How to Remove Swirl Marks in Car Paint

Written by larry simmons
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How to Remove Swirl Marks in Car Paint
Remove damaging swirls to achieve the perfect car finish (side of car image by Christopher Nolan from

Swirl marks are small scratches in the finish of your car, usually visible only in bright light. Caused by washing or buffering, swirl marks detract from the look of your car's finish, and shorten the life of your car's paint. Whether your car has cobweb-effect swirl marks caused by car washes, or the circular swirl marks left from a rotary buffer, you can quickly remove them by further detailing the car's finish.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Car washing liquid
  • Water
  • Towel
  • Light swirl remover
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Dual action polisher
  • Foam cutting pad
  • Medium grade polishing compound
  • Dry towel
  • Car wax

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  1. 1

    Clean your car completely using a detergent formulated for use on automobile finishes. Rinse the cleanser from the car's surface and pat dry with a towel.

  2. 2

    Examine the swirl marks in bright light to determine the location and severity of the swirling patterns.

  3. 3

    Remove swirling that's barely noticeable, except under direct observation in bright light, using a light swirl remover that doesn't contain an abrasive. These light swirls are usually only in the wax and can be removed easily. Apply the remover using a microfiber cloth to the affected area. Use a small circular motion to buff away the swirls.

  4. 4

    Remove moderate swirls that are easily seen by using a dual action polisher. Set the polisher to a low speed of between 1,200 and 1,800 RPMs. Place a foam cutting onto the polisher, and apply a layer of medium grade polishing compound onto a 2 by 2 foot area of the swirled surface.

  5. 5

    Turn on the polisher and glide the pad lightly over the affected area using a small figure eight pattern. Work over the swirled pattern with the pad, polishing the surface smooth. Be careful not to remain stationary as the pad may work through the protective coating over the paint and begin removing the paint beneath.

  6. 6

    Continue to polish away the swirls, overlapping polishing areas by two inches until you've removed the swirl. Change areas in a checkerboard pattern to prevent creating additional swirls.

  7. 7

    Go over the polished surface with a dry towel to dust the finish clean. Wax the car to finish the process and protect the newly polished surface.

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