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35 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 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 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 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 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 (https://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 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 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.

  18. John Davis says:

    If a coat of wax will not protect the clear coat from being scratched with even gentle use of QD products, then what is the point of wax?

    • Ivan Rajic says:

      The point of the wax is to protect the finish, minimize swirl marks and make it easier to clean, all of which work together. Without wax, more stuff would settle on the paint and it would also be harder to remove since it’s on a non-slick surface. Sure wax won’t prevent swirl marks, but it can definitely make them less severe and minimize them. Hope that makes sense.

      • John Davis says:

        Thank you for the reply. I’m living with my first black car, a BMW – black sapphire metallic and it seems that if I breathe on it I create a problem. What brought this up is that I buffed out light swirls present when I took delivery of the car with about 95% success. I polished and I waxed. A few days later I used Meguairs detailer to remove dust and was rewarded with more ”damage.” Obviously that was before I read your warning about not using QD products, at least, I assume (?) until the car is washed and the surface cleaned.

        • Ivan Rajic says:

          Yes John that’s pretty much the case with all black cars. Having a metallic is probably at least 3-4x better than a pure gloss black because metallic is more resistant, but will still show a lot more than other colors.

          Another thing to consider is that you may have not removed as many swirl marks as you originally thought because both polish and wax will help hide some swirl marks. In other words, the damage you saw after a few days may have been only partially due to your methods of cleaning it and the rest left over from before that you didn’t see right after the detail job.

          Lastly, in response to your other questions… We don’t really deal or have experience with products that fill or hide swirls, but one product I know for sure makes things look better is the Sonax High Speed Wax. We use this and recommend for clients with black cars (mainly non-metallic) that either 1. have thinner paint and shouldn’t correct it yearly like they would like or 2. have to wash it often (we have a couple clients in the limo and taxi industry that wash and wipe cars 2-10x daily). It helps hide swirl marks and add gloss, so it may be something you should try out and use in between polishing/correcting it.

          Hope that helps.

          • John Davis says:

            I really appreciate your advice and the Sonax product appears to
            get great reviews on YouTube. I will try it.

            For regular maintenance, do you have a sequence you recommend

            This question may seem obvious but i’ve found that reading /
            watching YouTube raises my awareness that detailing is not a simple

            In ”wax tests” the procedure appears to be to wash, clay and
            alcohol rinse before applying product. Is this procedure
            recommended before any waxing? If not, how do you identify products
            that can be applied over other products?

            Last regarding swirl removal, I used M105 (orange pad) followed by
            M205 (white pad). I’m aware that M205 cuts, so, how often would you
            recommend using this product? You mentioned ”correction” once a
            year which sounds like you don’t recommend a lot of buffing with
            products like 105 or 205?

      • John Davis says:

        One more question which may be of more interest to others. Since seeing swirls drives me nuts, is there any reason not to do my best to avoid but them but then to use a product that ”hides” the swirls?

  19. Ivan Rajic says:

    John you’re correct that it’s not simple at all. To answer your questions…
    Using an alcohol or similar product wipedown before sealant will make it last longer and is the right way to do things. However, this may be very time consuming for some people and the durability you sacrifice may be worth the time you save.
    Most products work well together, especially if applied weeks or months apart. However, contacting the manufacturer is your best bet at getting a clear answer
    I wouldn’t recommend using M105 more than 1-2 years and 205 1-2 times per year. You’re better off using something more mild to simple improve light wash marring and swirls. Sonax Perfect finish and CarPro Essence work really well for this to slightly cut and slightly hide swirls to make paint look better.

    Hope that helps.

    • John Davis says:

      Very helpful, thank you. I wish you were in SCAL. Its obvious I’m going to be an amateur at best. I would be better off backing off and paying for the service!

  20. wilson says:

    Swirl mark happens on all types of car and it is caused due to various reason. First of all, you have to dust it and then wipe it with wet cloth.

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