coat correction process to be repeated on the regular, but it will also give your car’s exterior enhanced levels of shine and protection.

Traditionally, DIY enthusiasts would apply an automotive wax at this point, an option that does indeed work, but only for a brief period of time, and with limited resistance to scratches and impacts. Today, things like paint sealants and nano ceramic coatings have become the go-to paint protection alternative to traditional waxes, and for good reason.

By providing an incredibly hard layer of protection that only needs replacement every few years (as opposed to every couple of weeks or months), products like ceramic coatings have made the need for routine paint correction a thing of the past. And while many auto enthusiasts will swear that Paint protection film products are the best of the bunch due to their levels of longevity and protection, the price associated with their installation and up-front cost is a far cry from what you will pay for a nano ceramic coating like.

If you would like more information or a quote on any of the services mentioned in this post please reach out to us here at TOP STAR Mobile Auto Detailing Las Vegas 702-236-1357.

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