The Obvious Reason Why Car Detailing Cannot Fix Paint Chips

Nobody wants paint chips on their car, but, nevertheless, they occur often and quickly. The easy answer, you would think, is to go to the local car detailing service, get an extensive detail, and hope that this removes the paint chips. But will it?

Unfortunately, car detailing does not fix paint chips, but can hide them by applying touch up paint. In order to fix paint chips, sanding and repainting the entire body panel is necessary. This is a service provided only by car painters and not detailers.

But why exactly do chips need a repaint, while scratches can be removed by car detailers? The reason lies in the way in which paint is applied to a car.

What paint chips are

Due to the depth of the damage, paint chips, along with deep scratches, differ from light scratches, which can be buffed out. In order to grasp the cause, you need to understand how car paint is layered.

Car paint is not just one layer of paint, but instead multiple layers that all have different functions. Although there are basically three types of paint, they are applied multiple times when a car is painted.

The following are the types of paint applied while painting a car:

  • E-Coat
  • Primer
  • Color / Base Coat
  • Clear Coat


The E-Coat is the first layer of paint that attaches to the body and frame of the car. It acts as a protection against rust and has a thickness of around 0.017 inches to 0.022 inches.

The interesting part is that this paint is not sprayed on like normal paint. Rather, the car’s body and frame, as well as the paint, are first electronically charged. Then the paint is applied and baked to make it hard and durable.

Due to this electronic method, every angle of the frame and body can be perfectly covered with E-Coat.


It is necessary to prime the car before applying the actual paint, because the primer acts as a bonding agent and allows the paint to adhere to the car properly.

Primer is the first coat on the car, being applied directly to the bare metal. The thickness of the primer usually ranges from 0.03 inches to 0.035 inches. Sometimes, in newer cars, primer is not sprayed directly on the bare metal but on an E-Coat instead.

Color / Basecoat

The basecoat is the layer that will give actual color to the car. It has a thickness of around 0.01 inches to 0.02 inches, which makes it the thinnest coating of all.

The basecoat is applied in multiple thin layers in order to hide any imperfections. Nowadays, there is a nearly endless range of color choices for cars, as well as the option for a metallic paint job, whose particles would be embedded in this layer as well.

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Clear coat

The clear coat is the thickest coating of all with a thickness of 0.03 inches to 0.05 inches. This is because clear coat is designed to protect the basecoat from damages, so the added thickness increases the protection.

As the name indicates, the clear coat is transparent in order let the color shine through.

Damages and scratches that only affect the clear coat are easily repaired by polishing the clear coat. This is not an option for the other coats on the car.

Paint chips and deep scratches not only damage the clear coat, but also the color or the base coat. Sometimes, they can even damage the primer.

Car detailing and paint correction

Car detailing can remove scratches and make a car look brand new, but it cannot fix chips in the paint. The best that car detailing can do is to touch up the paint chips. The reason for this lies in the nature of the affected paint layer.

Light scratches usually only scratch the clear coat. Polishing the scratch will remove a bit of clear coat and level it, so that the scratch is no longer visible to the human eye.

If the scratch manages to break through all the clear coat layers and reach the paint coat, polishing will no longer work, as there is no more clear coat to remove. This means that the area needs to be sanded, with new clear coat and maybe even new paint applied, before that part of the car can be polished.

Paint chips usually damage the paint as far as the color coat, so that you can see the primer directly. Now, these can be touched up by touch up paint, but there will always be a noticeable difference in what the touched up area looks like.

In order to really fix a paint chip, the area needs to be thoroughly sanded and the whole paint job needs to be built again from the ground up again. This involves priming the paint, applying a paint layer, and adding a new clear coat on top.

And, as mentioned previously, this service is rarely performed by car detailers and usually only by car painters.

Does paint correction fix paint chips?

So, now you might wonder if paint correction fixes paint chips. The answer is, unfortunately, no, as paint correction only involves polishing and buffing. Maybe your local car detailer will offer to touch up the paint chips, which is a valid option if your car has a basic color like black or white. Then a touch-up is unlikely to be noticed. But if your car has some sort of special paint job, such as a metallic look, it is nearly impossible to get the right alignment of particles with a touch-up. This results in the touch-up being much more easily noticeable.

Paint correction does not fix paint chips. Correcting paint is done via polishing or buffing it, which removes paint instead of applying fresh one, which is needed to fill up paint chips. If you have a car with a basic color like white or black, paint correcting can touch up the paint chip.

Key Takeaways

  • Paint chips damage the base coat and maybe even the primer
  • Chips can be touched up by car detailers if the car is black or white
  • The proper repair of a paint chip involves a full repaint
  • Polishing does not remove paint chips
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge