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Swirl Marks
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Removing Swirl Marks, Cobwebs and Fine Scratches

By Danny Argent ~ 2005

Using a car wash will leave your car covered in fine scratches as the brushes they use to clean your car are very harsh. Dust and grit is also an enemy of paintwork, this settles on your car and over time can cause fine scratches. These scratches are sometimes called cobwebs or spider-webs (pictured below) because they radiate around a point of lite and can look much like a spiders web. some people call these swirl marks, although swirlmarks are properly much finer marks that look like crecsent shaped greasy smears and are usually left rotrary buffing machines. The coarser stages of buffing will sometimes leave your car covered in these swirl marks, using a finer polish and fine pad in the last stage will remove them.

fine swirl marks can also be caused by using drying or polishing cloths that are too harsh. Modern paintwork can be very soft and some fabrics can cause very fine scratches.

Fine scratches show up when they catch the light..

Swirl marks can be caused by polishing machines of the kind you can buy in Argos for about £20. It is tempting for enthusiasts to go out and buy these machines thinking that will give them a professional finish... but the oscillating machines don't really do anything you can't do more safely by hand and the rotary buffers of the kind we use are best left to the professionals. They are far too harsh for every day use and it's all to easy to burn your paintwork or cause exactly the kind of damage they are supposed to fix.

Ryan Buffing


In the photo above, Ryan is using a light compound to remove spider webs and swirl marks caused by every day washing. When you wash your car and wipe the dirt off, you are dragging the dirt and grit across your paintwork and causing scratches. This is virtually unavoidable and the reason you need to polish your car every once in a while as opposed to just applying a wax. Sometimes these swirl marks, spider webs and scratches build up and become so severe that its well worth having the car buffed by a skilled professional.

Often a slightly deferent technique can be used for light scratches. Instead of just cutting back the surface layer of the paint or clear-coat, special polishes are used in conjunction with harder foam pads or lamb's wool mops. When used at the correct speeds this generates heat while buffing which melts the rough paintwork, filling in scratches as it goes.

restored paintwork


The boot lid in the above photo belonged to car which was part of a batch of imported German vehicles and without a doubt, had the worst car wash damage I have ever seen. It looked much like somebody had been cleaning it with wire wool. The paintwork was also heavily pitted and unfortunately this was so bad that the only cure would be a complete respray. This pitting is caused by the bristles of the car wash whipping against the car at high speeds and taking tiny chips out of the paintwork.
Although this pitting still remains and is visible on close inspection, you can see that we completely removed all the scratches and buff the car to a high gloss finish.

For an example of how this works, please visit this paintwork restoration article on a Porsche, or this one on a TVR, Mercedes, or an old green bonnet.

waxed and ready to go

It's funny, but some our customers cancel their valets if it's raining. We can only guess that they think the rain will somehow undo the work they have paid for! This in not the case as you can see from the above photo. The paint on this Audi was buffed to a mirror finish and coated with wax. There is nothing for the dirt to stick to and rain water beads up and rolls off. This makes washing easy, a recently valeted car can be cleaned with little more than a quick squirt with a hose pipe.

 



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This page was last updated on Sat, 28 September, 2013
 
 
 
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