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How are Holograms Formed?


Holograms, also known as buffer trails or buffer swirls, are formed by the 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 polishing 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 polishing your vehicle didn’t follow up with the required refining steps needed, or they simply lacked the knowledge to properly use the tool. It’s not uncommon to find body shops, dealerships, or high-volume detail shops constrained by the amount of time they can spend on a vehicle. Because of this, rather than taking the required time needed to go through the proper refining steps, they simply choose to apply a glaze loaded with heavy fillers. These fillers hide defects like swirls, scratches and holograms and usually conceal them until you’ve washed the car a couple times.

Here is an example of a vehicle with moderate holograms. This vehicle was purchased used from a dealer and some panels had recently been repainted.

Here is a 50/50 shot of how it should look once you’ve performed all the proper polishing steps and performed an IPA wipe down ensuring there is no filling from the polish carrier oils.

Hologram 50/50

Since the removal of holograms with a rotary polisher requires a fair amount of experience, I often recommend  that newcomers to detailing use a dual action polisher like the Porter Cable 7424XP, or even the Flex XC3401VRG to remove holograms from their finish. The random orbit movement of these polishers ensures a hologram free finish and they are very user friendly. The above 50/50 picture was actually corrected using a DA polisher in two correction steps. The first step consisted of a heavy compound (Meguiar’s M105) combined with a light cutting pad (orange LC). The Finish was then refined even further by the use of a finishing polish (Meguiar’s M205) and a finishing pad (black LC). All paints are different and it is recommend that you use the least aggressive method to achieve your goal, and always, always do a test spot first.

For more information on polishing, please check out our “Imperfection Removal” section.

If you have any additional comments or questions, please submit them in the comment section below.

Chad Rskovich Rasky's Auto Detailing
Chad Raskovich
Rasky's Auto Detailing
Minneapolis, MN

10 comments on How are Holograms Formed?

  1. Gary Sabo says:

    Well written article, I have a few years of buffing and polishing under my belt, and it sounds like you do also. nice job

  2. […] polisher doesn't leave holograms. holograms are from the circular movement of a rotary polisher. How are Holograms Formed? – Detailed Image Any chance you can get a pic of what your seeing? Also, what foam pad are you using? It's possible […]

  3. Tom says:

    I’ve recently had my car door repainted by a bodywork company. I’ve now noticed that the finish looks like a hologram. Why?
    Many thanks.

    • chad says:

      Hi Tom,

      Body shops will often have to wet sand the repainted panel for texture match. The holograms are likely a result of them wet sanding and then compounding the panel. The reason you see holograms is because they failed to properly finish it down, which is VERY common with body shops. Your best best would be to fix it yourself if you have a polisher or find a reputable detailer to do it.

      Hope this helps,

  4. Darren Blair Petersen says:

    Hi Guys, I’m looking for some info on removing holograms. I started with the Meguires105 compound with a yellow pad and then the Meguires 205 on a black pad. I’m using an orbital polisher.
    Appreciate any advice you could offer.

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Darren – I would be happy to help! As Chad mentions, start with a light pad/polish combo on a slow speed setting. Work in a 2′ x 2′ area and check the results. If you like what you see, perform this across the entire paintwork. If you need more power, use the M105 and an orange pad (yellow may offer too much correction/not finish down as well as the orange). If you do use a heavier correction pad and polish combo, just be sure to follow up with the M205 and a white or black pad to remove compounding haze and finish the paint down. You can also check out this M105 and M205 how to article that is a big help here (https://www.detailedimage.com/Ask-a-Pro/polishing-how-to-with-meguiars-m105-m205/). If you have any other questions do not hesitate to reach out (https://www.detailedimage.com/Contact/).

      • Darren Petersen says:

        I had heavy scratches to remove and it took a yellow pad with the 105 to remove them. My guess is that because I needed such an aggressive compound to remove the scratches it left swirls behind. I’m thinking that the 205 with a black pad isn’t enough to get the swirls out. What do you think? Do you think I should go to a lighter or medium cut compound with an orange or white pad before finishing with the 205 and a black pad? If so what medium cut product do you recommend I use? I also wanted to note that I’m pretty certain the paint on my car is lacquer and it’s really hard. It took a lot of effort to get rid of the scratches.
        Thanks again for the advice!

        • Reece @ DI says:

          If you used the M105 and a Yellow Pad, I would follow up with the M205 and a White Pad. The Black Pad might not offer enough correction to remove the compounding haze left behind, but you are going to want to test a small spot first and inspect the results to find what works best for your situation.

  5. […] Brushes that are constantly used to clean several cars a day will accumulate dirt creating holograms and swirl marks. […]

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