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What Causes Swirl Marks On Your Car?

For sure the swirl marks on cars is not something new to you. They’re actually the super fine scratches on the paint surface. They’re not appealing to look at but, unfortunately, they’re a fact of life for most car owners.

Knowing what makes car swirl marks is important to avoid and fix it on time. So let us introduce to you what causes swirl marks on cars and how to prevent it.

How Swirl Marks Look?

Swirl marks are most noticeable on flat surfaces, like the hood and trunk. On dark-colored cars, they will also appear on doors and fenders.

For the car which is light as silver, white color, the swirl marks are not clear because they reflect more light. But if the car goes into the dark with the street light, you will see it clearly. For the dark color cars, you will see the swirl marks immediately. 

What Causes Swirl Marks On Cars?

There are several reasons that cause the swirl marks on cars. And it all comes from the washing process which is done by you. Knowing these reasons will help you to avoid swirl marks.

1. Washing

Washing, as we mentioned earlier, can cause the swirl marks on cars. Whether we’re using some old, cotton wash media or quality mitts, we are always scrubbing the paint to a certain degree. So what does it mean? It means even with the most careful of methods and product s, we will eventually start seeing some swirl marks. 

car swirl marks

That’s why choosing the washing product is really important. It will help to reduce the chance for swirling during the washing process, so a quality sheepskin wash mitt will make a dramatic difference over a sponge from a local store.

The wash mitt has a benefit which is holding the dirt better and allowing for plenty of lubricity when cleaning the paint than normal tools.

The problem is how can you choose a good wash mitt, since the bad mitt which does not hold water or dirt will press the dirt against the paint and not give enough lubricity for the cleaning process, the swirl marks will appear.

In the garage, they tend to you the mitts many times in a day. So if you are the first one to come to the garage, the chance that your car is washed with clean mitts is high. But if not, the mitt which washes many cars can cause the swirl marks on cars since it holds a lot of dirt and foreign objects. 

2. Drying

After washing, the car is moved to a drying process that contains a lot of factors that cause swirl marks on cars.

In fact, washing is in a way the most important part of drying because if a vehicle isn’t properly washed and cleaned, the drying process will surely result in quite a few swirl marks by dragging around leftover dirt.

Imagine you wash your car, and the washing process is done, a wrong step in drying the car will ruin your effort to avoid the swirl marks. 

what causes swirl marks

Not only the products but also the technique which you use can decide the result of the car. Instead of using the cheap towels, choosing the fiber micro towel to dry your car.

Because cheaper towels of lesser quality tend to get hard after only a few washes, which leads to bad absorption and possible swirling. Moreover, make sure that your microfiber towel is clean and dirt free, otherwise the result is more damaged.

There is a mistake which most car owners make when drying cars. It is putting the wrong pressure on the car’s paint. Pressure should be extremely light or none at all, simply enough to hold the towel on the paint to let it do its job. 

As for technique, the only way to all but completely eliminate the possibility of swirl marks is to use the blotting method.

3. Waxing

The purpose of waxing is to add a layer of shine to the car as well as a layer of protection. It is a type of paint sealant. If there is any dirt or stains on the paint, then the wax will seal it on the car.

But it actually can cause the swirl marks on cars. waxing can surely cause swirl marks through the application and/or removal process. Reason being, some waxes, typically the older carnauba paste waxes, are fairly hard to apply and especially remove, requiring quite a bit of pressure during wiping to completely remove.

swirl marks

Waxing the car means making the paint is softer so it can add the protection layer to the car. When the paint is softer, it will easier to create swirls with heavier wiping during wax removal. 

Also, many enthusiasts don’t realize how much pressure they’re capable of applying by hand because it’s so concentrated.

4. Claying

Claying itself is an abrasive and many people don’t realize that it can easily leave marring in the paint. Swirl marks are potential with clay bar decontamination if you get a piece caught between the clay bar and the paint.

Other than that, the claying may leave at least some marring and swirls of its own. This isn’t a bad thing as you should polish after a clay bar anyway, but for those who simply want to clay then wax, the only solution is less aggressive clay bar and plenty of lubrication!

5. Car Covers

That’s impossible to believe that the car covers can create swirl marks but it’s true. It’s because they cover the car one day, take it out for a drive, then bring it right back and put the cover on.

No matter how soft, expensive and reliable the car cover, it will cause swirl marks when placed on a car that wasn’t washed just before the cover goes on. 

Even a 10 minute drive to the grocery store and back will leave dust particles on the paint, so when the cover goes back on it’s simply rubbing all this dust into the paint. So for the softer paints, it is easy to create the swirl marks and the car will look horrible.

So if you think about covering your car, you should make sure to make the car clean before going to put the cover on. 

swirl marks on cars

How To Remove Swirl Marks?

The only and the best way to remove swirl marks is to polish the paint with the buffer. When buffing, use a minimally abrasive polisher and buffing pad, otherwise you can make the scratches worse than they already are.

After buffing, the surface of your car should look and feel silky and glossy. Applying a coat of wax, using a microfiber towel to wipe off the wax, and you’re done.

Beside, there are some products that will hide the swirl marks temporarily but for long, it will not help so much. Polishing the car paint still is the good way to follow.

To know how to polish the car paint, check the video below and learn the way to do it at home it is possible.

How Can You Prevent Swirl Marks?

Actually, there is no way that helps you to prevent the swirl marks on cars completely. But you can reduce the severity by choosing the highest quality wash tools and by following good wash practices.

As we mentioned above, any dust, foreign objects that come into the car during the washing, drying, claying process will cause the swirl marks. Start by purchasing a high-quality wash mitt and soap. Rinse every surface before washing to remove heavy dirt and debris.

This will lessen the chance of contaminating your wash mitt, thereby reducing the chances of scratching the surface of your car. Wash your car using the two-bucket method – one filled with clean water and one with car wash soap.

Dip your washing mitt into the soap bucket to wash your car with soapy suds. Then place it into the water bucket to rinse it thoroughly before moving on to the next area.

 For drying cars with towels, remember to choose the clean microfiber towel. You also have to avoid the physical contact with the car paint.

Many also recommend using a good cordless leaf blower, which can remove 90% of the water from the surface of your car with no physical contact. Don’t cheap out by getting subpar wash products. You’ll pay for it later.

Wrap Up

Most of the reason behind the swirl marks on cars related to the washing, drying and covering process. So by putting more attention on these processes, you can minimize the chance to face the swirl marks. Read more maintenance tips to know what to do if your car is in trouble. And do not forget to leave a comment, we will be back to answer you!

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Swirl Marks


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