The Cause of Car Paint Swirls and How To Remove Them

Swirl Marks

There have been many a post regarding swirl marks on car paint and how to properly remove them and prevent them. In this post, I want to briefly go over the common causes of swirl marks, how to remove them, and the best practices to help reduce swirls on your car going forward.

What Causes Car Swirl Marks

 Guess what? If you drive a car on the road, you are bound to get swirl marks. They are the result of what is called a micro scratch from various build up on your vehicle that has been improperly removed. When you take your vehicle to the car wash and then pull out your favorite microfiber terry towel, or other drying contraptions, you inadvertently starting drying in a circular motion and the dry fiber contact on your vehicle causes micro scratches then when light reflects off your paint those micro scratches become visible.

Car paint Swirls

Other causes of car swirls:

  • No good do-ers writing on your dusty or dirty paint with their fingers
  • Quick car washes that utilize brush that is improperly cleaned and contain the heavy build-up from hundreds of previous car washes that scratch your paint when those massive brushes run across the paint
  • Car Dusters, which I will not even go into. Do not use them if you care about your paint!
  • Poor Drying Techniques
  • Poor Buffing and Polishing, and even waxing Techniques
  • Quick Car Wash Products: When using these products be sure to use multiple microfiber towels. You want to remove the heavy buildup with one towel using the quick car wash spray as a buffer and then come back with another microfiber towel that is lightly spritzed with spray wax or quick car care cleaner.

How to Remove Car Swirls Marks

Understand that swirls are a way of life. Even if you follow every guidance out there, you are bound to get some swirl marks on your paint. This is even truer of dark-colored car paint that reflects light more heavily and shows more defects on your paint. You can dramatically reduce those occurrences but do not plant to eliminate car swirl occurrences from happening.

Steps to Removing Car Swirls

  • Wash your Car with a quality car wash
  • When drying your car use a buffering agent between your drying towel and the vehicle. I like to use Meguiars Quick Detailer. Best tip I ever found on drying a car is to wet your drying towel and then ring it dry; now you have a slightly damp towel. Spritz the towel surface a couple of times and dry the car in cross-motions sideways and up and down. Repeat for each panel, checking your towel along the way. If you pick up a lot of excess dirt from the paint surface, grab a new towel and continue from the beginning. Ammo NYC makes a great video of this process; it has revolutionized how I dried client’s vehicles and reduced my overall time. Not only is this a fast process but it helps prevent swirls marks which means less work during the rest of the process.
  • Remove Surface Contaminates
  • As much as we like to believe washing our car removes everything, there is still usually some build up. If your car has not been detailed properly in a while, there is probably a lot of build up. After you wash your vehicle, gently run your fingertips over a small section of paint. If it feels rough and bumpy, then move to step 2b. If not, you can move to step 3.
  • Clay bar your surface to remove surface build up. Pretty self-explanatory and any auto shop clay kit should do the trick. I prefer Meguiars clay bar kits or clay bar from Chemical guys. Here are instructions on how to properly clay bar your vehicle.
  • Compound Buff
  • If you notice a lot of light scratches on your vehicle and some roughness after the clay bar process, you can use a compound cleaner like Meguiars Ultra-Cut or Diamond Cut Compound. They do a fantastic job to remove any remaining build up and help condition the paint before polish. 
  • Polish

Here is where the real magic happens. After properly preparing your paint surface you are not ready to use polish on your paint. I use Swirl 2.0 from Meguiars, and it does a great job. When there are finer scratches, you can use a Fine Cut Polish and then move to the Swirl 2.0 remover.

  • Paint Protection
  • Wax, Sealant, or Ceramic. It does not matter which you prefer to end your vehicle protection with. They all help add a clear coat layer to your paint and protect your paint from road build up. The length and endurance vary and you can do some research on which one you feel is best.

Post Detail Car Care

Whether you choose to do this process yourself or hire a professional, the remaining steps are up to you as the car owner to reduce the amount of swirl and scratch marks on your vehicles paint. These prevention methods do not require you to be a raging ass to everyone who comes into contact with your vehicle, but the process will help those friends of ours who are fewer consequences.

Simply put, dry your car properly after every wash and when you start to notice build up on your vehicles paint at a minimum run it through the car wash and go through my above-listed drying process to properly dry the vehicle. A quick coat of spray wax will add some layers of protection between details. If you have never heard of F11 Top Coat, I recommend you grab some. They make a fantastic product that has multiple car care uses will remove light swirls and protect your paint better than wax alone. I could go on why I love this product, but they don’t pay me so just follow the link.

Final Take Away

An easy tip here guys. Use a buffering agent between your towel and your car's paint. Do not dry your car or apply compound, polish, wax, or any other product the paint surface without a buffer to help prevent swirls and scouring. You will save an immense amount of time, create ease for caring for your car, reduce swirls marks, and keep your paint looking new year after year.

Got a question???

Drop me a comment below; if you are in DFW and would like this process to be done for you, you can go to any of my contact links throughout my site and set up a schedule for your vehicle. I also show every client how to care for their vehicle after I complete a full detail.

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe on the road!