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Paint Correction: 1 Step or Single Step vs. Two Step or Multi Step


You commonly see the term single-stage (one-step) or two-stage (two-step) or even multi-stage used when describing the paint correction process.  This is describing the steps required to achieve the desired level of correction and/or finish prior to the application of the protection you will be applying.  This is an area that can always tough to decide just how in depth you will go with a project, however, in most occasions it is decided strictly by the clients budget.  Most daily drivers I would typically recommend a one-step service, especially on lighter colored vehicles.  However, on darker colors, especially black vehicles I will almost always recommend a 2-step if their budget will allow it.

In my experience, the one-step corrections seem to be the most common, as they are a great bang for your buck service.  A one-step should remove all light swirling on the finish, leaving behind any deeper defects such as random intermittent deep scratches (RIDS) behind.  Typically one-steps are done with a polish such as Optimum Hyper Polish or Meguiar’s M205 and a light cutting pad like the Lake Country Orange pad or a polishing pad like the Lake Country White pad.  Paints that have a lot of metallic flake or lighter colors such as silver or white, you can typically get away with using a slightly more aggressive product for greater correction.  The goal for this type of service to achieve the maximum amount of correction while still achieving a nice clean finish free of marring.

Here is an example before and after photo from a one-step job I had done a while back.

The above was done with a Rupes 15 with an orange lake country pad and Optimum Hyper Polish

This is the finished product following the one-step correction shown above.

Two-step or Multi-step correction are usually needed for finishes that have been very poorly maintained with deeper defects.  Typically you will start with a heavier compound such as Meguiar’s M100 Pro Speed Compound, Griot’s Garage Fast Correcting Cream or Sonax Cutmax that will remove deeper surface defects such as random intermittent deep scratches (RIDS) or heavy swirling.  I like using microfiber pads during the cutting process.  Meguiar’s Microfiber Cutting pads do an amazing job with removing heavier defects fairly quickly, however, in most cases you will notice significant marring of the surface when using these pads paired with a heavier compound.  I like using Meguiar’s Microfiber Finishing pads or Griots Boss Microfiber pads which typically finish down much nicer with minimal marring, however if a more aggressive cut is required Lake Country’s Purple Foamed Wool work great for heavy defect removal but will leave heavy marring on the finish.  On a multi-step correction, this really is not much of an issue as you will follow up the compounding stage with a polish that will clean up any marring created during the compounding process.  Below are pictures from a black Range Rover Discovery I worked on a while back showing the multi-step process.

This is the paints condition prior to starting any polishing.  It should be noted that this is a fairly new vehicle that was only a few weeks old.

The above was done with a Rupes 21ES with a Meguiars MF Cutting Pad and Griots Fast Correcting Cream.  Notice how the paint is left hazy looking due to the marring caused during the compounding process to remove deeper swirls and moderate scratches present on the surface.

The final step was completed using my Rupes 15 mkII with a yellow Rupes pad and Carpro Essence Xtreme Gloss Enhancer.  As you can see this multi-step correction process leaves basically a flawless high gloss finish with amazing clarity.

Here is the finished product following the multi-step correction along with the application of CQuartz Professional Ceramic Coating leaving this beautiful black Range Rover looking like a mirror on wheels.

Often the deciding factor for which level of correction will be performed comes down the clients budget.  There WILL be times while doing one-steps where it may be hard for you to resist going more aggressive in order to remove deeper flaws, however unless the client is willing to pay for the additional work required for a better finish you will need to learn to live with deeper flaws being present.  In most instances the deeper flaws may not even be visible once the vehicle is pulled outside under natural lighting.

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Kevin M. George
KMG Detailing
Lebanon, PA

14 comments on Paint Correction: 1 Step or Single Step vs. Two Step or Multi Step

  1. Paul says:

    Nice work and article Kevin. Like how you showed photos of each stage. Crazy how bad the paint was for a new vehicle. Must have had quite a few trips through the dealer car wash.

    • Kevin George says:

      Thanks Paul, and yes the Range Rover was pretty rough considering its age. However the finish is quite soft on those so I was not overly surprised by the condition.

  2. I have two black cars. I planned on clay barring them, washing them with Optimum No Rinse (but rinsing anyway) and applying Meguire’s Polymer Paint Sealant 2.0.

    Is it worth going to all these steps if I am still going to run my cars through a car wash that has the cloth “do-dad’s) that help clean the car off, then rinse it and then wipe the entire car dry ? I know it will shorten the life of the sealant, I assume.

    Thanks in advance.


    • Arnold says:

      Big mistake using a commercial car wash after correcting your paint. Even the cloth straps will induce swirls not to mention the drying process. If you don’t want to wash it yourself hire a detailer to maintain your vehicle. It will be well worth it.

    • Ron Ayotte says:

      Why would you want to put your car through a tunnel wash after correcting it? BY doing so, you are actually PAYING THEM to install swirls on your car.

      Ever notice the signs at the entrance to a tunnel wash?
      “We are not responsible for any damages to your vehicle.”

      All it takes is someone with a loose piece of trim that get ripped from their car and entangled into the “all cloth” brushes to destroy your car’s finish!

    • Matt Carter says:

      Clay bar and sealing your vehicle is a great care step no matter your wash routine. You should know that your tunnel washes will induce swiriling and marring but claying your car and sealing it will help remove contaminants and protect the paint making it slick and shiny in the process.

  3. Kevin George says:

    Hey George, if you plan to continue using a car wash I would not put much effort into a paint correction. I would look more into a product like HD Speed or similar All-in-one (AIO) products. Most drive through washes use fairly harsh chemicals and that is what will shorten the life span of whatever treatment you decide to use on your car.

  4. Aaron Pielop says:

    I have a black car with flakes and a dark grey with flakes both are 2018. I have not been able to take care of them as I normally do and it was a harsh winter too, what do you recommend to use after clay bar and to prep for ceramic coating. I have a D.A. And regular wheel polisher.

    • Kevin George says:

      Aaron I would recommend using the DA if you are not experienced with a rotary. There are many good products that you can use and several that have been reviewed on the AAP. Meguiars new M110 has been pretty nice to work with lately and you can follow that up with either M205 or the new M210. Be sure to wipe the vehicle down with a product like Eraser prior to applying the coating.

  5. George Clavenna says:

    Your use of single stage is equivalent to one step and two stage is equivalent to 2 step is confusing me. I thought that 2-Stage Paint is what new cars are how new cars are painted since the late 1980s. They have a base coat with the color applied before a layers of clear coat are added to protect the color and give you a long lasting finish for years of service. It is, of course, applied in layers with several dry times.

    Single Stage has the gloss and the color mixed together and applied to the car as a unit. This is the way all cars were painted until the 1980s. If you have a classic car looking for that classic look, it really is a must-have. It is a hard and lasting finish that looks great with a smaller price tag.

    • Kevin George says:

      George, you are referring to the paint finish itself. The process I am referring to is the polishing or finishing process that is used on the vehicles finish. One-step (single-stage) is a single polishing process while a Two-step (2-stage) is more of a compounding and polishing process where you are using multiple steps to correct the paint.

      You are confusing the paint itself with the process used to correct the finish.

  6. Jeff Nachmann says:

    Hi Kevin
    I have a 2017 outback in Wht.
    Paint is in really good condition.
    I wanted to try a polish rather than compound and polish before I add sealant . I was thinking boss perfecting cream with a LC Orange pad.
    Really only have very light defects on the finish.
    What do you think of that combo.
    What would you recommend

    • Kevin George says:


      That combo should work just fine on a white vehicle, or you could possibly step it up to boss correcting cream on an Orange pad for a bit more correction. I have used this combo with good results in the past. M205 is always a good option also when it comes to doing a mild polish or one step.

      Hopefully that is helpful.

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