How does polishing remove scratches?
This video is a bit of a demonstration that we have always used to liken paint enhancement/paint correction with peanut butter toast.
The reality of any paint correction prior to a ceramic coating is that we aren’t truly removing scratches. Scratches and swirls are in your vehicle’s paint. They could come from something like someone brushing up against your car in a parking lot, to automatic car washes like Mister Car Wash or Today’s Car Wash in town (these car washes are everywhere, and there is a Galaxy Car Wash being built on the border of Killeen/Harker Heights we type this answer), improper wash techniques, car covers, you name it!
We can’t magically make these disappear. These scratches and swirl marks are in there, and even the best traditional car wash/auto detail won’t get them out. Some wax products or other products might temporarily fill them and hide them, but they won’t be gone.
So how do you "remove" scratches before a ceramic coating using paint enhancement?
The way scratch and swirl removal works when doing a paint correction, is we actually thin out the surrounding area of the clear coat using a machine polisher (buffer) and compound, or compound followed by polish.
When these surrounding areas are thinned out a microscopic level, the scratches disappear into the overall thinned out area. The scratches are not individually removed from the car’s clearcoat – they’re simply “absorbed” into the reduction of the overall clearcoat in the area.
Isn't that dangerous for the paint?
The short answer is, yes. The longer answer is slightly more complicated.
Clear coat wears down over the years and begins to break down on its own. Washing the car, and the environment also thins out the clear coat.
Many auto detailing groups will tell you not to polish too often, and they are correct. Polishing, or polishing and compounding will degrade the thickness of the clearcoat over time. To get some scratches out, this isn’t a problem. However, “chasing” after every scratch during a detail is not advisable.
Some scratches are just going to re-appear, and may only be visible under certain lights. A lot of detailers will chase every single scratch, trying to make the car’s paint completely perfect. In reality, they are simply thinning the clearcoat for a scratch that will likely come back after the first detail of the vehicle. And the more we thin the clear coat, the easier the clearcoat is to scratch.
So detailers think they are getting the paint swirl-free, but really they are setting up the client to have a more scratch-prone vehicle in the future. We assure you that we always balance quality of work and swirl/defect/scratch removal with the “safety” of your paint. Fortunately, when we install ceramic coating after our paint enhancement, we also restore some of the UV protection lost from a degraded clear coat.