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Learn Paint Correction in 5 Steps

A lot of people dread getting any kind of damage to their car’s paint, minor or serious. Scratches, swirl marks, marring and other abrasions in the paint are not just unsightly, but also can be complex and difficult to fix, especially those that breach the protective clear coat.

Here at Wings Mobile Detailing, one of our most sought-after services is that of “paint correction”. You might think that this is a skill that only detailers with years of experience can master, but actually it can be simpler than you imagine. Read on to learn about the key steps we take in doing professional-level paint correction.

Paint correction

What Exactly is “Paint Correction”?

To begin, we have to be absolutely clear on what we mean by paint correction. In short, we define the task of paint correction as transforming a car’s paint to a glossy, mirror-like finish, which includes the removal of surface scratches and other imperfections.

To be clear, what we refer to as paint correction does not include the management of deep scratches that have breached the clear coat. These require a more extensive program of repair, invariably involving sanding the affected area down to the original metal surface and then repainting and reapplying clear coat.

Our goal here at Wings was to create a simple and more universal paint correction process, one where we wouldn’t have to carry 100 different polish pads, compounds and other items around to suit every little difference in each vehicle. There were many naysayers who said it couldn’t be done, but we believe that we have found an excellent balanced to leave any vehicle looking absolutely near perfect.

The Wings Mobile Detailing Paint Correction Process in 5 Steps

Step 1: Washing the Car

Before you even think about starting to apply any kind of compound or sealant, you have to first completely decontaminate the car’s exterior surface with a thorough cleaning. Any kind of dirt, dust or other contaminants left on the surface will not only hinder your progress when polishing, but may well cause damage to the paint surface.

You will need to use your regular car-washing soap, as well as degreaser to help loosen and separate any stubborn dirt. Here at Wings, we recommend IronX as a degreaser, but you might use another brand if you’re more familiar with it. Once you’ve washed and degreased the car’s surface, as well as gotten into every nook and cranny, you should also use a clay bar to remove the most deeply embedded contaminants.

Finally, when in the final stages of cleaning and drying, use isopropyl alcohol in your drying/cleaning rags to help remove any trace of oily residues. You’ll be glad you took this extra step when you can apply the compound more smoothly and effectively later on.

Step 2: Compounding: Stage 1

For the first stage of compounding, we like to use Meguiar’s Ultra-Cut compound, as well as microfiber cutting pads from Meguiar’s, but you might have an alternative in mind, which is fine. One reason we favor the Meguiar’s compound is that it is drier than others, which means we can add water to adjust the compound as and when needed. When compounds are too wet from the outset, there’s no adjusting them, and we prefer greater flexibility there.

Place at least 4 dime-sized spots on your pad, and ensure all the fibers on your pad have been coated in the compound. Start from the hood of your vehicle, and work in small 2-foot by 2-foot sections. We like to use a dual-action buffer set to speed 2 or 3 when applying our compound, and then up to 5.5 for removal. Work slowly, and apply firm pressure, but not so much that the pad is struggling to spin under your weight.

Step 3: Compounding: Stage 2

The second stage is mostly the same as the first, but you should switch to a softer cutting pad. We like the orange pads from Lake Country for this stage, combining the right amount of robustness with softness. Rather than cutting compound, however, you’ll be applying polish in this stage, and we recommend the Meguiar’s Ultra Finishing polish, which goes especially well with the Lake Country orange pads.

Step 4: Compounding: Stage 3

For this stage, you’ll need to switch to Lake Country Black Fine finishing pads, used on the 3DHD setting on your buffer/polisher. While you’re doing this final stage of the polishing process, you’ll have to consider what kind of paint protection you’ll want to add.

Step 5: Applying Protection

Some think that simply applying the Ultra Finishing polish with a buffer set to 3DHD is enough protection. While it will offer some protection, it won’t be enough. At the very least, you should round the job off with an application of sealant (synthetic wax), or perhaps something more lasting such as ceramic coating.

The level of polish and protection you’ll apply greatly affects the amount of time you’ll need to get the job done properly:

  • If you’re doing paint correction + sealant, you’ll need at least 2 days to finish

  • If you’re doing paint correction + ceramic coating, you’ll need at least 3 days to finish

Paint correction on Black Porsche

Important Tips When Polishing

Knowing the main process is one thing, but there’s still more to learn, especially when it comes to the key polishing stage. Below are some important tips and reminders to help you on your way:

  • Always wear gloves when polishing because it can get messy and you don’t want to have to keep stopping to wash your hands.

  • The microfiber strands on a pad will invariably get pressed down in their packaging and when they’re just sitting around waiting to be used. This is why brushing them with a hard-bristle brush to agitate and raise up the strands first is essential. It will ensure better absorption of the compound, and therefore more even application.

  • Use speed 2 or 3 for application when using your dual-action buffer, and then up to speed 5.5 for compound cutting. Work slow, and maintain a good pressure to ensure proper application and removal, with the rotor spinning normally even when pressed down.

  • Your pads get progressively softer as you move from stage 1 to stage 3 of the compounding/polishing process. However, avoid using the softest white pads, because these are typically not robust enough for this more rigorous paint correction process. The black pad provides the right level of softness to achieve shine, but can also withstand the pressure.

  • Always be mindful of oil residue as you’re moving from stage to stage and have isopropyl alcohol on hand. Lingering films of oil can hamper your progress and prevent the best-possible results, but some isopropyl alcohol sprayed onto your cleaning rags will ensure that these are removed.

  • When applying sealant and other paint protection, be mindful of each product’s instructions regarding how much time is required to wait before wiping/removal. Each product can be different, so follow manufacturer recommendations.


You can learn more about our paint correction work and other detailing activities on our YouTube channel. Besides that, look out for our latest Podcast episodes.

Here’s a few places Wings Mobile Detailing provide detailing services to:

📍 Brooklyn, NY

📍 Richmond, VA

📍 Virginia Beach, VA

📍 North Virginia

📍 Columbus, OH

📍 Fredericksburg, VA

📍 Greensboro, NC

📍 Raleigh, NC

📍 Atlanta, GA


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