3 stage paint correction

Every car owner likes to have their car appear shiny and sleek. The car paint gets scratched, swirls or other imperfections because of the use of pressure washers or due to environmental factors like hailing or snow. Car paint correction process is helpful in getting rid of scratches or swirl marks permanently rather than hiding them. There are several stages of paint correction. If your vehicle paint has deep scratches, it may require 3 stage paint correction.

What is Paint correction?

Paint correction is a part of the complete exterior detailing process. The paint correction term is used by both car cleaning professionals and car detailers worldwide. This term is used to rejuvenate and restore your vehicle’s paintwork. It can eliminate surface imperfections like oxidizing or faded paint.  

One should use the term paint correction if the imperfections like deep scratches or swirl marks are removed rather than covering them up. The corrective process starts with removing a minor layer of clear coat by using abrasive polishes. These polishes are applied with polishing machines to bring the best layer of paint. 

Different levels of car paint correction

Here! We will discuss the three major stages of paint correction:

1 Stage or single paint correction

It is just polishing that requires a pad and polish combination. It is suited to cars with good condition of their paint surface; it doesn’t have any visible swirls but minor marring. Stage 1 machine polish involves paint refining with finishing polish and pad. It is not abrasive to remove scratches and swirl marks, followed by paint sealants or wax for further paint protection. Stage 1 of the paint correction takes up to five hours, depending on vehicle size.

2 Stage paint correction 

2 Stage paint correction is well suited to cars having light scratches and swirl marks. It involves two types of pad and polish combinations. This step is abrasive, which involves abrasive polishing or a compound used to remove imperfections like light scratches, swirl marks or other paint imperfections. After this step, a finishing polish and pad combination is used to refine your car’s paintwork by removing holograms or marring left behind. After finishing, a paint sealant or wax is applied to the car’s surface to protect the paintwork. 2 Stage paint correction process takes up to ten hours to complete

3 Stage Paint correction 

If your car has heavy scratches, swirl marks or other paint imperfections, it would need 3 different pad and polish combinations, including spot-wet sanding.  Spot-wet sanding is also necessary to remove heavy scratches. 3 stage paint correction or 3 Stage detailing takes around 12 hours to complete. 

Steps involved in 3 stage paint correction

In 3 Stage paint correction a professional auto detailer like Auto Boss uses a heavy cutting pad with a compound. The first step removes deep scratches and swirl marks. After the first step they use cutting the pad and polishing to remove swirl marks. After polishing the pad and polishing it is used to refine the paintwork. Then a paint sealant or wax is applied to protect your car paint. 


The car detailing professionals thoroughly decontaminate and wash your car. They will remove loose dirt and debris. After the washing process, they will clay your car’s surface by using a professional automotive clay bar. Clay bars remove any contaminants that stick to the car surface, like industrial fallouts or tar spots. 


It is significant to remove dirt or grime before starting a 3-step paint correction process. If you skip these steps, the contaminants can catch up in the polishing pad. The dirt particles trapped in the polishing pad can cause damage to the paint surface. A clean surface allows the polishing machine to move without sticking or hopping. Claying car paint also helps in completing the paint correction process accurately. 


It is a multi-stage process. Polishing involves using various grades of polish. G ranging from heavy cutting compounds to refined finishing products. Heavy cutting compounds are used to remove the surface contaminants. Finishing products remove the swirl marks or imperfections left behind for final finishes.

Professional paint correction experts use a paint depth gauge to measure the paint thickness on a metal panel. The paint depth gauge is also used to ensure the proper paint depth. If the paint layer becomes thinner after the paint correction process, it can cause irreversible damage. The damage can be a deep scratch on the car paint. LED lamps or Halogen can replicate the effects of sunlight on the car’s surface. The detailers use LED lamps to check the condition of your car paint. They  observe whether any imperfections or scratches have been removed or not.

Some imperfections or scratches are severe enough to not remove them. Removing server scratches can risk car paint  surface. You will require removing a thin paint layer by using techniques like polish products and machine polisher. The combination of polish and pad, with polisher, rounds off the scratch edges, making it less apparent in sunlight. 

Wipe down the panels 

After corrections, wipe down the panels with an isopropyl alcohol. Whipping of the panels  removes oils left over from the polish. It will reveal true finishes, including the mossed area or the area that requires more work. Once complete paint correction is done, it will produce a shiny, stunning reflection. This reflection is shiny enough because there are no imperfections or scratches.

Cost of 3 stage paint correction 

Different variables play a role in calculating 3 step paint correction cost. You may have to pay around $200 to $1000 for a 3 step paint correction. The cost depends on the expertise of the detailer, polishing compounds or detailing products, vehicle size and condition, and the location.

DIY or professional car paint correction
DIY or professional car paint correction

Car paint correction is a labor-incentive and time-consuming part of the full detailing process. So, the process is costly, especially when you hire an experienced car detailing professional. But, Car paint correction is not a DIY project. Suppose you want to attempt car paint correction by yourself, only if you have experience in it. It can be possible rather than removing swirls or scratches you can add more scratches on it. Hire professional car detailers to get the finest finishes like Auto Boss. Get a free consultation, visit our website or contact our experts now!


A 3 stage paint correction is a detailing process. It involves removing minor scratches, holograms, swirls and other imperfections from your paintwork. Professionals use dual action polishing machines, medium and fine polish compounds. They will bring back your original gloss to the paint layer.

A 1-stage car paint correction can fix up to 50% of the imperfections from paints. 2-stage car paint correction fixes 85% of correctable problems. However, a 3 stage detailing includes multistep correction of up to 95% of the paint imperfections. It involves compounding the car paint surface, glazing/polishing, and then, finally, sealing or waxing it. It is a car paint restoration process that can thin out a car’s clear coat.

A 3 stage paint correction involves using a machine polisher and polish compound. If your car paint correction process is completed professionally, it shows true reflections with no blemishes, scratches or swirl marks. 

It is significant to differentiate between true paint correction and other treatments. Products like waxes are designed to fill and mask the car surface imperfection. A polish treatment can not be referred to as car paint correction. Even if  it hides blemishes or scratches on the car surface. Waxing  hides scratches rather than getting removed genuinely. However, wax can be washed away with time.


How long does car paint correction last?

Car paint correction lasts until new swirls or scratches on your car paint appear. The lifespan of the surface with car paint depends on environmental factors. However, the process may last for five years, depending on the car and maintenance.

Can you do car paint correction by yourself?

Car paint correction is not a DIY project because it involves buffing machines and compounds.

How much time is required to complete a 3 step detailing process?

A 3 step detailing takes up to 12 hours to complete.

What is a 2 step polish?

The first step involves having a polishing compound or an aggressive polisher with a cutting pad. The second step is to polish the finishes.