Swirl Marks on Black Car
Tips and tricks of the Pros

Are swirl marks on black car any different than swirl marks on any other kind of car?

Maybe your car isn't really black, but you accept that black cars are the most difficult to maintain and the hardest to detail, therefore you think if you can find out how to deal with swirl marks on a black car, then you will have found the ultimate answer for your car.

Regardless of the color of your particular car, I am going to take you on a deep dive into the world of swirl marks and teach you what you need to know, along with how to achieve professional level results.

swirl marks on black car

The reality is that asking what swirl marks are will deliver different answers based on who you ask. Candidly speaking, most people don't actually care what swirl marks are precisely, but care most about how to deal with swirl marks on a car.

And by "deal with", what I really mean is how to remove them or eliminate them as much as possible in the simplest way possible.

This page will deal with some very specific topics:

  • Understanding swirl marks for success
  • How to conceal swirl marks
  • How to remove swirl marks

If any of these specific topics appeal to you, then you have found the right place.

Understanding Swirl Marks for Success

It is said that knowledge is power. But really, knowledge is only power if this knowledge is actually leveraged to create power.

But without the knowledge first, you have very little chance of producing the required power to produce desired results.

I believe informed people make better decisions. My goal is to deliver the knowledge you need to make the best possible decisions moving forward so you can get the best possible results moving forward.

What are Swirl Marks

Swirl marks is a general term used to describe an unwanted effect on car paint that looks as though thousands of spider webs are laid out in a circular pattern on your car paint.

What most people don't realize is that the scratches that actually create this pattern are not circular in shape at all. Since most people scrutinize their car paint in direct sunlight- you know, that big round bright object in the sky- a circular pattern is created by the countless micro-scratches all over the surface of your paint.

If the sun was square somehow, this pattern would not be circular but square. And perhaps we would be calling this effect square marks instead of swirl marks.

swirl marks vs hologramsSince the micro-scratches on the deck lid of this car mimic the shape of the light source, should we now call these rectangle marks instead of swirl marks?

What Causes Swirl Marks

Do the scratches in your paint cause swirl marks, or does the light used to examine your paint cause swirl marks?

Swirl marks can only be seen if two things come together:

  • Your paint surface is covered with micro-scratches
  • A light source circular in shape

As seen in the picture above, these micro-scratches will mimic the shape of the light source. Which then means that swirl marks are dependent on these two things coming together.

But the reality is that regardless of the shape of the light source, your car will be covered in micro-scratches of varying degrees.

This brings us full-circle to the actual real problem which is not what we call this unwanted effect, but the real cause of this unwanted effect and then more importantly, how do we eliminate this unwanted effect.

Wax to Remove Swirl Marks

Many people will ask if wax can remove swirl marks. The answer is no.

The irony of this question is that most people apply wax onto their car in a circular pattern (swirl) as this seems to be the general consensus on how to apply car wax.

But then we are taught by detailing hacks that applying wax and polish in a circular pattern causes swirl marks- which it doesn't!

Car wax serves two basic purposes- both of which are temporary.

  • Protection
  • Visual enhancement

Car wax does this by leaving a very thin layer of wax on the surface of your car paint that provides some small degree of protection. Car wax also "fills in" micro-imperfections that helps to create a better overall appearance to your car paint.

So, in answer as to whether car wax can eliminate swirl marks, the answer is not. Car wax will only hep to conceal or cover up the micro-scratches temporarily.

Polish to Remove Swirl Marks

Polish -the right kind of polish- is the only way to actually remove swirl marks permanently. Yes, like everything else in life, not all polishes are created equal.

Some polishes are formulated with chemicals that help improve the overall appearance of your car paint as you use these polishes to reduce the appearance of micro-scratches and help achieve better gloss.

But the only way to create lasting and permanent results is through the use of polish that is formulated using what is referred to as abrasive technology.

polish to remove swirl marks

This is really just a glorified name given to the many types of abrasives that are used to create these types of compounds and polishes. Compounds and polishes that have abrasive articles that allow you to literally scratch your way to success.

Many car owners that hear this for the first time are disturbed by the idea that you literally use a product that contains abrasives that will scratch your paint.

But scratching your paint in a systematic and deliberate manner, using a product designed to do this, is the only way for permanent results when it comes to swirl marks on black paint or swirl marks on any colored paint.

How Does Polish Remove Swirl Marks on Black Paint?

The simplest of answers: abrasive particles formulated into products like rubbing compounds and polishes. These products are rubbed by hand or machine against the surface so that the abrasive particles can refine the surface to remove imperfections that would cause any distortion of reflected light.

"You are literally scratching your way to success"

l will use two examples as a way to illustrate how this "scratching" process works -one example for guys and one example for girls.

Wood working: any person who has ever worked with wood understands the concept of sand paper grits. You start with a more aggressive grit to sand away (the scratching) the heavy defects in the wood, then you transition to finer grits to continue to refine (scratch) your way to success.

Fingernails: If you are a woman and have had your fingernails professionally manicured, you will know that the technician will use emery boards to "scratch" away the imperfections in your fingernails; ridges, hang nails, etc.

This technician will transition aggressive types of emery boards to finer and finer grades until your nails are free from imperfections that detract from the aesthetic appearance of your fingernails.

How to Remove Swirl Marks on Black Car

machine polishing to remove swirl marks

Simple Answer: find a polish formulated with abrasives and polish your way to success.

If you have been following along, you will know that swirl marks on black car is really about the micro-scratches on your black car that cover the entire surface.

These scratches can be temporarily concealed with a basic car wax, but to eliminate and remove swirl marks you must polish them away with a product that has abrasive particles.

You can do this by polishing by hand -less effective and marginal results- or you can use a machine polisher -much more effective and produces exceptional results.

Swirl Marks on Black Car:
What you need to know

  • Every car will have some degree of swirl marks
  • Black paint always shows ANY imperfections more than other colors
  • To make a permanent difference in your car's paint, you must use a compound or polish with abrasives
  • Not ALL compounds or polishes contain abrasives though
  • If you choose a compound or polish with no abrasives you will ONLY produce temporary results
  • You need to understand that polishing with abrasives will naturally thin-out the overall thickness of your clear coat -this is the accepted trade-off for better looking paint though
  • Polishing is for visual enhancement only -it will not make your paint last longer and it will not make car waxes last longer
  • How often you find the need to polish your paint will be based entirely on your requirements or standards as the car owner
  • Since the thickness of your clear coat is finite -there is a limited amount and you cannot add to it- you would want to take the least aggressive approach to polishing your car that achieves desired results
  • If you are careless with how you treat your car paint, then polishing your car paint may be a complete waste of time
  • Machine polishing with an abrasive polish will remove not just swirl marks on black cars, but swirl marks on any car, any color, along with creating overall shine and depth to your car paint

Swirl Marks on Black Car:
What Would Darren Do

So often I am asked by my followers what I would do. Guys that don't necessarily want to become an expert on a subject, but trust me as a professional and therefore just want to know what I would do if I was in their position.

So I will tell you what I would do, and specifically do with my own black cars.

Accept: I accept that at some point I will need to polish my car's paint to restore shine and depth, while removing unwanted imperfections that are a natural consequence of life -namely swirl marks.

I also accept that the trade-off of polishing my car to create glorious shine and a swirl free finish will be making the clear coat on my car a little less thin as a consequence of polishing. This is a worthy trade-off for me.

I also accept that if I am unwilling to use techniques that are "safer" for the paint on my car with regards to creating new swirl marks, etc., that polishing my car would be a waste of time since polishing is for the visual presentation of my car only.

Polishing by Hand: I don't actually consider polishing by hand a worthy option at all. Yes, it is possible to develop more shine and to diminish the swirl marks on a black car or any other color to a slight degree, but in no way compares to the results possible using a machine polisher.

Polishing by Machine: I am of the opinion that for superior results, using a machine polisher is the ultimate in performance. Attempting to polish your car by hand will prove extremely ineffective when compared to the results you can achieve with a machine polisher.

If you are a complete beginner you will likely shy away from the thought of taking a machine polisher to your car to remove swirl marks on your black car or any other paint defects.

"Scratching" your way to success by using a quality car polish and a dual-action orbital polisher is the winning combination. The good news is that while you are removing the swirl marks in your black car, you will also be restoring overall shine, creating additional depth to your car paint and creating head-turning shine to your baby!

The good news is that even a complete beginner like yourself can safely polish your car if you follow my suggestions at car polishing for beginners.

Swirl Marks on Black Car Summary

I hope I have offered you some real help moving forward. Swirl marks on modern day cars is the number one problem overall when it comes to the visual appearance of your cars' paint.

As a beginner, you really can produces professional level results by using the right tools and the right products.

If you have skimmed this page, then you can follow this list that reduces everything down to a bullet point:

  • Wash car in any way you see fit
  • Decontaminate car paint using a clay bar
  • Use what I consider the safest and simplest polish
  • Use a dual-action, random orbital buffer and foam buffing pads
  • Work each section of your car with the buffer until you have achieved desire results


Darren Priest