Common Auto Detailing Paint Defects: A List to Assist Paint Correction
By Christopher Brown of OCDCarCare Los Angeles – OCDCarCare.com – 17 April 2015
Common Auto Detailing Paint Defects play a huge role in a detailers business,. They dictate almost all factors of detailing: machine selection, product selection, procedure implementation etc etc. The list can go on forever. Therefore, in order to properly deduce and correct flaws in automotive paint, detailers need a clear understanding of what different defects are. Furthermore, it is important to understand the cause and most plausible solution for these common defects which plague most vehicles on the road.
This article explores the types of common auto detailing paint defects that most professional or enthusiast detailers encounter on their mission to paint correction perfection.
Classifications of Common Auto Detailing Paint Defects
In order to effectively discuss common auto detailing paint defects, they must first be classified by type. The two major paint defect classification types are:
1] Topical Defects and Contamination: Paint Defects which Exist ABOVE, or on top of, the painted surface.
2] Below Surface Paint Defects: Paint defects which are embedded in, or below, the surface of the clear coat (top coat in single stage paint).
Topical Paint Defects are typically mild in nature and simply removed with decontamination processes which are usually abrasive and/or chemical in nature. These processes include traditional clay bars, nano mitts, and pads (synthetic clay replacements). Chemicals play a big role in dissolving topical contaminants or loosening them up so slight agitation (abrasion) will remove them entirely.
Below Surface Paint Defects exist within the layers of the paint itself, or even deeper. Chemical decontamination sometimes removes these defects with ease . However, machine paint polishing, otherwise known as paint correction or buffing is the best means of removal for the vast majority of below surface paint defects. Machine correction provides: the most consistent, most efficient, and least invasive means of defect removal. However, many conditions exist where hard to reach or strange shaped areas require a skilled hand and accompanying methodologies to fix defects.
Below surface paint defects require a solid knowledge and experience base for accurate evaluation and removal depending on their severity. Additionally, other factors of the panel and paint type, play important roles when forming a correction strategy. Remember to always begin defect correction utilizing the LEAST AGGRESSIVE means to maximize effectiveness. With this methodology, correcting difficult defects will happen faster and will not cause any additional headaches which turn into time vacuums.
The List of Common Auto Detailing Paint Defects:
► Spider Web Swirls
Spider Web Swirl Marks are the common all-direction-type scratches visible on many vehicles on the road. These below surface paint defects mask: the color, gloss, and reflective nature of the paint, due to the way these swirl marks refract light.
A few main factors typically cause Spider Webbing:
- Lack of regular wash intervals which, causing higher concentrations of topical and bonded contamination to gather.
- Inconsistent or improper cleaning technique of the wash media (mitt or sponge) for each washing section.
- Improper or inconsistent directional vehicle washing technique
- Washing of too large of sections.
- Improper selection of wash media for the intended surface.
- Alternating when washing of areas of low contamination with areas of high contamination with the same wash media.
Vehicles washed without a specific and consistent technique have the probability for defects to occur for a variety of reasons. Contamination from the lowest 1/4 of the vehicle, is easily transferred to the rest of the wash media. When large hard particle are embedded withing the media, deeper defects are easily created over the surface of the entire vehicle for the duration of washing.
Touching paint with materials or tools not safe for automotive purposes will also cause spider web swirl marks. Any media touching painted surfaces should not have the ability to cause defects.
Marring, a below surface paint defect, an abrasion of paint which is not quite considered a “traditional” scratch. This is best demonstrated utilizing a soft finicky jet black paint as an example; say Lexus jet black. If a clay bar ran over the surface with heavy force and an adequate amount of lubricant, the surface would appear grayish, dull, and looked scuffed. This cloudiness or marring is a defect caused by abrasion, yet isn’t considered an outright “scratch.” Marring is best fixed with paint correction in most cases.
Micro Marring (also called DA Haze) is a haze like consequence of paint correction; left behind by the motion of the dual action random oribital polisher in a series of minute uniform scratches. Micro Marring is generally addressed when it rears its ugly head during the final polishing stage. Again, use jet black Lexus paint from the previous example. The paint still appears hazy, dull, and lifeless even though it is fully corrected and defect free. To fix micro marring, further refinement of the surface is necessary. The key to fixing micro marring is controlling variables to ensure the pad remains clean throughout the final polishing process.
Micro Marring or “DA Haze,” is a condition different from marring. This is not an actual paint defect, it is a condition which is a byproduct of paint correction using a Dual Action polisher.
► Buffer Trails & Holograms
Buffer Trails & Holograms, are topical paint defects left behind from human hands. The usual cause of these lovely art inspired designs is a rotary machine moved entirely too fast, or a buffer used without much skill behind it. Body shops and inexpensive local car washes frequently leave these marks when trying to crank out a high volume of vehicles. Buffer trails or holograms are often temporarily covered by a glaze or wax in order to move the car through processes. leaving vehicle owners completely unaware. However, once the glaze or wax degrades these lovely flames and holograms become vehicle art; on display for all to see. Hiring a skilled detailer with quality processes if the only cure for these “designs.” The price will, of course, be higher, but then again, so will the level of work and the vehicle finish will last much much longer.
► RIDS (Random Isolated Deep Scratches)
RIDS (Random Isolated Deep Scratches) are below surface paint defects. These large and deep scratches are most often revealed during the paint correction process. They aren’t always visible during initial vehicle inspections because lighter topical scratches (spider web swirl marks) commonly layer on top of RIDS, camouflaging them from view. Commonly, vehicle owners sometimes claim that a detailer has inflict such scratches into their vehicle after completed services. This is not the case, because the removal of the topical scratches has exposed the large underlying scratch. Detailers can easily avoid this misunderstanding by simply educating clients about RIDS when encountering a vehicle which contains a large amount of heavy defects in the surface.
► Bird Droppings & Bird Bomb Etchings
ABOVE: Bird Bomb sits, baking into the sun to potentially become the defect below; known as bird etchings.
ABOVE: Bird Etchings result when Bird Droppings are NOT quickly removed from a vehicle surface.
Bird Droppings “Bombs” are topical paint defects which can cause paint etching, and morph into below surface paint defects (if left unattended). Bird droppings etch paint due to the extreme acidity of the droppings. Etching appears as a subtle recessed blemishes in the surface of the clear coat. The strength of the uric acid in bird droppings can vary greatly due to what particular bird(s) eat. In more rural areas, bird bombs tend to be more acidic and aggressive on paint, due to a diet high in seeds and other vegetation low on the Ph scale. Bird bombs quickly removed from painted surfaces, pose little to no harm of etching into clear coat. Many to most light bird etchings are removed via machine polishing, a.k.a. paint correction. On the other hand, severely deep etching are can only be improved by correction.
►Type I Water Spots
Type I Water Spots are mineral deposits left behind by evaporated water. These topical defects generally indicate “hard water” was left to dry on the surface. Hard water contains a high concentration of mineral solids. When water is introduced to a soiled vehicle surface, trapping the dirt/dust/loose topical contamination against the surface, Type I spots may also occur. The water emulsifies and concentrates the contaminants into drops which embed into the surface once the water evaporates. Typical Type I water spots removal requires a microfiber cloth and waterless wash, or spray wax, light finger rubbing, or a traditional wash. Sometimes a water spot removal chemical is needed for particularly heavily mineral water.
► Type II Water Spots
Type II Water Spots partially penetrated below the surface of the clear coat, slightly etching painted surfaces. These water spots are considered below surface paint defects for this reason. Etching appears as a subtle crater type recessed blemish in the surface of the clear coat. Some Type II spots barely etch the painted surface, while others can deeply etch the surface, depending on the minerals or chemical contamination present in the water while it dried on the painted surface. Type II water spots cannot be removed chemical means alone, they must be machine polished. Some type II water spots are too deep for complete removal. Deeper etching is minimized in appearance with machine polishing; softening the jagged edges of the craters to a large degree.
► Type III Water Spots (not pictured)
Type III Water Spots are essentially type II spots, however, they exist on softer single stage paint. Single stage paint is much more porous than modernized catalyzed base coat/clear coat paint. Because of the porous and soft nature of single stage paint; the minerals within resting water penetrate deeper into the paint. Softer paint means more material is removed when attempting to eliminate these water spots entirely.
► Road Tar
Road Tar occurs when liquefied “tar” launches from tires and onto paint. This topical paint defect or “tar” is actually a buildup of contamination layers on roads. “Tar” is a combination of hydrocarbons (exhaust) mixed with rubber particles transferred from tire tread onto paved surfaces. Road tar most commonly occurs on lower rocker panels or areas behind wheels. This is most frequent when weather seasons change, and temperatures first becomes warmer/hot (typically 80F and above) after winter. Overly hot days are a ripe circumstance for tar to kick up onto vehicles. A solvent is best used to loosen, dissolve, or completely remove road dar particles. A clay bar may also remove minor amounts of road tar.
► Topical Bonded Contamination (not pictured)
Topical Bonded Contamination is a function of regular driving. Dust, pollen, industrial fallout, brake dust are a few topical contaminants. Basically any and everything which can collect upon a painted surface may cause contamination. Mostly, bonded contamination occurs when regular wash intervals (preferably weekly) aren’t maintained. When this occurs, layers of different contaminants bond to paint then layer on top of one another.
Topical contamination may feel like randomly occurring bumps in mild concentrations, yet may feel similar to light grit sand paper in heavy concentrations. If the bare hand cannot detect the presence of topical bonded contamination alone, then get some help. Grab a plastic produce bag or a similar THIN bag and put it over your hand. Run the covered hand over the painted surface and note the tactile feel and sound. A smooth surface will allow the hand to glide over easily and with no noise. A contaminated surface will offer a good amount of drag on the hand and the sound of the contaminants against the plastic will be noticeable. The most common way to remove topical bonded contamination is with a clay bar or synthetic clay substitute. The clay, paired with a lubricating spray, glides across the painted surface, embedding the contamination within itself.
► Tree Sap
Tree Sap, a topical paint defect, occurs when sap drops or smaller particles of more liquid sap collect on a vehicle surface. No matter the form, tree sap adheres to a surface and hardens, creating a hard topical particulate. And, when left on the painted surface in direct and extended sun exposure, sap can harden and become almost resin like; leading to etching of the paint. The best way to avoid sap contamination is to park as far away from coniferous trees as possible, if at all! The best methodologies for removal depend on how long the sap has dwelled on the surface. Usually these methods include: washing with warm soapy water wash, or topical decontamination with a clay bar. Chemical based solutions also help to dissolve the sap’s bond to paint. Sometimes, a mixture of a couple methods is necessary to remove the most stubborn sap.
► Transfer Marks/Scuffs
Transfer Marks/Scuffs are abrasion type paint defects which result in a transfer of material onto the painted surface. These are classified as both topical paint defects or below surface defects, depending on their severity. Transfers or scuffs occur when an object collides or brushes against an automotive surface. Many times, the object transferring residue is softer than automotive paint. For this reason, many transfer/scuff marks are accompanied by minimal scratching of the paint or none at all. Common types of transfer/scuff marks include paint transfer from vehicle rubbing or collisions, striking of inanimate objects, or the collision of rubber and softer plastic materials into painted surfaces.
► Paint Overspray
Paint Overspray, a topical paint defect, is free floating paint finding a home on a surface. During the painting process, liquid paint is atomized into tiny particles which can carry hundreds of feet through the air from the painting area. No matter how drastic the precautions taken, some amount of overspray will escape the intended area. Removal of paint overspray depends on the type of paint used and how quickly it discovered and allowed to sit on the paint. Some paint removal is as simple as a car washing. More stubborn overspray may require a clay bar. Sometimes a combination of a solvent, used to loosen the paint, requires pairing with the clay bar for final removal.
► Insect Remnants [Love Bugs]
Insect Remnants or Love Bug guts, are another topical contaminant with the ability to create below surface paint defects (etching) if not removed ASAP. This is because the remnants of insects contain fluids or other possibly harmful chemical materials and are acidic in nature. The Bigger the insects, the more acid their remnants may contain. Ask anyone in the southeastern United States, and the mere mention of the words “love bugs” will make them shake their heads or release a sigh in disgust. Suggested treatment: keep a quick detailer sprayer in the vehicle with clean microfiber cloths to remove the majority of insect parts ASAP!
► Paint Oxidation (non clear coat failure) & Color fading from UV Exposure
Paint Oxidation & Color Fading – These topical paint defects arise from long term exposure the sun’s UV rays and elemental exposure. Married together, oxidation and UV cause paint to appear dull and sometimes, in more extreme cases, a bit whitish or chalky in appearance. When paint is completely neglected for extended intervals of time oxidation and fading frequently occur together. While the sun’s UV rays directly strike only the surface of paint, oxidation and color failure could merit classification as a below surface defects, because they require polishing (abrasion) to remove. Additionally, UV rays actually penetrate a bit beyond the outer most layer of paint. The “dead” top layer of oxidized paint must be removed, in order to expose fresh clear coat. Removal of oxidation causes paint to appear optically clear, restoring the appearance of the paint’s color, clarity, gloss, and reflectivity.
► Clear Coat Failure
Clear Coat Failure is a below surface paint defect where paint has oxidized completely. When the clear coat, the topical protective layer of paint, completely fails and elements begin to wear on the base (color) layer of paint. Often, the beginning stages of clear coat failure appear as subtly dull or white patches on the horizontal surfaces of a vehicle. As the oxidation process continues, paint eventually starts to crack and flake off; similar to the picture above. Failure usually begins on the horizontal areas of vehicles because they are subject to the most intense and longest duration of UV and elemental exposure. Also, these areas are susceptible to the most amount of topical contamination due to a high volume of surface area which collects particles.
Dirt Nibs, below surface paint defects, which are seen and felt in paint as small hard nodules. Dust contamination during the painting process causes this defect. This occurs if paint booths are improperly prepared and dust and debris are within the immediate painting area. This dust is then stirred up from the directed air flow of the spray gun and pushed beneath the paint. The removal process for dirt nibs requires an individual removal process, one nib at a time. For this reason, denibbing is a tedious process which requires great focus and a steady hand. If nibs occur at or more than 3-4 per square foot, then repainting the panel is the fastest and most cost effective fix.
► Crow’s Feet
Crow’s Feet, a below surface paint defect, containing a concentrated amount of small cracks within the paint. This is actually a paint failure issue. Crow’s feet often appear as many individual cracks adjacent to one another. Other times, crow’s feet cracks form a large network of connected cracks. In the past laquer paint frequently had this issue, therefore the term ‘laquer checking’ was born. The term ‘checking’ ‘crow’s feet’ are interchangeable terms. On modern automobiles, crow’s feet typically indicates a repainted section has been performed in a cheap and quick fashion. Crow’s feet on modern automobiles indicates poor factory paint and or prep work or the materials were of poor quality to begin with.
► Solvent Pop
Solvent Pop, a below surface defect, occurs when painted layers are sprayed too quickly after one another. Pop ranges in appearance from a series of trapped bubbles beneath paint, to tiny pin holes. Common reasons for solvent pop: a painted layer is NOT given ample time to completely outgas, paint sprayed on too thickly, or improper thinner/reducer selection for paint booth environmental conditions. Therefore, a layer of paint, sprayed on top of an already outgassing layer, becomes skin-like, trapping underneath it all outgassing fumes. Solvent pop are these many bubbles, trapped beneath the top layer of paint. Pop bubbles which exacpe through the top layer of paint are called Pin holes. There is no cure for solvent pop; the only solution is repainting the affected areas.
Closing Thoughts on Common Auto Detailing Paint Defects:
More paint defects exist outside this list, throwing detailers curve balls during the paint correction processes. This list tackles about 90% of the most common auto detailing paint defects which are present on the overwhelming majority of vehicles. Defects such as: paint runs, fisheyes, shrinkage (dieback) have importance yet occur much less frequently. Not to say these aren’t important, but for length considerations they aren’t listed.
Hope this short article proves as a useful resource for the detailing community and the paint polishing public.
~Keep on Buffin’
© Christopher Brown of OCDCarCare Los Angeles –OCDCarCare.com – 2015
For more interesting and informative articles regarding: auto detailing, paint polishing, microfiber towels, show car care, and many other things auto care related please browse OCDCarCare Los Angeles’s Auto Detailing Article Archive.
His passion & dedication to car care lead him to writing in-depth articles about detailing related subjects in order to share and interact with the car enthusiast & detailing communities. Eventually, this lead to detailing training courses designed to develop skills, confidence, and results which enable detailers to increase quality, efficiency, and profitability.
► For Service Inquiries or Fill out our SERVICE INQUIRY Form
or call OCDCarCare (949)-427-1191► ►Follow OCDCarCare on: Instagram, Facebook, and Google +