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How To Polish Out Swirls And Scratches

The processes of polishing out swirls and scratches is sometimes described as paint correction, it involves using abrasive polishes to permanently remove the imperfections from the surface usually by a machine and the machine we discuss here is a Random Orbital / Dual Action Machine. These are very safe and easy to use even for beginners that are keen on doing some paint correction themselves. Avoid using a Rotary machine which needs considerable experience to master.

The following is a general guide to polishing. It will take you from compounding to polishing to finishing. If your paint problems do not require compounding, skip to polishing. If you’re not sure, start with polishing. Always take the least aggressive approach first! If you don’t get the desired results from polishing, then use a swirl remover and light cutting pad.

Paint correction needs

A Random Orbital / Dual Action Polisher

A roll of masking tape

Quality polishes - compound, swirl removers and finishes

Foam Pads

A soft Microfibre cloth

An extension lead


Prior to polishing it is important to prepare your car paint properly, washing and claying is usually required to leave a clean contaminant free surface.

Tape up all the delicate in the areas you wish to polish such as chrome, rubber seals plastic trim and gaps with a quality masking tape.

(i) Compounding & Swirl Removal

Compounding involves using the most aggressive type of swirl remover called compound or heavy cut. Swirl removers can range from light to heavy. The application is the same.

  • Choose an orange pad/ light cutting pad and a swirl remover such as Poorboy’s SSR2.5 or SSR2. Heavy oxidation may require SSR3 or compounding
  • Apply some swirl remover around the edge of the pad and even it out by spreading with your palm to prime the pad. Dab the pad over a small section (quarter of the bonnet) with the polisher turned off to prevent sling. Next place the cord of the polisher over your shoulder so that it does not knock against the car and mark the paint
  • Set the speed at 1500 RPM or number 2 on the speed dial. Turn the polisher on and work the swirl remover side to side, up and down in an overlapping motion. Move slowly to give the abrasives time to work. Keep the polisher moving at all time and gradually increase speed to 3500 RPM or number 4 or 5 on the speed dial
  • When the swirl remover has broken down and turned into a transparent film, turn off the machine and lift it off the paint. Buff away the residue with a soft microfiber towel and inspect your results. If you are not satisfied, repeat the process with the same product or a more aggressive compound. If you still see no results, upgrade to a cutting pad or wool pad

* If you used a compound, a light haze or dullness is normal. The next step is to restore the gloss

(ii) Polishing

Polishing removes haze, imperfection and restores the gloss in the paint. Use a medium grade polish or SSR2 , if you’ve just compounded

  • Use the white pad/polishing pad on your polisher. Apply the polish of your choice to the pad and spread to prime the pad with the machine turned off.
  • Set the maximum speed to 2500 RPM. or no 3 or 4 on the speed dial and work it side to side in an overlapping motion until the polish turns clear.
  • Buff with a microfiber towel and check your results. Repeat the process If haze still appear

(iii) Finishing

You're nearing the finish line. Just a couple more steps to refine the paint and make your vehicle glow.

To lock in the shine, follow up with a sealant and wax.

  • Attach a grey or a finishing pad to your polisher. Apply the finishing polish/ light polish to the pad. Spread it around the paint in a small section with the polisher turned off.
  • Set the maximum speed to 1500 RPM, number 2 or 3, spread the product over the paint until it’s sufficiently covered. There are no abrasives to break down. You are just trying to refine the paint
  • Buff off the product with a microfiber towel.

Once complete your car is now ready to be waxed or sealed to protect the paint and the shine.

        Polishing 1    Polishing Steps 2