Paint Correction on a Miata

I fell in love with Dan‘s Miata as soon as he brought it home, and after I drove it, I immediately wanted a Miata for myself. His car has been extremely reliable, has low miles, and it’s one of the cleanest NA’s I’ve seen. It’s hard to find an NA Miata that hasn’t been butchered in some way. Although there was one problem with his car, the paint was absolutely destroyed. More scratches and swirl marks than I’ve ever seen, and water spots that were burned deep into the paint. We decided we had to change that, but nobody wants to pay a fortune for a new paint job. We knew we were going to correct the paint. Normally when a car gets too ugly you’ll wash and wax it, however, that is only temporary, as the wax will eventually disappear, leaving your car looking as ugly as it was before. The fix is to actually correct the imperfections in the paint. This is quite the long and tedious process, so lets get started.

When he pulled up I went around the car and shot some pictures so you could see just how bad it was.

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There were water marks and bird poop all over the car. You can actually see how the paint on the hood has almost lost all of its reflective quality; it appears matte in finish.

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Same story on the side of the car, scratches, calcium build up, dull finish, and swirl marks.

We started by rinsing the car down and getting all of the loose dirt off the car, then we started to wash it. When washing a car, you should almost always use car soap, but were using dish soap in order to strip the car of any wax and sealants that were previously on the car, we wanted the paint to be completely “naked”.

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Foam guns are really great, they foam the soap you’re using and make washing the car a lot easier. After the car was washed and dried we drove it in the garage to get started. Our first step was to clay the car. The best way to explain a clay bar is to say that it’s like a really sticky play-doh. You use it to get rid of any extra dirt and contaminants that weren’t removed when washing the car.

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I don’t think this car was ever clayed because there were a few times that the clay would be black from only doing a small section of paint. After that was finished we rolled it back into the sun to see just how bad the paint really was. With all dirt gone, and any wax or sealant removed, the true condition of the paint would show itself.

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As you can see, it was bad. Really bad. This car had huge swirl marks all over. Anytime light hit the car it would show giant cobwebs of scratches. Once we were done admiring the terrible condition of the paint we rolled it back into the garage and got to work. Our next step was to compound the paint. This would remove most of the ugly scratches and imperfections that we could see.

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Were using a microfiber cutting disc with our compounding fluid to give us the cut we need to properly correct this paint. After this step, the car was free of those irritating swirl marks and small scratches that previously littered the paint. But compounding leaves the paint’s finish slightly dull and hazy, which was already an improvement on this car, but not ideal. So, we went on to the next step, which is polishing. This is roughly the same process as before, just with less abrasive products. By using less abrasive products after their more abrasive counterparts, we are leveling the paint; leaving the finish perfectly flat and leveled, and giving back the shine and luster.

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Dan got a quick picture of me just before we finished polishing. Were using a foam finishing pad with our jeweler’s polish. To the right of me is a panel that hasn’t been polished yet, but has been compounded. You can already see a huge difference in the paint even before being finished. That is still naked paint, there are no fillers to make it seem as if the paint is in good condition, the paint actually looks like that. At this point we were quite exhausted, and were more focused on finishing than taking pictures. After we finished polishing we added a layer of sealant to the paint to protect the newly corrected paint, and on top of that we added a thin layer of carnauba wax to give the paint incredible depth and shine, as well as achieving that coveted “wet look”.

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After quickly realizing that the garage didn’t give the car’s new finish any justice, we headed out to a nearby parking structure hoping to get a few pictures and to hopefully capture just how much better the car looked.

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It looked like the car got a new paint job, the paint gained back all of its lost shine.

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Cant forget about the engine either.

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We searched around for a good spot in the structure to really show how much better the car looks, and we eventually found a really bright light and we put the car directly under it. What we saw was amazing, but before the big reveal, here’s the paint before:

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..and after:

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The paint looks perfect, the swirl marks and calcium build up that were previously all over the car were gone, leaving behind a beautiful shine. The hood is a mirror now, no dullness or swirls, and it looks as if it was just re-painted. It was a really long day, all said and done we put about ten hours into the car, but it was completely worth it. The car came out great and it was a good time, we had a lot of fun. Seeing the paint transform after every stage was extremely satisfying, and we couldn’t be more happy with the finished product. The pictures honestly can’t express just how good the car looks. Now that his car has perfect paint, I’m even more jealous of Dan and that little Miata of his.

Ryan