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25 comments on What Causes Swirl Marks?

  1. John says:

    Great article..!..I especially applaud the section regarding QD wipe downs. I’ve learned the hard way that I don’t touch a dusty car with anything…until its been washed used the correct washing technique. The use of QDs, at car shows (after the car has been driven miles to the show), and also at home for folks who just want to get a light coating of dust off…forget about it (no, I’m not from Brooklyn). QDs seem to give folks a false sense of security, and should only be used immediately after a wash, be it with either ONR or a conventional wash shampoo.

    I know that you put the QD section last, but in my own learning experience, that is the part that was causes my problems. Now I let the car get dirty before I touch it again. I don’t do spot cleaning, nor “dusting” with waterless washes, QDs, etc…I just let it get dirty and wash it properly once per week. Then immediately apply either a QD or something else like a spray sealant.

  2. Patrick says:

    Excellent article Ivan and 100% agree with John’s statement about QD’s. Biggest mistake many can make (especially on dark colored cars) is to QD their dusty car the next day after washing. Let it get dirty!

  3. Shane says:

    Hey Todd,
    Great article! Lots of good info. I can understand why you don’t like using quick detailers, but what about waterless washes? How do you feel about those?

  4. Shane says:

    Sorry, that comment is for Ivan. Wasn’t paying attention to who the author was! Oops.

  5. David says:

    If I recall correctly from one of Todd C’s previous articles:

    “Never touch your paint surface with something that you wouldn’t touch your eye with”

  6. Ivan Rajic Ivan Rajic says:

    Thanks for all the comments guys! The QD is definitely a big no-no and I’m happy that many others are aware.

  7. Andy Erickson says:

    Ivan, I second all the kudos here. Your posts recently have been very helpful and also keep me engaged in the conversation. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

  8. Scott says:

    Lot’s of good information here Ivan! Thanks! What are your thoughts on forced air in regard to drying? To me, anything that facilitates water removal from the paint without physically touching it can only be a good thing. Also, a filter to remove mineral sediments in the rinse water seems to be a good idea as well. Again, thanks for a great overview on minimizing swirls!!

    2009 Viper

    • Ivan Rajic Ivan Rajic says:

      Hi Scott,

      I am a fan of forced air but I like filtered forced air. Using non-filtered blowers CAN cause bombardment of the paint with some particles flying around, so even if nothing happens it can. In any case, yes a filtration system for the water is also a great idea as it helps quite a bit.

      Thanks for reading!

  9. tom says:

    did a google search seen u article very inforative had a bad exiperience going through a automatic car wash that pull u car through it stop had to drive through with it dry then the plastic door flaps closed on the car as driving out thank for u articale it explain the marks on the new car second wash first wash a touchless no problems any advice would help

  10. Jack says:

    Hi Ivan got my car detailed.I won’t detail again till the fall.I have a flat black jeep.I use the two bucket method soft sheepskin all that stuff.my question is what wax would be the best to use for in between waxing one that would be smooth,residue free,also one that would eliminate swirls or cover them up for the longest period.In between detailing some unfortunetly will occur .

  11. Vince says:

    Ivan ,what about steam? I have bought a steam machine for my car wash . Can that be considered QD?

  12. Tony Italia says:

    I will be storing car for months, but have to use a cover. No chance to rewash car when get to storage. I sit okay to have simple cover on? It is indoors and no wind. Temp min, 40 degrees. Simple flannel/fleece cover necessary in storage.

    Also, should I put a fourth coat of SG on or first coat of s100 wax, then restart in spring with a complete cycle.


    • Ivan Rajic Ivan Rajic says:

      Tony, for the cover I would say if you HAVE to use it, then you simply have to use it. In this case the possibility of swirl marks is far less important than protecting the car with the cover, so you need to simply make sure both the car and cover are as clean as possible when you put it on. Also, make sure you remove it as little as possible or not at all before it’s ready to leave storage.

      As for the protection, you can go either way, completely up to you. I personally prefer to put a couple of coats of sealant with a coat of wax before winter, then use wax throughout the warmer months and repeat the cycle in late fall. With the paint coatings such as 22ple, GlossCoat, etc., I have for the past few years completely eliminated the sealant/wax process and would simply polish and coat every 1-2 years, then use a spray wax/sealant every 2-4 months to keep it looking good and protected.

  13. DENNIS BLMLIME says:

    When car dusty, not dirty, just hose it off. I never hand dry my c7 Corvette. I use a blower.
    I also will use my soap gun, lather up the car, then hose off & dry with blower. I never touch the car using this method

  14. Phillip says:

    Great article!

  15. Debbie DeMoss says:

    Ok, my question is that I bought a truck in the evening hours and due to construction at the lot most cars were covered in dust, I brought the truck back the next day to get it detailed, the young salesman took the truck to the shop and his idea of detail must have been to hose it off, wipe it off or something because it came back showing all the swirls in the paint…then I told the manager I was upset with the condition I was unable to see the night I purchased it…he told me he would have it fixed on Monday, I took the truck home and washed the windows and got on a step ladder, I then saw the salesman didn’t wash the roof of the truck….I am very upset at the lack of knowledge on the salesman part how to detail a truck…I want to know if anyone really thinks they can fix these swirls with the staff that does the car lots detail work?

    • Reece @ DI Reece @ DI says:

      It is hard to say for sure that the staff would be or would not be able to correct the swirls without knowing the staff personally. What I can say is that we have found that many dealers will just take the car to a car wash, apply a product to fill in imperfections and/or will only do more damage when trying to fix them. We would highly recommend finding a high end detailer (http://www.detailedimage.com/Find-a-Detailer/) in your area and at the bare minimum get his opinion on it. Again this is not the same for all dealers and their detailing staff, but if they skipped even washing the roof it is not a good sign.

  16. Christine says:

    Very informative article! I was wondering what your opinion is with using a pressure washer. Would it hurt the paint if used before washing to get rid of the larger debris? Of course I wouldn’t use it full force. Also, what is the best way to remove dried bug guts without damage? Maybe you’ve written another article on this, I haven’t checked. If so maybe you can put a link in your reply? Thanks for any advice!

    • Ivan Rajic Ivan Rajic says:

      Unless it’s a very powerful gas powered pressure washer, you should be fine. However, even with an electric 1200-1500psi you can take off paint if it’s peeling or badly painted in the first place. I’ve seen this happen on wheel wells, wheels and actual panels of a car. As for bug guts, I’m no expert but we normally use a mild bug/tar remover along with the pressure washer. Seems to work very well.

  17. Vassi says:

    Great information here Ivan, thank you. I was interested to learn more for myself and because recently we had a customer who mentioned that she had noticed swirl marks on her car after it was delivered. I was interested to learn how swirl marks happen because we have never had that happen before. Maybe a scratch or leak, but not swirl marks. She said she had noted them at delivery as f someone has wiped the hoot with a abrasive towel. Because I really could not imagine a car carrier driver wiping a car with anything abrasive I was a bit shocked. I don’t really know much about car paints and waxes. What could be the reason behind swirl marks appearing at delivery of a vehicle, after unloading off of car carrier trailer? I suppose that something else could have been the reason for these swirl marks, not just maybe the truck driver wiping the car with a towel right? Thanks!

    Corsia Logistics

    • Reece @ DI Reece @ DI says:

      Corsia – Swirl marks on brand new vehicles are unfortunately very common. Ive seen it with cars sitting at dealerships around here way too often. There are many things that can cause swirl marks, but from what I have seen from some dealerships here is that they wipe snow off the car with a large broom, take the car through a traditional brush car wash, use dirty wash mitts if they clean the cars themselves instead of using a car wash, if the car is wrapped in plastic when being shipped to them, dirt can be trapped underneath and cause scratches, etc. If the car was not wrapped and it is being shipped on a truck, just think of all the dirt hitting the paint that can cause marks, and then if the driver wiped the car down without a quick detailer or clean microfiber towel that could cause issues as well.

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