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Detailing vs Paint Correction


So, you hear the terms thrown around, I detailed this, he detailed that, he had his car corrected, he performed paint correction over 25 hours. But what does it all mean?  Aren’t a detail and a paint correction the same thing?

To be honest, they are worlds apart!  One is generally just a term that relates to “cleaning a car”, while the other is a couple of words describing a whole process.  Lets dive into it a little bit and see if we cant get some clarification.

Detailing to me is just the basics: wash, wax, interior clean up.  Clean the wheels and dress the tires and make everything look shiny and “new” without spending a ton of time on everything.  No deep contamination removal from the paint, no paint defect removal, no paint revival, no coating application for real protection against the world, just the basics! The car comes in dirty, it gets washed, some protection is added, and the interior is cleaned up as much as possible. The focus on “detailing” is usually the interior as that is where people spend most of their time driving the car!

Paint correction on the other hand, well, that is where specialists take the time to address the issues with the paint, form a plan of attack on how to address those issues properly, and set out to re-level the clear coat and remove the swirl marks, holograms, oxidation, etchings, scratches, etc from the paint. Paint correction takes MUCH longer and is more labor intensive than just “detailing” and involves a lot more risk, therefore requiring more knowledge on different techniques, paints, all the while understanding the circumstances and wants of the client. With that said, if a client wants “Perfect paint” but the paint is too thin to aggressively compound/polish to remove all defects, the specialist needs to have the right business sense to explain to a client that while he too wants to give the client “perfect paint”, there is too much risk and opt for a 90% removal or a “SO MUCH BETTER” end result. I have seen it numerous times from “paint correction detailers” where they burn the paint, over thin clear coats and sand too much leaving the clients car in shinier and glossier condition, but in a premature clear coat failure state. I’ve seen it on Ferrari 458’s, BMW M5’s and Lamborghini’s. There comes a time when the client isn’t always right and its up to the specialist to have the knowledge when enough is enough and keep the integrity of the clients paint in tact rather than trying to go for 100% correction. Paint Correction is a higher degree of difficulty and requires more expertise, hence the higher price point per job. It takes more time, skill, knowledge and incurs higher product cost to perform proper correction work.

Truth be told, with an unlimited budget, every car would have full correction and coating application done to it. Reality is, not every car needs it or can safely handle it, so that’s where the “detailing” end of things comes into play.

Eric Schuster Envious Detailing
Eric Schuster
Envious Detailing
Orange County, CA

6 comments on Detailing vs Paint Correction

  1. M Rivera says:

    Thanks Eric
    Great write up!

  2. greg tindell says:

    Hello Eric im very particular with my cars I just bought a new chevy highcountry 2014 I have a very light scratch on the finder it is the white diamond color you can not feel it with your finger how can I get it out and not damage the paint? thanks so much greg

  3. joel smmers says:

    hi Eric my wife have a 2005 z4 black with water spot.from the water sprinkler from her job how can and what can I use to removed the spot.thank

    • Hey Joel – water spot damage can range from minor mineral deposits that are simply stubborn to more severe spots that have etched into the clear coat. You want to remove these spots as soon as possible to avoid more serious damage. A water spot remover such as CarPro Spotless (see new products section) is a great place to start. A product such as this will work to neutralize the mineral deposits and make them easier to remove with something like a foam applicator pad. If the spots are more severe, you will need to polish them with a product like Meguiar’s M205. (Note: if they are very severe, they may require a compound followed by polish). Hope that helps.

  4. Brae says:

    Thats put’s it into perspective a bit more, thanks Eric! But where would you place oxidation removal? A bit more than just a detail obviously, but not quite as much work as paint correction. I’ve had to turn a few cars from pink back to a nice deep red.

  5. Gnarley says:

    Back in the day if paint was damaged to the point it needed what you called a “correction” we repaired the area or panels as needed by color sanding and compounding or refinishing if necessary. We did what was needed to make a perfect repair or if needed match the orange peel the factory had applied to ensure it looked just like a factory job. With show cars many times a perfect mirror finish was required and we didn’t correct it we finished it as needed after completing the paint and giving sufficient time for shrinkage. Paint correction is nothing different than a properly detailed finish according to the owners’ requirements and IMHO is nothing more than a new term for what has been done for years, delivering perfect paint to the owner.

    It’s the same O’l thing with a new name on it

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