What’s the Difference Between Polishing and Paint Correction?

Auto-detailing improves your vehicle’s appearance and can provide durability against the elements. The process requires the application of a variety of substances to the paint. The most common features of specialty car detailing include polishing and paint correction. They are both vital to providing your car’s clear coat and paint with the best look and protection possible. To understand what car paint correction and polish are, you should know the differences between them.

What is Car Polishing?

The process involves using a gently abrasive liquid to clean, smooth, and improve the shine of a car’s paint. After a while, your vehicle’s clear coat and paint will start to get fine scratches, roughness from contamination and oxidation, and swirl marks. It will make your car’s shiny paint dull and give it an unattractive or faded look.

Car polish is best applied using an orbital buffer or a power polisher. It comes in a bottle to dispense on the polisher’s foam pad. Then the polish is massaged onto the vehicle’s paint, smoothing out the imperfections that help to bring back the factory shine.

Paint correction

The paint correction process involves the mechanical leveling of a car’s paint or clear coat to ensure the best improvement and remove as many light scratches and swirl marks from the paint as possible while not compromising the paint’s clear coat. Based on the damage level of your car’s paint, anticipated wear and tear, and the amount of healthy paint remaining on the vehicle, the magnitude of – the paint correction completed will be different.

Many stages are involved in car scratch repairs and the paint correction process. You can use machine polishing only if the paint damage is minor. Severe defects might require different stages of car paint correction. Thereafter paint correction application of a paint protection coating is recommended to get optimal results.

Stages of paint correction

There are several auto-paint correction treatment levels. Treatments; may be in 1, 2, or 3 stages, whereby the 1-stage correction is the most basic. The stage that will provide the applicable correction for your car will depend on the car’s paint condition and type.

Stage 1

It involves polishing your vehicle’s paint in one step. Auto detailers use only one polish and a finishing pad type to achieve the best results in one correction step. The polishing stage is a refining process that removes most minor defects and fine scratches. The technicians use a lower abrasive finishing pad, which will not eliminate all swirl marks or deeper paint defects.

Stage 2

This treatment is ideal for cars with moderate swirl marks and scratches. It is known as a two-stage procedure, as they use two types of compounds and polishes and heavier more abrasive pads to address deeper defects.

After completing the first stage of compounding, another step of correction is then done with a polishing pad and the finishing polish is applied to your car to remove any haze induced in the heavy correction process. Then, to protect your new paint job, the techs will use wax, paint sealant, or ceramic coatings for paint protection.

Stage 3

It is the most in-depth scratch and paint repair option. The paint correction process is similar to the one in stage 2. However, they may first use wet sanding, a cutting edge, and a coarse pad. The tools are much more abrasive than others and eliminate deep marring, and scratches. In other cases, a more refined jeweling polish may be necessary to accomplish a showroom shine before a protective coating is applied to the paint surface.

Types of paint defects

There are several kinds of paint defects that you can correct through polishing and paint correction, such as buffer trails or holograms, swirls and light scratches, water spots, paint oxidation, and many more. Here are some causes of car paint defects;

Swirl Marks

The most common types of defects you may encounter are swirl marks that occur when they do not wash your car properly; improper drying technique after washing, automatic car washes, dirty covers, or abrasion against the vehicle’s surface.

Deep marring

Deep marring occurs if your vehicle’s paint does not get proper soft sanding or washing. It can have different frequencies and patterns. It refers to the damage that you cannot feel but can see.


Watermarks are somewhat large and easy to notice. They are caused; by mineral deposits and hard water on the car’s painted exterior surface. They have rough, semi-circular, or circular shapes.

Acid Etching

It looks like a watermark, but it – is regarded as a much more destructive stage of corrosion. Acid etching happens when acid rain and hard water go through the surface of a car’s paint. Water minerals can destroy your car’s paint. The damage may be more strenuous to remove.

Deep scratching

There are many kinds of auto-paint scratches that paint correction can treat. They can occur due to automatic car washes, car accidents, random isolated defects, or road debris.

Paint correction Okemos, MI

Buffer Marks

Buffer marks are not common, but they are frustrating. This paint defect is known as a buffer trail or buffer mark hologram. They occur due to inappropriate buffer usage or using the wrong technique, polish, or pad.

Differences between car polishing and paint correction

When you want to give your car, a shiny look, you are doing paint correction and polishing. The main difference between paint correction and polishing is how many defects you will remove. Paint correction treats specific defects, while polishing offers enhancement.

When auto-detailers talk about paint correction and polishing, they draw a line between enhancement and polishing, where paint correction is more involved, and an updated practice for reducing and removing minor to severe blemishes.

Do you want to learn more about the differences between the polishing and paint correction processes? Welcome to Final Approach Detailing!

Our professional detailers will discuss your options, and they will match our services to cater to your needs. Sort your car out with Final Approach Detailing and get in touch through a phone call at 517-955-3231 or a visit to 1860 1/2 W Grand River Ave Okemos, Michigan, USA, to book an appointment today.

Our paint correction treatments will give your car a facelift. We draft custom-made, specific packages to meet our client’s needs and preferences, goals, and budgets!

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