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Removing etched-in water spots and holograms from a 2010 BMW 528i by Rasky


The owner of this beautiful 2010 BMW 528i recently contacted me with an inquiry about removing etched-in water spots from his brand-new vehicle. Due to an unfortunate parking accident, the vehicle was sprayed by a sprinkler system. By the time the client saw the hard water spots it was too late and they had etched deep into the finish.

After failed attempts from the dealership, chemical spot removers, and hand-polishing with ScratchX 2.0, the owner found himself searching online for an answer. He quickly stumbled upon some of my work, along with the recent article I had posted on the different types of water spots. He contacted me and we set up a time where I could evaluate the finish and determine how much work would be required to remove the spots. Upon arrival I was a little relieved to see that the spots were only concentrated on the front portion of the car, with the hood and fenders being the worst panels. It was also quickly apparent that the detail department at BMW did a wonderful job at instilling buffer holograms into the paint. Funny thing about that is that the owner said they didn’t appear until a week or two after he bought the car. When he questioned the dealership about them, they simply told him it was part of owning a black vehicle…..really?

During the pre-detail inspection I tried several different polishes, pads, and tools to see what method would be required to remove the spots, while still preserving the most amount of clear coat. After trying a few milder polishes I wasn’t really surprised that I would have to resort to an aggressive compound like Meguiar’s M105 on a rotary polisher equipped with a PFW pad (Purple Foamed Wool). I say this because BMW is known for having rock-hard clear (excluding Jet Black) which usually requires a much more aggressive method than what you would typically use on a car with softer paint such as a Honda or Toyota.

The morning I started on the vehicle it was raining so I was unable to capture “before” shots in the sun, which is really the best light for showing holograms and other defects. That being said, you should still be able to see them in the various photos.

Nasty water spots!

Close-up showing spots, slight holograms can be seen as well.

After 2 passes with M105 on the rotary polisher with a PFW pad all spots are gone. However, you can see faint holograms were instilled from the aggressive first step and will require further refining. Also note that I taped the adjacent edge of the fender, which is always a must when you are buffing aggressively, especially with a rotary buffer.

Next, we will take a look at the dealer installed holograms, which actually looked much worse in the sun. 😉

To follow up the areas which required compounding, as well as polishing the rest of the car, I chose to use Menzerna Power Finish on the PCXP equipped with 5.5″ LC Cyan Hydro pads. This combo finished well while still giving a good amount of correction. After all polishing was done I gave the vehicle a thorough wash using Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Clear mixed at a paint prep ratio. All glass was cleaned using Meguiar’s D120 glass cleaner and the tires/wheel wells were dressed with Meguiar’s Hyper Dressing. Chrome trim and exhaust tips were polished using Klasse AIO and my choice for paint protection was Blackfire Wet-Diamond.

Finished pics! This is how black should look, swirl and hologram free. If a dealer tries to tell you different please send them my way! 🙂

For tips on keeping your newly polished finish looking like new you can check our article on Proper Washing and Drying.

  • Remember that when working with etched in water spots the only way to remove them is by removing small amounts of paint until the finish is level with the spot. Chemical cleaners or vinegar only remove mineral deposits, and they cannot undue the etched in damage the deposits have already caused. See here for more info on the different types of water spots.

As always, thank you for taking the time to view my work. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to submit them in the comment box below. 🙂

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

34 comments on Removing etched-in water spots and holograms from a 2010 BMW 528i by Rasky

  1. Mo says:

    Stunning results. boy am i glad i dont own a black car!

  2. DJ Mayo says:

    Excellent job, Chad! The 4 paint correction I did this week were 1 dark blue, 3 black. Go figure…

  3. chris says:

    Your work is amazing.

  4. Very nice work indeed Rasky! Evaluating the defects and knowing what approach to take is a big key in doing proper paint correction work, and I like how you outlined your process.


  5. Monte says:

    Great work – I have a black car so this is really useful.

    Can you use a PFW Pad with a DA polisher? How does it attach? Hook and loop velcro?


    • Thanks Monte!

      The PFW pads attach like virtually all other pads using the hook and loop system but I’ve honestly never tried them with a DA. I’ve always considered wool pads to be rotary only, and I do not think PFW pads would work as effectively on the DA. The smaller 4″ and 5.5″ size pads may work well, but with the larger 6.5″ pads the DA will likely struggle with pad rotation.

      If your looking for more correction out of your DA I’d suggest checking out the Surbuf pads. I just finished up a black CTS-V this weekend and I was amazed at the amount of correction I was able to achieve with a 6.5″ Surbuf pad on the PCXP using M105. 😉


  6. Dan says:

    Wow great work! It looks beautiful now, as a new black Beamer should.. I’m sure you just made a new customer for life! I hope you informed him of proper washing techniques.:)

    • Thanks Dan!

      Prior to me detailing the car I had emailed the owner several of our articles on proper maintenance and he also placed a large order with DI so that he had all the right tools and products on hand for when I finished. I’m confident he will keep her looking nice! 😉


  7. Daniel says:

    Parabens gostei do seu trabalho sou brasileiro estou estudando sobre detail

  8. Mr.Sandman says:

    Mr.Sandman says:

    Hi Chad!

    Excellent work on this car. I am a great fan of your work u show on the civic forum. I do a little detailing myself back here in good ole germany but most of my work I donate to my friends and relatives… 🙂

    Was a little dissapointed when u posted in the civic forum that u pause a little with showing us your work.
    Was delighted on the other hand to hear that u got married. Is it the cute woman who showed up from time to time on your detailing thread? Well, good work of you on this “topic” as well… 🙂
    Wait ’til u become a father then… It happened to me twice til now… Lots of Excitement comes of that but you’ll get less time to do detailing I promise ya…
    Keep up the good work (and the sharing it with us)…

    Kind regards


    • Mike says:

      Hey Chad,

      Great work, of course. Any pointers on how to remove water spots on glass? Thanks.


      • Hey Mike,

        I would actually tackle the glass much like I do the paint. Start by first trying chemical cleaners such an vinegar or something like our Chemical Guys Water Spot Remover. I’ve also found these to work well with the aid of some #0000 steel wool. (Always test in a discrete area first, but I’ve never had any issues with #0000 steel wool on glass.)

        If Chemical cleaners aren’t cutting it I will usually turn to polishing. Keep in mind all spots are different and some times I can get away with a light cleaner polish (Klasse AIO) and other times I have to use an aggressive compound (Meguiars M95/M105).


    • Thanks Andre! The Civic forum was the first place I started posting my work and it’s always nice to see a fellow ocho member stop in here at DI to say hi. 🙂

      Though I am taking a little bit of a break from detailing I will still be taking on a few jobs here and there so not to worry. The break should also free up some more time to write articles for the blog too. Who knows, maybe I can get the wife to appear in a few more shots. 😉

      Take care,

  9. Ashwin says:

    When is Esoteric opening a branch in India ? You guys do a job that beggars belief ! Superb stuff ! Loved the Acura thread as well. There are loads of cars ( and exotics) here that need help. Come soon 😉


  10. Tom says:

    Chad – nice post and terrific result. Great to read this, from someone as skilled in the technical stuff as you are.
    I’d happily ask you to do my 09 Targa, but it’s in Chicago. So, all I can do is ask for some help and promise to pass your business info along to some contacts in Minneapolis.
    What process / products would you use doing a light restore & winter protection (or wax) for the Porsche silver paint colors? There’s nothing terrible about the condition. It just needs a good clean/clay?/finish.
    Thanks in advance b

  11. Tom says:

    Thanks for the response Chad.
    I did see those other articles. The suggestions for winter gleanings were especially helpful.
    Cheers indeed!

  12. Brent says:

    I have etched spots on the glass of a 2010 car I just bought. I tried vinegar, baking soda, scotch pads. Nothing works yet. How about steel wool???

    • You can try steel wool in conjunction with a cleaner like Chemical Guys Water Spot Remover. Be sure it’s #0000 steel wool and always try it in an inconspicuous area first.

      I’ve honestly had the best results removing water spots on glass by polishing. Which tool, pad, and polish will depend on the severity of the spots. Do you have a polish now, D/A or rotary? If so which one and what pads/polishes do you have?


  13. Ray Scott says:

    I used M105 an an 02 Caddy and they came out nicely using M105 with an aggressive pad, followed up by 205 and finished with Blackfire Wet Diamond paint sealant. Your work is superb and I wish I had your skills. This is a dumb question but is a hologram the spider web looking defect I see in your pix.

    • Not a dumb question at all Ray. Actually you can see both swirls (spider webbing) and holograms in my pictures above, though most of what you see is holograms. The holograms tend to “dance” around as you move side to side when looking at the panel. Holograms are uniform circular scratches that are machine induced (rotary) where as swirls or spider webbing come from improper paint care (mainly poor washing and drying) and when looked at closely they are actually thousand of tiny scratches in various directions and sizes, yet when looked at from afar, somewhat resemble the web of a spider.

      I also have this article posted on holograms, though there are still some swirls and spider webbing in them as well.

      Hope this helps,

  14. joolram says:

    Do I need to use a rotary polisher or a DA polisher with an aggressive pad work as well?

  15. Detailers Workshop says:

    Hi Chad

    Amazing work, I’m truly flawed by the results you got from that paint! I have a friend with god awful waterspots on his 08 bmw. The color is a graphite metallic, these watersports are probably dating as far back as 3 years old. I tried using chem guys 700 series but it just doesn’t have the cutting power. As far as the menzerna line goes, what would you recommend?

  16. Johana says:

    So I have a 2013 Hyundai Elantra GLS, I just got it in May of this year. I got a few car washes done but then wasn’t able to for nearly 2.5 months. I just left the car wash place, and got an ultimate wash with wax included. When I got the car back I realized it still had water spots and it still looked dirty. I talked to the guys that worked there and they told me I had the same problem (your BMW customer had) water spots etched onto the pain. They told me I could go back for a chemical removal and special wax and that it should take care of the spots but it would cost me about $150. I’m willing to go it but do you think that’s the best approach? and will it actually remove the water spots? Unfortunately, I have them ALL over the car even on the windows. I’m so upset about it =( Please give me some advice on what I should do.
    Thank you!
    By the way, you did an amazing job! I also wish you were in NJ so I could get my car fixed like the BMW.

  17. Jon says:

    I’ve owned several black cars and I have to say that they are absolutely gorgeous when maintained properly and kept clean! My current car is a 2011 Infinity FX50 in Obsidian Black with a black interior… And yes, keeping it looking good is nearly a full time proposition! I have a good deal of water spotting on the hood and roof and plan to get down to business when the weather warms up a bit. My son has a Porter Cable rotary polisher and we’re just about to order some supplies for the Spring. Any recommendations?


  18. B.J. says:

    Chad, The BMW looked fantastic. I hope I can get similar results.. My question is concerning water spots or etching. I have a 2014 Impala. It is about 1 month old and is the dark dark blue with metallic. My wife and I were on vacation and I parked the car near the edge of the blacktop where it meets lawn. The sprinkler system turned on at night and left drops all over the car. I was concerned about wiping them off. (car was not clean).
    The water dried in the sun and sun baked for two days before I was able to wash it. I was not familliar with the problem that was created. Anyway, I have tried the Vinegar/water, Ducky water spot remover, (a marine product) and Clay Bars. Nothing has worked the water drop outlines are still there. I know you have explained what to do in some cases above. However, I am concerned that the paint may still be soft since the car is so new. I love the color and do not want to ruin it. Is there something that I can do and what products would you recommend for my situation? I am getting a bit old but I still love cars that look great. (the reason I parked where I did was to prevent door dings. Now I have etching I guess.)

    • Hey B.J.

      Sorry to hear about your new car getting all spotted up…been there a few times myself. I’m not familiar with the Duck Water Spot Remover you listed, but since it was ineffective I think at this point I would probably suggest having a pro look at it to determine what needs to be done. If you want you can shoot me an email listing where you are located (or post it here) and I can try and find a reputable pro close to you. RaskyR1@gmail.com

      As far as the paint being soft, it is actually fully cured before it even leaves the factory, so no concern there. 😉


  19. Benzw205 says:

    Great job ! But what about using a clay bar ? Not a good choice ? Thank you.

    • Chad Raskovich says:

      Clay bar is an option for water spots that are above the surface, but it won’t do anything for water spots that have etched into the paint. I also feel chemical spot removers are more effective and have less chance of marring the paint then a clay bar would. 🙂


  20. Joe M. says:

    Exactly what I was looking for, thanks. My 2014 SL has etched in water spots only on the passenger side door and part of the fender. Clay bar and light polishing didn’t touch it. I’m guessing this was from salt spray, but not sure. I’ve only owned the car for a year. Water spots aren’t only a problem with black cars. My SL is white. They’re harder too see without the right light, but they gotta go!

    I ordered your Porter Cable polishing kit. Great deal.

  21. Daniyal says:

    Hi Chad,

    Great post. I have a similar problem with my 2016 750i. I recently tried to paint correct it myself with a rotary and clearly I had no idea what I was doing and seem to have holograms in it . I prepped the car by washing it , claying it and then compounded and finished with a polish.

    Later to realize that I have holograms and some existing swirls that I coudnt remove due to inexperience in using the polisher right .

    At this point I have purchased a DA which I read is safer for the paint to redo all the panels that I still see holograms and swirls on. A couple questions , would I need to wash the car all over again and clay it again or can I just use a iso alcohol spray to remove any pre existing oils of the polish and compound and compound and polish that again .

    Also do I need to compound and polish again , or would a finishing polish on an lake country orange pad or white pad be ample to get the scratches out

    Look forward to your expertise as I can’t seem to find any answers

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