How to Identify Paint Defects

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How to Identify Paint Defects

Ford Focus swirled and scratched door

It is the aim of this article to briefly describe the common paint defects and how you can identify them.  So what type of paint defects can be safely removed, how do you remove them and what ones should you live with?  Let’s look at the following.

  • Hazing
  • Swirl marks
  • Holograms
  • Orange peel
  • Scratches
  • Oxidised paint
  • Clear coat failure
  • Water spots


This a patch of dull paint, typically this is caused after compounding to remove other defects.  Compounds tend to contain a lot of fillers and if not removed by a good panel wipe will hide defects until it is washed or wears off.  Hazing can easily be removed by a finishing polish and is nothing to worry about.  Detailing is as much about being able to carry out machine correction correctly as it is having a good eye for perfect paint.

Swirl Marks

Swirls are pretty common on paint and can be easily identified, they look like a spider web and radiate out from a central point, they are usually more visible on dark coloured paint and especially in bright sun light or under filling station lights at night.  Swirls look terrible, they take away the gloss and usually cover the entire car.  But they can be safely removed as they are usually shallow and only in the clear coat.  These can easily be removed with proper machine correction.


Also known as buffer trails are defects that have been inflicted on your paint by the last detailing Black car with holigramseffort, they are the result of improper use of a high speed rotary buffer, poor pad/product choice, or the overall lack of polishing knowledge.  Holograms are simply micro scratches instilled into your vehicle’s paint by the fixed circular rotation of a rotary polisher combined with an aggressive pad and or polish.  Proper machine correction takes a lot of time, and when you are removing severe defects it will require many polishing steps to refine the paint into a hologram-free finish.  If you currently have holograms in your vehicle’s paint, it’s either because the person detailing your vehicle didn’t follow up with the required refining steps needed, or they simply lacked the knowledge to properly use the tool.  Holograms can be removed easily enough, get in touch now if you need a quote to correct these.

Orange Peel

BMW paint is pretty bad for this, orange peel resembles the texture of an orange and is caused by a number of factors typically the result of improper painting technique, quick evaporation of thinner, incorrect spray gun setup (e.g., low air pressure or incorrect nozzle), spraying the paint at an angle other than perpendicular, or applying excessive paint.  The only way to remove this is by wet sanding the paint, some people will say it can be removed by machine correction with a rotary, this is incorrect as the soft foam pad will conform to the peaks and troughs of the orange peel.  Wet sanding is a long expensive process so it may be easier to just live with it.


Also known as Random Deep Scratch (RDS) there is no point in laboring this as we all know what a scratch looks like.  The difficulty here is in removing it, the factors effecting removal are, the depth of the scratch, the paint depth and location of the scratch.  Some scratches are not very deep and can safely be removed with normal polishing, some are through to the colour coat or near the panel edge so complete removal is not an option.

Oxidised Paint

Oxidation in paint is where the paint reacts with oxygen and moisture to remove electrons from the paint this results in the paint starting to break down.  This is prevalent on older lead based single stage paints as opposed to modern clear coat finishes which have their own issues.  Oxidation is easily recognized as a white chalky look on the paint.  It is pretty easy to fix but care needs to be taken as you are working with older paint that may be more brittle and possibly thin.  Normal rules apply here start with the least aggressive polish and pad and work up.

Clear Coat Failure

You will know as soon as you see this as the clear coat is peeling off.  Unfortunately there is nothing you can do here except repaint the car.  I have only saw this in very hot and dry climates before and not in the UK.

Water Spots

First off you need to identify the type of water spots you have either type 1, 2 or 3.

Type 1 –mineral or dirt deposits left behind after the water has evaporated.E60 M5 snow foam

Type 2 – visible etching to the paint surface.

Type 3 – visible on single stage paints and look like cloudy spots, the water droplets have been allowed to dwell on the paint before being wiped away this induces a stain.

To remove type 1 spots start with your normal wash solution and wash the car, if this doesn’t remove it try a distilled vinegar solution, then clay and finally polishing compound.  As type 2 spots are etched into the paint you will have to polish them out.  Type 3 spots have faded the paint the only way to remove these is to polish them out, however the limiting factor is how deep they have penetrated the paint.

I hope this gives you an insight into the different types of defects and how they can be dealt with.  Remember that you will need to use a good Last Step Product (LSP) for paint protection and to keep it looking great.  If you would like to discuss any car care issues you may have please reach out via phone or email or the contact form on the web site we are a mobile detailing service in Magherafelt and cover the Mid Ulster area on N Ireland.

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