What are Swirl Marks?

visible swirl marking

There’s one thing that nearly all cars that have ever been washed- new and old- have in common: swirl marks. And it’s not always the case that washing is to blame. Environmental regulations are a lot more stringent than they were even 20 years ago. That being the case, automotive paint is no longer lead-based, but water-based. So, while the paintwork of the modern vehicle is much friendlier to the environment, it is far less resilient and a lot more susceptible to scratches, elemental deterioration and, of course, swirl marks. In fact, it’s highly likely that the modern car has swirl marks before it even gets to the dealership. This is due to the water-based paints now used producing an effect known as ‘hologramming’. To remove this, the manufacturers have to manually buff the entire vehicle which in most cases results in light swirling. “But obviously some cars would make it off the production line unscathed, right? Maybe i’ll be lucky enough to get one of those and just be extra careful it comes to washing it? Making sure only to use the best sponge I can find?” Well, and don’t shoot the messenger, it’s not so simple. Whether you use a $2 sponge from a discount store or a premium quality lamb’s wool wash mitt makes little difference. The reality is that no matter how you wash or where you go to get it washed, even semi-regular cleaning is likely to result in some degree or another of visible swirling on the paintwork of your car.

What are swirl marks?

Although there is no exact definition of the term, it is generally accepted that swirl marks are super fine scratches in the clear coating of your cars paintwork. There are a few reasons why your car might end up with swirl marks, with the most likely cause being tiny particles of dirt and even dust being dragged across the surface of the paint. Swirl marks are even more likely to result if the car has not been rinsed adequately prior to washing, or if the sponge or cloth being used is not washed regularly. Of course, most people, in particular professional car washers and detailers, have procedures in place to ensure that the media used is rinsed before each use as well as being regularly machine-washed. But even with the most regimental procedures and utmost of care, scrubbing the paint means that at some point, visible swirl marking is a virtual inevitability.

While swirl marks are present to some extent on almost all cars on the road today, they are most readily apparent on darker paint. Perhaps you’ve recently bought a new black car or know of someone who has? If so, (if they aren’t there already) after its been washed for the first time, have a good look at it in the sunlight. If you see what looks like circular* spider-web like marring (spider-webbing is another term for swirl marks), then, yep, they be swirl marks.

*interesting: Swirl marks appear to take on a circular pattern, but these microscopic scratches are actually quite random. The reason they appear circular is because the edges of each of these tiny scratches are sharp and are very good at reflecting light. If you put them under a direct light source such as the sun, the reflected light is dispersed outward omni-directionally, creating the illusion of a circular pattern. The reason darker coloured paintwork reveals swirl marks more significantly than lighter paint is because the colour of the paint itself reflects less light, so any light reflected by the sharp edges of swirl marks is a lot more obvious. Polishing your car smooths out these sharp edges which reduces the amount of light each scratch reflects and thus reduces their visibility.

So, it would seem as though, as long as we keep washing our cars,  swirl marks are a fact of life. But with regular maintenance coupled with correct techniques and a little education on the matter, you can significantly reduce the circular havoc swirl marks can potentially wreak on the epidermal layer of your four-wheeled best friend.

At Eco Blue Car Wash Kedron, we wash your car like we do our own. Our media is washed regularly and our pressure cleaners ensure your car is correctly blasted and sufficiently lubricated prior to it being hand-washed. For those of you who got the memo a little too late, we also specialize in the removal of swirl marks, or in extreme cases the minimization of swirl mark visibility to the point where they’re almost undetectable. See also clay bar and cut and polishing.

visible swirl marking

visible swirl marking

20160524_134030 (Custom)

 

sunlight reflects off the surface of the paint omni-directionally creating the illusion of a circular pattern

sunlight reflects off the surface of the paint omni-directionally creating the illusion of a circular pattern

 

So why don’t you drop in for a free quote and demonstration the next time you’re in the area?

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