Is your car a regular target for bird droppings or swirl marks? Can you see multiple scratches or stone chips? Some paintwork defects can seriously affect your car’s bodywork and cause bigger problems later on.

In this blog post, we go through a few of the most common paintwork defects you might face. We will also help you identify, diagnose and treat those annoying imperfections. We will talk about contamination and oxidization to scratches and swirl marks amongst other defects, what they look like, why they form and what is required to get it looking respectable again.

Bird lime and bug residue

Bird Lime

When surface layer of clear coat warms up (due to sunlight), it softens and expands. When droppings warm up, they dry out and go hard. As the surface paint cools (overnight), it contracts, hardens and moulds itself around the bird dropping.

Safe removal of bird droppings as soon as possible will ensure minimal damage. This can be done by soaking the area and leaving a white cloth covering the offending mess before wiping of carefully.

Bug residue on the front end of your vehicle is similar to bird lime, although on a smaller scale. The longer the bird lime is left on your car, the more damage it will cause. Sometimes, these can be recovered by machine polishing and in some more extreme cases, repainting is the only option to get your paintwork looking like new again.

Tar spots and tree sap


Spots accumulate on the lower areas of your vehicle and are not particularly nice to look at on lighter coloured cars. The tyres flick up and transfer the bitumen from the road surface up to the vehicles side panels. Typically, freshly laid tarmac will be the worst (although surfaces warmed up in the summer months can also be dire). Removal is pretty straightforward with the correct use of tar removers.

Water spots


These are created in two different ways. First, from the mineral deposits in your rinse water. The magnesium and calcium particles leave a chalky reminder of droplets on the paint surface. Second, from pollutants (like dust or emissions) that mix and bond with, for example, the rainwater left sitting on your car. The water evaporates leaving behind the mineral or pollutant deposits, which can etch into the paint with higher temperatures.

Using dedicated products or white vinegar can deal with minor water spotting issues. For more complex etching, the use of machine polishers will greatly improve (if not fully) remove the defect.

Brake dust and Industrial fallout

Brake Dust

All cars suffer from the accumulation of brake dust with the majority of the build-up landing on the wheels and the lower panels. Fall out, however, comes from airborne contaminants from industrial processes, trains, factories and even brake dust from other cars. It builds up in the form of tiny metallic particles, which embed themselves on the surface of the paint. 

If left for too long, these particles can rust and even penetrate the protective paint coating causing major rust issues down the line. This type of contamination may not be seen but can be felt as a rough texture on the surface. Removal involves chemical fallout removers and thorough clay bar treatment.

Buffer Trails/ Holograms

Buffer Trail Holograms

Poor machine polishing causes holograms and buffer trails. They are more noticeable on darker coloured cars and the hologram effect is most visible in direct sunlight. Bodyshop repairers and inexperienced detailers can leave these trails. Machine polishing with correct technique can rectify these defects.

Swirl Marks

Swirl Marks

Swirl marks are caused by automatic car washes and incorrect wash equipment and methods. Using a conventional sponge traps dirt and grit between the paint surface and the sponge, inflicting marring as we move the sponge across the panel.

Prevent swirls by using a wash mitt to pull dirt away from the surface of the mitt and rinsing the dirt from the mitt periodically. Visually, swirl marks look tired, dull and irrecoverable but these can be removed completely by compound machine polishing.


Minor Scratches
Minor Scratch
Moderate Scratches
Moderate Scratches
Deeper Scratches
Deep Scratches

In essence, they are similar to swirl marks, although harsher and are generated in many different ways. Machine polishing with compound polish can be done to fully remove the scratch. A general rule of thumb is: if the scratch can be felt with a fingernail, the panel will need to be repainted. If you can’t feel the scratch with your fingernail, then it can be saved.

Paint Overspray

Over Spray

Overspray can come from various sources but the number one reason would be inefficient extraction spray booths and poor masking at the bodyshop. Light overspray can be removed with paint thinners or even the use of clay bar. Whereas, heavy overspray may need to be removed by wet sanding and machine polishing, in extreme circumstances the panel may need repainting.


Oxidised paint

We’ve all seen it, that dull pink car that used to be bright red, is now faded. In reality, the pigment in the single stage red paint has become oxidized bringing in that pink dull hue. It is most noticeable in red cars but it does happen to other colours too, although at a slower rate. Correction of the paint with a machine polisher is necessary to remove oxidization and bring back that glossy colour. Proper maintenance (in the form of polishes, sealants and waxes) is required to keep on top of it.

Stone Chips

Stone Chips

They can be improved considerably and look good from a few steps back, but on closer inspection they will be visible still. Stone chips cannot be rectified to perfection with the use of touch in paints and polishing alone. If perfection is the goal then repainting is the right choice.

Keeping on top of your paintwork isn’t always easy, but it is wise to protect your investment from blemishes that can be prevented. And for the defects that slip through the net, there are always options to improve or remove those imperfections.

If you have any questions regarding your car’s paintwork or want to discuss our valeting and detailing services, please contact us directly or call us on 07542 332 596.

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