How to Remove Swirl Marks & Scratches on Car

Struggling to get rid of swirl marks from the surface of your car?

You have come to the right page. In this article, we will help you understand what swirl marks are, what causes them, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent swirl marks from forming on your ride.

So, What Are Swirl Marks?

Swirl marks are the spiral-like or rather cobweb-like effects that you see on the surface of your car, especially after a wash.

These marks are normally little scratches on the surface of the car that may or may not be visible depending on the color of the paint. Noticing the swirl marks is usually easier if your car is painted with a darker color.

Want to feel the swirl marks and gauge their severity? Run your fingernails over the marks. How rough are they?

If they’re deep enough to catch your fingernails, then perhaps the best thing to do is sand and repaint the affected area. This guide about how to fix a peeling clear coat should be helpful. If, on the other hand, they’re shallow, then read on and discover easy ways of getting rid of them.

Causes of Swirl Marks and Scratches on Vehicles

When, for instance, you dry your car with an improper towel (one made of, say polyester), the towel leaves little scratches that you can’t see with the naked eye. Over time, more scratches are formed, and that’s when you start seeing swirl marks, even after the car has been washing and dried properly.

Here are more causes of swirl marks and scratches on cars:

  • Making use of harmful paint cleaners
  • Applying harsh polish to the car
  • Using a dirty or dusty towel to wipe the car
  • Not washing and rinsing the car as required before drying it
  • Using a dirty car cover

Now, without further ado, let’s look at how you can get rid of those swirl marks

How to Remove the Swirl Marks and Scratches from your Car

Here are a few items that you will need:

  1. Paint Cleaners – there are numerous paint cleaners, and you can find them either at your local retail outlet or online, but the latter gives you wider options. Try going for the best quality and ensure the quantity you purchase is enough for your car.
  2. Microfiber towels – you will use these for drying the vehicle; the advantage is that microfiber absorbs water well and it doesn’t leave scratches. Moreover, it’s affordable.
  3. Wax – there are lots of options for this on Amazon. We’d recommend going for quality brands that incorporate Carnauba.

Step 1 – Use a rasping paint cleaner

To remove the scratches, get an abrasive paint cleaner and apply it to the surface of the car. Note that while abrasive cleaners can corrode the finish, chemical paint cleaners normally don’t affect the finish.

Start with a less abrasive product and see how it works; you can upgrade to a more abrasive one if that doesn’t work.

Pour some chemical cleaner on a microfiber towel and rub the surface of the vehicle gently, moving in one direction.

Note: when applying the paint, ensure you’re following one direction, lest you make the scratches even worse. Also, don’t rub too hard.

Quick Fact: swirl marks are not always caused by improper washing. There are a ton of other reasons, including using inappropriate drying towels, using rough cleaning chemicals, wiping the car with a dirty towel, and more.

Step 2 – Do some polishing

When you polish your car, you not only protect the underlying paint but also boost the shine of the paint job.

Try using a less abrasive polisher if you’re looking for the best result; a more abrasive one will leave the vehicle with a hazy appearance.

When you’re finished polishing the car, remove excess polish with a soft towel.

Step 3 – Wax it

The purpose of the wax is to enhance the shine of the car even further. Before applying the wax, make sure that the surface is totally dry. Be sure to give the wax some time to dry in a well-ventilated area.

Using A Machine to Remove Swirl Marks

If you’re looking for the easiest, most effective way of eliminating swirl marks and scratches from the surface of your car, then using a machine would be your best option. The machine needed for the job is known simply as a rotating wheel or an electric polisher, and it’s not going to devour your paycheck; it normally goes for a little over a hundred bucks.

Fact: “wheeling” the word we use for applying polish to a vehicle using a rotating wheel.

Note: this method works by heating the clear coat temporarily till it grows soft and becomes like a sticky liquid so the blemishes can get filled up and disappear.

Caution: used frequently, this method might damage the paint, so it’d be prudent to apply it only once a year. Applying wax every few months will keep the positive effects till the next wheeling.

Steps for Removing Swirl Marks with An Electric Polisher

1. Preparation

To start with, wash the car manually in a shaded place, then rinse but don’t dry it.

Note: the main exercise will be messy, so be sure to cover any important surrounding items like flowers. If your car has a dark color, use a soft polishing pad and compound, as swirl marks are more prominent on dark-colored cars.

2. Polish the car

Put a clean polishing pad with a little bit of moisture on the polishing wheel and pour a moderate amount of polishing compound on the body of the vehicle.

Set the polishing wheel to medium speed, then use it to spread the polish. Applying equal pressure to the wheel, work back and forth, and as you spread the polish, ensure the spinning pad is parallel to the vehicle’s surface, so there isn’t creation of more swirl marks.

Tip: focus on one body panel at a time to ensure you’re focusing on all areas equally.

As you polish the surface with the machine, the clear coat will heat up and become like a viscous liquid, and the swirl marks will cease to be.

The polishing pad will absorb the polishing compound and the water (remember, you didn’t dry the car after rinsing it), leaving the finish looking much brighter.

Once you’re done with one panel, move onto the next and repeat the process.

Tip: with time, the polishing pad gets saturated with the compound and becomes less effective at absorbing it. Hence, every once in a while, stop and rinse the polishing pad with a power washer or a hose.

3. Clean the car again

When you’re done polishing the car, wash and rinse it, then dry it completely using microfiber towels.

4. Wax it

Applying wax has a ton of benefits, including masking any remaining surface imperfections and boosting the sheen.

Attach a soft pad to the orbital sander and spread some wax along with polishing finish on it. Set the orbital sander to moderate speed and using back-forth motions, apply the wax and finish to the surface of the car.

The pressure should be light and consistent.

5. Inspect the car

Let the wax dry, then wipe down the surface using a clean microfiber towel. After this, take the car to direct sunlight and inspect the surface for swirl marks and scratches. We’re positive that if you followed the process keenly, there should be no more swirl marks. However, if there are still traces of swirl marks, you should try touch-up paint.

No more swirl marks? Great! Treat yourself to a cold one; you deserve it.

Before you go, you might want to check out the following handy tips for preventing swirl marks.

Tips for Removing and Preventing the Swirl Marks:

  • When washing your car, always use the recommended cleaning items and products.
  • Use only clean microfiber towels to dry your car.
  • Use separate buckets for the clean and the dirty water while washing the car. This will prevent contaminants from getting back to the car’s surface.
  • Start washing your car beginning from the upper parts, proceeding to the lower parts.
  • Don’t use detergents while washing your car; these will remove the wax, which protects the clear coat, and as a result, the clear coat will get scratched.
  • Only use high-quality polish and paint cleaners and be sure to follow the instructions for use carefully.
  • Use only the recommended wax for your car. Also, apply it as directed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What’s causing my car to have swirl marks?

Glad you asked! There are lots of reasons why your car can develop swirl marks, but the most common reason has something to do with your washing and drying practices. Washing your car with rough washing products might lead to scratching and the development of swirl marks.

If you dry your car using rough or dusty towels, that can also result in swirl marks.

2. Do scratch removal chemicals really work?

That depends on how deep the scratches are. If run your fingernails over the scratches and they aren’t trapped, then it’s possible that you can remove them using scratch removal chemicals. However, if they’re deep enough to catch your fingernails, then scratch removal chemicals will probably not work; you might need to repaint the affected areas.

3. What are some of the products I can use to remove scratches from my car?

Some of the best scratch removers include Turtle Wax Polishing Compound & Scratch Remover, Mothers California Gold Scratch Remover, Meguiar's ScratchX, and Barrett-Jackson Car Scratch Remover.

4. How do abrasive scratch removal chemicals work?

Abrasive scratch and swirl removal chemicals work like sandpaper. They scratch the top layer of the paintwork to bring it to the same level as the depth of the scratches. Polish and wax can then be applied to restore the car’s glow.

5. Can I use WD-40 to remove swirls and scratches from my car?

That wouldn’t be a good idea. For starters, WD-40 will ruin the wax and the clear coat, but more importantly, this product is oily, meaning that when the car is washed, the product will wash away and the scratches will reappear.

6. What about the magic eraser? Can I use it to remove scratches?

Using a magic eraser will possibly enhance rather than remove the scratches, so no, it’s not a good idea.

7. What do you recommend as the most effective means of removing swirl marks and scratches from the car?

We recommend polishing with a polishing wheel and a polishing compound then applying wax. This method is not only faster but also more effective than the others.

Wrapping It Up

Sometimes, you will not be able to detect the swirl marks on your car with the naked eye, but if you move your fingernails over the surface, you might feel them.

And as you have found out above, there are several methods of removing them, but the best is that of using a polishing wheel and polishing compound, due to the effectiveness and the speed involved.

By washing your car correctly, using only the recommended washing items and products, and by using microfiber towels to dry it, you reduce the chances of swirl marks and scratches being formed on your car.

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