You’ve just dropped between $50,000 and $500,000 on a brand new vehicle. You’ve probably spent countless hours researching your new high-end sports car, luxury sedan, SUV or truck, and you’re thrilled to finally have it in your possession. And because it’s new you’ve got that extra-special warm glow inside, knowing it’s in perfectly pristine condition.
Except it’s not. Because the dirty secret lurking within your brand new vehicle’s paint is a vast array of countless scratches that have been dulling the exterior finish since before it left the factory. This is the ugly-yet-unavoidable reality of automotive production, requiring new vehicles be painted, polished and processed quickly, but not necessarily properly.
And if you think you’re car’s immune to this problem because it’s a high-end, limited production model wearing a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce or other ultra-premium badge, well, you’re wrong. As part of my research for this story I was shown a brand new $200,000 Ferrari California with 80 miles on the odometer. And thousands of scratches in its “brand new” paint.
To address this issue a car needs what’s referred to as a “paint correction” treatment, which is the fine art of delicately removing micro-scratches and swirls through machine polishing (buffing). When done properly, a very fine amount of clear coat is removed, along with the otherwise permanent scratches and swirls in the clear coat. This leaves crystal clarity and pure reflections. When performed by a skilled craftsman, the difference can’t be fully captured in photos. It must be seen in person to believe.
If you ask around about paint correction in the high-end automotive community you’re likely to hear the name Todd Cooperider and Esoteric Detail. A fellow car fanatic (and Acura engineer) with a low-mileage, all-original Acura NSX gave me Todd’s name. He told me Todd could work miracles, not only on new car paint but on used vehicles as well. With over 10 years and 27,000 miles on my Ford GT I was looking for someone to bring back the deep luster I remembered in the car’s Midnight Blue paint when it was new.
Of course Todd and his crew at Esoteric Detail didn’t make my Ford GT like new. They made it better than new. The Midnight Blue paint on a Ford GT is complex. It has an amazing hue in bright light, but it also dulls substantially from dust, dirt and micro scratches. I’m sure many of the swirls and scratches on my car came from less-than-ideal washing and drying procedures…the vast majority of enthusiasts (and detailers) do it wrong.
But a good percentage of these scratches, like the Ferrari I described above, had likely been in the paint since it was new. I had never seen the GT’s full potential until it rolled out of Esoteric’s shop after two days of multi-stage polishing. To properly maintain the paint correction detail I just invested in I’ll be incorporating the proper cleaning techniques Todd describes in this article: How to wash your car
Todd certainly doesn’t have the market cornered on paint correction. A quick Google search will produce hundreds of shops and polishes that specialize in the process of removing the thousands of tiny scratches found on most of today’s cars. If Esoteric Detail’s location (north of Columbus, Ohio) isn’t convenient you can likely find a competent shop in your local area.
But, like so many aspects of car care, a shop’s level of experience and capability will (literally) be reflected in the final product. You should carefully research any facility before turning your car over to it. Todd has customers all over the U.S. that regularly ship him cars because of his well-earned reputation, but other shops, including Envious Detail in Santa Ana, California and DJ Mayo Studios in Gainesville, Virginia, are also widely respected within the high-end and exotic car community.
Expect to pay anywhere from $500 to over $2,500, depending on how many stages of paint correction your car needs. Other services, like a complete “wheel off” detailing at Esoteric, costs $300 to $400, but the “before” and “after” transformation can’t be overstated. The inner part of the wheels, previously caked in a decade of brake dust and road tar, now look brand new. Esoteric also “seals” the wheels with semi-permanent coatings after they’re clean to make the removal of future brake dust and road debris much easier.
You personally have some responsibility on how to keep car exterior clean.
Watching Todd’s shop at work and talking to him about paint correction was a real learning process for me, but the biggest eye-opener was the realization that, new or used, high-end or mainstream, unless a car has already had a paint correction process it’s almost certainly sporting thousands of tiny scratches and a dulled finish. If you’ve got a truly special vehicle that deserves a special shine you should find a trustworthy shop and have a proper paint correction treatment performed.