Automotive Paint Correction
Car paint protection has come a long way in recent years, thanks to new tools and better polishes. Why you should care about it is what this article is about. The reason for automotive paint correction.
Today’s automotive paint is a multi-layer process that involves substrate prep, primer, base coat, and clear coat as the basic layers.
With pressure from auto makers, paint manufacturers must improve durability while lowering the cost paint. So, new vehicles have less paint than previous models. We see clear coat thickness in the 30-50 microns range. (Human hair is about 70 microns thick, and one micron is only .00003937 inches). Therefore, paint correction is necessary – to repair the abuse the clear coat takes.
The Purpose of Clear Coat
The clear coat must protect the base and prime layers. Additionally, it provides depth and gloss to the base coat. The clear coat has a Herculean task, which it will fail. Many Japanese imports use cheaper quality clear coat paint that prematurely oxidizes and peels. Once it blisters and peels, there’s no paint correction technique to repair it.
Clear Coat Defects
One of the most common defects in clear coat is called “Orange Peel”. It’s the product of unfinished processing at the factory. That’s because wet sanding by hand is required to remove it, and auto makers don’t want to pay for that labor-intensive step.
Another common defect is swirl marks. These are micro-scratches in the clear coat caused by improper washing techniques, often from the car dealer. Improper washing causes these defects that, overtime, make the paint look dull. We’ve had brand new vehicles come to the shop that require a two-stage paint correction. (This is covered below.)
Water spots damage clear coats too. The minerals in city water systems, as well as pollution carried by rain, remain on the vehicle’s surface after the water evaporates, then the sun will etch the minerals into the clear coat.
Scratches are other forms of defects that we typically see in older vehicles. We even had a car that was scratched with bamboo come through the shop! Fortunately, we were able to correct it.
Finally, oxidation is a problem. With the ozone layer getting thinner, the sun oxidizes the clear coat. It starts with a white haze that eventually turns chalky, to finally blistering and peeling.
These are reasons for a paint correction, because a proper paint correction can remove the defects, so let’s dig in to what paint correction is, and why you need a professional to do it.
In its simplest definition, paint correction (machine compounding and polishing) is “cutting” a thin layer of clear coat to a level where the defect disappears. Think of it like this: When you take an emery board to your fingernail, you are leveling the rough edge by removing a thin layer of the nail. That’s pretty much what paint correction is.
Types of Paint Correction
Single Stage Polish
This type of paint correction is for new vehicles, or vehicles that are meticulously cared for. There is very little “cut” involved; nonetheless, the result is improved depth and gloss due to a near perfect layer of clear coat.
For one- to five-year-old vehicles a paint enhancement is the preferred level of correction. This generally involves a light or medium “cut” followed by a fine polish.
The next level involves a heavy “cut” step, followed by a medium “cut” step, or a light “cut” step and a finishing polish step. Sometimes a rotary polisher with a wool pad may be used because it has the capability of achieving more cut with less action. However, there’s more risk as a rotary polisher generates more friction, hence more heat, which translates into a greater risk of burning through to the base coat, primer coat, or base metal.
There are conditions where it is better to wet sand. The benefit of wet sanding is the lack of heat introduced onto the panel. Heat is the enemy of paint, and an inexperienced technician can burn paint. Proper wet sanding produces a uniform and level surface that removes most defects in one pass. Then the panel can be polished to remove the sanding marks in the clear coat and restore its gloss.
Hand Applied Clear Coats
This innovation in the paint correction industry is revolutionary. Through continual product R&D, a clear coat that can be applied by hand, like how a ceramic coating is applied, has made it to professional automotive detail shops. The difference is that this is real clear coat, and it fills in the defects. This new solution solves the problem of cutting too much clear coat with traditional machine compounding, as well as removes the risk of burning through the clear coat. Once it cures, a ceramic coating can be installed over it to protect the new clear coat.
10 Questions to Ask Before You Get a Paint Correction?
Here’s what one should ask before getting a paint correction.
- What defects are you trying to correct?
- Has the vehicle been corrected before?
- What is the current thickness of your clear coat?
- How long do you intend on keeping your vehicle?
- What is the experience of the technician? (Check out the reviews.)
- Is the technician IDA certified? (They should have the IDA Certification in the shop.)
- Can the technician do all of the different types of paint correction?
- Does the technician have skills in rotary polishing? Wet sanding?
- Is installing a new clear coat an option?
- What is your budget cap?
These 10 questions will help you make an informed decision on what’s best for your vehicle. But answer this one final question before you make your decision: How many times do you intend on paint correcting your vehicle? The investment isn’t trivial, and the risk of failure is always present, so choose and spend your money wisely.
About the Author
Ken Chance is the owner of Dripping Auto Pros, an automotive detailing shop in Dripping Springs, Texas. Ken is an IDA Certified Detailer and has trained with industry leaders in paint correction and wet sanding. His business’ specialty is paint correction and ceramic coatings. firstname.lastname@example.org. 512-829-7000. drippingautopros.com