A side of Swirls with my wash please

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

What are Swirls & holograms?

Swirls and holograms have to easily be, one of the most frustrating finds any car owner can discover. You may not know the name of them, but you will definitely recognise them, primarily in the sun they will show as the light catches the edge of each micro scratch sitting within the clear coat.

The only real way to explain what a swirl or hologram is by showing you an image below. Many car lovers will opt to buy a lighter coloured car just to avoid the eye saw of swirls as they may have experienced them in the past, darker coloured cars have a greater contrast between the clear coat and base colour meaning swirls are far more visible on darker paints than lighter paints. This is something to consider when purchasing your pride and joy.

How Swirls and holograms are caused?

To put it plain and simple, swirls and holograms are caused by a lack of care and understanding. We will cover the two main reasons, swirls are caused:

1. The first being the dreaded £10 car wash, this is not through the fault of the staff but rather the car wash owner for not properly educating and training the staff on the correct method of a maintenance wash. Within the mitts, there are tiny little bits of stones and grit that go from car to car. This is regarded as cross-contamination, this can be from car to car or even panel to panel.

Example: The customer in front of you owns a 20-year-old sun-faded VW Polo that he could not care less about, this Polo has months of road film, dirt and grit that the employee has just wiped his mitt across, this mitt should be washed every second square meter. It should be dunked and scraped against a grit guarded bucket removing all the contaminants off the mitt to ensure a friction-free wash, but instead, he washes most of the car with this one mitt absolutely destroying the paintwork. It’s your turn next and as you sit in your pride and joy, you might be none the wiser of what’s in that mitt, however, you might be wise, so you’re looking out to see if it gets rinsed between cars. Phew...he dunks it in the bucket. But does that bucket have a grit guard? Because if not, you can look forward to a tonne of grit being picked up from the bottom of this bucket and if it’s not already bad enough, he’s using a single bucket method.

2. The second equally as bad, if not worse, is the waterless wash. Do you wince at the thought of a near dry microfiber cloth being dragged across the paint. If the car was spotlessly clean, it wouldn’t be so much of a problem to spay a waterless wash and wax and wipe across the paint, providing no pressure is put on the microfibre. But the car’s not clean it’s dirty! Let’s say you spray the waterless wash and wax onto the car and it’s dirty, there are hundreds and thousands of tiny grains of grit, sitting on the paint - not to mention the corrosive road film which all becomes part of the waterless wash and wax solution. You then take a tiny microfiber cloth, with no padding between your hand and the paint, then you drag this across the paint to pick up the dirt. Unless common sense is thrown out the window, we all know-how incredibly damaging this is going to be for your paint! You’re going to be left with deep swirls and large holograms that can be seen even on an overcast day. Unless your car is already clean please, please avoid a waterless wash and wax solution. It could cause £1000’s of pounds worth of damage to your paint.

How to avoid swirls and holograms

Fortunately, the car industry has developed a number of products and methods, to help avoid swirls and holograms.

Snow Foam. This is the magic trick all great detailers use. Snow foam is a thick, soapy solution combined of typical 1 part product and 3 parts water. Snow foam is sprayed across your car and is allowed to dwell and drip for between 3 - 5 minutes (depending on the product). During this time the thick snow foam solution will encapsulate the road film, grit and dirt, breaking it down into an almost paste-like mixture. You will notice lots of this run off the car surface and end up on the ground where you will visibly see how dirty the snow foam is. The next stage is to jet wash off the snow foam where heavy areas of dirt need more encouragement to leave your car. The surface is then prepped for the actual swank wash to take place. We will later publish a more detailed snow foam blog.

Grit Guarded buckets. Let’s take another look at the grit guarded buckets we spoke about before. This is 100% vital on every single car wash ever! Without these, we will be visiting swirl town. On 99.9% of car washes, your mitt will be picking up grit and road film. The aim of the game is to get this off your car and into your rinse bucket without dragging it around your lovely clear coat. The only thing that should be moving around your clear coat is a loverly wet and waxy mitt without grit and road film in the mix. See our first blog for more on the importance of grit guards.

How to improve or repair swirl damage

I am going to be really upfront about this and say, this repair if done properly, is costly due to the skill and labour involved. But there is a cheeky and cheap shortcut if you wise. The results won’t be the same, but it’s worth knowing that there is an alternative.

Let’s talk about the costly correction first. This correction is known as a paint correction and is undertaken by eagle-eyed detailers. In order to remover swirls, depending on how deep the swirls have gone, the clear coat needs to be worked intensively by a machine polisher with compound product or polish. It’s likely you will need a single-stage machine polish rather than a two-stage machine polish - but this is dependent on the detailer and method he or she uses to remove the swirls. Make sure your detailer is proven and skilled or you could cause more damage than good.

So the short, cheeky shortcut. If you don’t fancy calling out a skilled detailer and would rather give it a go yourself you can do! It is possible to take swirls out by hand, but you have to be seriously strong and patient to do so.

First of all you need to properly prepare the paint by washing the car entirely, ensuring there is no dirt or contaminants left on the surface. Then you need to apply the cut and wax paste in generous quantities, panel by panel or 1-metre squares. At this point, you will need to take a microfibre cloth and work the product backwards and forwards for between 3 - 5 minutes, or until the swirls have gone. At this point, you’ll find out why we mentioned it’s important to be fit and strong! Work your way across the paint, allowing the product to dry to a haze, before wiping away with a fresh microfibre cloth.

We advise using G3 professional cut and wax to complete this job as it helps speed up the process and also leaves an incredible wax finish to your freshly cut paint. https://www.google.com/search?q=g3+professional+cut+and+wax&sxsrf=ALeKk03NFO2HQmLcpZZR3-d9a1Tczg2zKw:1582484894211&source=lnms&tbm=shop&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjGge3Pr-jnAhXnRhUIHfaPAqwQ_AUoAXoECAwQAw&biw=1440&bih=715