Micro Scratches in the Sunshine

As we start to enter the warmer months, many are now looking for time to get the car washed and enjoy those warm spring days. Shortly after your first deep clean of the season, it is inevitable that the clouds will start to gather and upon further inspection you may well notice ‘micro’ scratches and feint swirl marks in your paintwork. How can you paintwork look so old an neglected? Well, the primary culprit is usually the local automatic carwash and its aggressive treatment of your paint, but however they arrived it’s now time to look at how to stop or at least reduce them.


It is important to firstly understand micro scratches and swirl marks as well as understanding how they may occur. Newer cars are especially prone to these common surface abrasions

and unless there are major changes in how many of the industry’s top auto manufacturers apply vehicle paint, these issues will only increase in frequency. The most common causes of micro scratches and swirl marks are commonly believed to be…

  • Failing to rinse off loose dirt before car washing
  • Using a washcloth or sponge that is too abrasive
  • Using a harsh detergent or soap not suitable for paintwork
  • Not washing with the “two-bucket” method
  • “Dry dusting” a dirty car
  • Waxing before properly cleaning or preparing a surface

In addition to rinsing off loose dirt from the car, enthusiasts must also take meticulous care of their equipment and wash materials. Even a small piece of grit or sand on a brush or towel can create a minor surface abrasion on the vehicle. Once a vehicle has swirl marks or micro scratches, experts recommend timely correction, since further surface damage can occur.


Most vehicle models since the early 90’s, manufactures apply a clear-coat is the top layer of modern factory vehicle paint applications. Mainstream auto manufacturers apply paint in two

stages: base colour coat and top clear-coat. A clear-coat layer provides several benefits to the vehicle’s painted surface. For instance, it protects the base paint from chips and other damage, such as from UV rays, and it also creates a deeper shine. This protective layer is not impervious to scratches or damage and most micro scratches occur in the clear coat layer of paint.

These abrasions can be frustrating for car enthusiasts, especially on newer luxury cars. And, as mentioned, not only is this visually unappealing, but it can also cause more issues if left untreated.

Besides the scratches that can be created by poor wash techniques, all cars will suffer some paint damage in use from kicked up dust and grit, flying debris, driving too close to hedges, loose twigs falling from trees and so on.


When trying to correct micro scratches there are several treatment steps that should be considered:


Micro scratches are removed by polishing away a very thin top layer of the clear-coat and this can take a little bit more than elbow grease.  A dual-action buffing machine can be used with ‘swirl removal’ products and accessories. It is key to remember that too much heat or pressure will damage the clear-coat or base coat and could require a repaint.


We firmly believe that prevention is better than cure and avoidance of damage altogether is preferable. Dirty equipment combined with incorrect chemicals and application cloths are very common causes of paintwork swirls and scratches. You must ensure you are using appropriate cleaners, wax and cleaning equipment before you start.


Rinse the vehicle thoroughly to remove as much surface dirt as possible, and always use a detergent specifically made for vehicle paint. Use a clean cloth to wash the vehicle and another for drying.


Use the “two-bucket” wash method. In the first bucket is water and detergent mix for washing. The second bucket contains just plain water for rinsing. Rinse the washcloth in the second bucket before putting it back into the first bucket for more soap. This prevents dirt from being introduced into the first bucket and limits the possibility or getting small bits of grit on your paintwork.


You should research the type of paint process that was originally used by your car’s factory. There are protective clear-coat treatments available and a wide range of waxes and ceramic coatings to help to protect against micro scratches and swirl marks.

Coverzone specialise in the design and manufacture of bespoke vehicle covers. We have over 700 fully tailored patterns & over 15,000 covers in stock for immediate despatch. Our range caters for most popular cars from the 1930’s to date & includes mopeds, motorbikes, sports cars, classic cars, city cars, hatchbacks, saloons, estates, limousines, suv’s 4×4’s, vans and campers.

Once your car is rejuvenated and sparkling in the spring sunshine, why not consider a fully tailored cover to protect your car from airborne pollution, tree sap and grit? Always remember to cover a clean car and ensure that the car body and exhaust are cool before fitting.

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