Dull, weathered, scratched paint makes for an unsightly vehicle. Paint correction is a great way to make an unsightly paint job shine like new again!
What exactly is paint correction? Can you do it yourself? How much can you expect to spend on professional paint correction? I’ll answer each of these questions, and more, in this concise guide.
Table of Contents
- What is Paint Correction?
- Do I Need Paint Correction?
- What is the Cost of DIY Paint Correction?
- What is the Cost of Professional Paint Correction?
- How Long Does Paint Correction Last?
What is Paint Correction?
Paint correction is a process to correct the surface of your vehicle’s paint. The paint may contain inconsistencies, swirl marks, weathering, or scratches. To correct the surface of the paint, it is processed with an abrasive substance, then polished and waxed. The goal? Make your paint look better than new!
Do I Need Paint Correction?
Unfortunately, cars often arrive in need of paint correction right off the factory line. The paint can be damaged due to poor quality control, damage and weathering during transport, or issues at the dealership.
Swirls are circular areas of light damage to the surface of the paint. They are usually caused by improper washing or detailing techniques.
A car that spends a lot of time in the sun will have faded or cracked paint. It’s unavoidable! Paint that is flaking off of the vehicle is unsightly and may lead to rust. If your paint is severely flaking, you may want to consider a full, new paint job.
Once a car is rust-damaged, the rust will continue to spread. Stop the rust in its tracks! The rust will need to be removed before paint correction can occur. If there is a lot of rust, paint correction may not be possible, and the car may need to be stripped and repainted.
Dings, dents, nicks, and scratches can mar the appearance of any vehicle. Paint correction can repair areas of paint that have been scraped off. However, large dents will require further repairs.
What is the Cost of DIY Paint Correction?
- Buffer/Polisher: A small automotive buffer is relatively inexpensive at $35-$50. This is a necessary tool to remove the outermost layer of paint. You can spend more to purchase a powerful buffer. These can cost over $200. Most buffers come with some pads already.
- Paint Correction Compound: Paint Correction Compound is a liquid that will smooth out surface blemishes. It costs between $20-$50 per bottle.
- Carnuba wax will protect the paint and make your car shine! Paint is vulnerable to the UVA and UVB rays from the sun. A good coat of wax will protect your vehicle from the sun’s harmful rays. Wax can be applied with a buffer or a microfiber towel. Quality car wax costs between $10-$20 for 16 ounces.
- Car Washing Supplies: I assume you probably have these already! You will need car washing soap, sponges, water, and a microfiber towel.
- Clay Bar: A clay bar is not actually clay, but a synthetic putty. It is helpful for removing embedded bits of grime from the paint. Some vehicle owners use a clay bar to remove any contaminants before buffing, color-correcting, or waxing.
- Ceramic Coating: A ceramic coating offers the next level of protection for your car’s paint. It seals and protects the paint from the sun, water, and dirt.
As with any project, you will need to spend some time on paint correction. Depending on the size of your vehicle, and the amount of work involved, this project will probably take you between 4-12+ hours.
Total Cost for DIY Paint Correction
If you buy all the basic supplies for your paint correction, your final cost for supplies will be between $65-$120. If you add any of the optional supplies or a high-end buffer, your cost will be higher.
Cost Per Square Foot for DIY Paint Correction
If we assume you will paint correct approximately 100 square feet of car surface, your cost per square foot will be around $0.65-$1.20.
What is the Cost of Professional Paint Correction?
As with most things, you get what you pay for! A cheap, subpar paint correction may cost more in the long run, because you will have to get your paint correction corrected.
If you are very particular about the appearance of your vehicle, a professional paint correction by a reputable automotive technician may be the way to go! After you pay for a high-end paint correction, make sure you spend time caring for the exterior of your vehicle in order to maintain the paint.
These prices are all estimates because all vehicles are different. It is best to get a quote or two. The following variables will play a part in your final cost.
A large vehicle that requires a lot of work will also have a large price tag. If you are the proud owner of a sedan with very few blemishes, your paint correction bill will not be as high.
Rust and damage will require extra work and materials. The condition of your vehicle will directly affect the amount of labor required.
Are you expecting showroom quality paint? Or, do you want to spruce up the family vehicle? Be clear with your technician from the start. Your expectations for the vehicle will affect the final product and the price.
Paint Correction Stages
The paint correction stage should be predetermined by your technician. This is an important piece of information! Each stage will require different amounts of time, work, and cash.
A stage 1 vehicle is in pretty good shape, with only minor defects. At this stage, the technician will buff the vehicle with a finishing compound, then wax it. This should take about 3-5 hours, depending on the size of the vehicle.
At stage 2, the paint has some swirls and light scratches. The paint will need two rounds of buffing. One round will have a more abrasive effect, then it will be followed by a finishing compound, and wax or sealant. Expect stage 2 vehicles to take about 7-10 hours to finish.
Paint that requires stage 3 paint correction will have heavy swirls and multiple, sometimes deep scratches. Deep scratches may require wet sanding. Multiple rounds of buffing can be expected.
As with the other stages, the car will be waxed and possibly sealed as well at the end of the process. Stage 3 paint correction may take up to 12 hours to complete.
The cost for materials will be about the same, if not less, for a professional. However, they have a lot more overhead expenses than you do at home! The bulk of your bill will comprise the labor charge. Most detailing places charge anywhere from $20-$30 per hour for labor.
Many times, the cost of paint correction also includes a full, interior detail! They will vacuum, clean the carpets, and clean every nook and cranny in addition to the paint correction. Check out all the details before you leave your car, so you know what to expect.
Total Cost for Professional Paint Correction
With so many variables at play for professional paint correction, there will be a broad range of prices, as well. Expect to pay anywhere from $200-$1,000 or more for your professional paint correction job.
Cost Per Square Foot for Professional Paint Correction
Again, we will assume you have about 100 square feet of the vehicle to be processed. Your professional paint correction will cost between $2-$10 per square foot.
How Long Does Paint Correction Last?
You have spent a lot of time and money on paint correction! How long until you have to repeat the process? There is some good news! Paint correction does not just cover up those scratches and imperfections on your vehicle, but actually removes them altogether.
The paint correction will last until you make new scratches on your paint. The bad news? Environmental factors are out of our control. You never know when your car may get bashed, scratched, or dumped on. If you treat your vehicle right, your paint correction could last five years or longer!
There are ways to protect your vehicle’s paint for as long as possible.
- Store it indoors: This will reduce the effects of weathering, and potential scratching hazards.
- Use safe wash methods: Either wash your vehicle by hand with microfiber cloths or use a touch-free car wash.
- Use a professional: Treat your vehicle to an occasional maintenance wash and detail.
- Wax and polish regularly: Auto technicians recommend waxing your vehicle at least every three months, if not more often.
- Use a ceramic coating: A ceramic coating will protect your paint against UV rays, pollution, minor scratches, and water. It will offer protection longer than regular wax. A ceramic coating should be reapplied every 4 months or so, depending on the wear on the vehicle.
It is possible to make your car’s paint shine like new again! Whether you choose to correct your paint at home or hire a professional for paint correction, your car’s paint deserves a little care every now and then.