How To Inspect The Paint On a New Car, Before the Purchase Is Made

When choosing a new car, many people assume that just because a car is on a dealership lot it means that it’s in mint condition. The interior leather looks crisp and the paint looks shiny and new…you already know where we’re heading with this topic – just because the paint is new does not mean it isn’t damaged; what we refer to in the auto detailing industry as “paint defects.”

How To Check On The Lot

There’s actually a simple way to check on the paint while it’s on lot. If it’s daytime, find the point where the sun is reflecting off the paint. If it’s late outside or the sun is hidden by clouds, use your smartphone’s flashlight and shine it directly onto the paint. What are we looking for? Light can expose any defects that may be otherwise hidden:

Challenger Capitol Shine Ceramic Pro scratchChallenger-Capitol-Shine-Ceramic-Pro.before

The above vehicle looked glossy and shiny when first viewed, however upon further inspection by using a light, we can see TONS of tiny scratches. These scratches are most likely the result of drive-thru car washes as well as washing with a dirty rag.  If you think about it, a dealership’s main goal is to move inventory, but the problem is that cars always look better clean. Since there are so many vehicles on the lot, many of these dealerships choose the most efficient way to wash cars instead of the right way. The results are scratches and swirl marks from drive-thru car washes OR from a dirty rag that has “washed” a number of cars before the one you’re about to purchase. That means all of the dirt, sand, grime and whatever else that was on the prior vehicle clings to the rag and scratches the next car.

Should You Still Purchase The Car?

Chances are that if one of the cars has these scratches, a large majority on the same lot have them too. That doesn’t mean you have to walk away from the sale. In fact, pointing out these defects may help you to catch a break on the price (although we can’t guarantee that!).

So while a car can look glossy, it may not be shining at it’s highest level. Enough scratches can dim the glossiness factor of the paint, and since the purchase of a vehicle is statistically one of the largest investments you will ever make, retaining the value of this investment is important for many reasons.

Don’t let scratches like this stop you from buying a new car though. These are most commonly only surface scratches (see “Easy Scratch Fix vs. Deep Scratch Repair” HERE):

capitol shine paint correction ceramic pro scratch fix washington dc.001

Much of the time, the scratches can be buffed out by a professional detailer like Capitol Shine through a process called “paint correction.”

What Is Paint Correction?

The majority of the time, the scratches are on the top layer (clear coat – see image above) and therefore haven’t actually damaged your paint yet. Over time, however, the clear coat scratches will continue to wear down until it reaches your paint base coat, which is where touch-up paint comes in handy. The trick is fixing the scratches before that happens:


As can be seen in the above pictures, fixing these scratches and swirls can make a huge difference in the appearance and gloss of your vehicle.

Our detailers are professionally trained to remove paint defects and allow your vehicle’s true color to shine through, scratch-free! Through a process that involves clay bars, buffing, other formulas and a lot of elbow grease, we can help! Come by our shop for a FREE 30 minute estimate.

Afterwards, you may want to consider a paint protective coating like Ceramic ProOpti-Coat Pro or Paint Protection Film. These coatings add shine and protection to your paint, glass, wheels, plastics and more. However, if there are any imperfections in the the paint, such as scratch or swirl marks, a protective coating would lock them in, so these imperfections need to first be fixed.

If you are unsure whether or not your new car requires paint correction services, that’s no problem! We can give you a FREE estimate in just 30 minutes. To schedule this estimate, a protective coating, wax sealant or any of our other services, please head over to our scheduling page HERE. Please schedule at least 24 hours in advance to ensure time and date.

Ceramic Pro Washington DC Paint Protection Film and Ceramic Coatings