Guide to Fixing Car Scratches (Do it Yourself!)

Car scratches are inevitable, even the most cautious and meticulous car owners will have their beloved cars become victim to scratches, chips and imperfections from time to time. Since respraying your car is an expensive procedure and not very feasible every time you get a new scratch, there is thankfully another option: fix the scratch yourself.

How Deep is the Scratch?

There are varying severities of scratches, which means that not all scratches should be treated the same. The first thing you need to look at when assessing a scratch is its depth.

Modern cars have a clear coat sealing over the paint, this acts as a protectant and is the outermost layer of a paint job. If your scratch is a minor one that doesn’t extend past the clear coat and top layer of paint, you are in luck, these are the easiest to fix and can be easily fixed with a mild scratch remover such as T-Cut.

Deeper scratches go beyond and cut into the paint itself, deeper scratches such as these would require a reapplication of paint.

If the scratch reaches beyond the paint and cuts into the metal of the car, you will need to take it to a professional to be repaired.

What You Will Need to Fix a Scratch

Before you fix your car’s scratch, make sure you have all the supplies ready:

  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Buffer pads
  • Buffer
  • Soap
  • Rubbing Compound
  • Sandpaper
  • Rags
  • Car wax
  • Custom paint to match your car

Fixing Shallow Scratches

Clean the Area
Thoroughly wash the area around the scratch. If any dirt or debris is left, it can rub into the paint causing further damage. Wash with soap and water, you can also use a solvent such as white spirit or paint thinner to remove wax and oils. Dry well.

Sand the Area
With fine sandpaper, lightly sand the scratched area, going in the same direction as the scratch. Make sure you only sand the clear coat, do not sand beneath that. Once you are finished, rinse the area, then using a microfiber cloth, wipe the area dry.

Apply a Rubbing Compound
Using a buffer pad, apply the rubbing compound over the area. This will help smooth the paint surface, preparing it for waxing.

Using the lowest setting on a buffer pad, polish the area for around 10-15 seconds. For around one minute, turn the speed up to around 2000 RPM. Polish the area using a side to side motion. Polish the area until the dullness has gone away.

Wash and Wax
The last step is to wash the area on more time, then use a wax to seal it.

Fixing Deep Scratches

If you’re dealing with a deeper scratch that has penetrated through the paint and primer, it’s going to take a bit more work to fix.

Find the Matching Paint Color
Since you want the repaired scratch area to look natural, it’s of vital importance that you get an exact color match to use. You can usually find the color code tag of a vehicle in the wheel well or inside the glove box. It may also be found under the driver’s seat, sun visor on the passenger side or in the door jamb. Once you have found the color code tag, you will be able to get an exact color match for your paint.

Apply Color to the Scratched Area
Before you apply color to the scratched area, it’s important to clean the area with solvent. Now that you have your paint ready, you need to start touching up the scratched area. You can use a fine tipped brush or a paint brush. Paint over the scratched area and leave over night to cure.

After 12-24 hours, using 1000 grit sandpaper, sand the area. Continue sanding until the paint surface has been smoothed down and is not popping up. Make sure to clean the area often.

Apply Compound and Paint
Apply compound into the area, until glossy. Next you will need to paint over the scratched area until it’s filled and level. After you have painted the area and let the paint dry, apply the compound one more time.

Clear Coat
Clean the area with solvent, then spray a light coating of clear coat over the surface. Using sandpaper, sand off any areas with excess clear coat. Allow the clear coat to dry for 24 hours.

Repeat the process at least two times.

Fixing a scratch yourself is not that hard but don’t forget any of the steps! Good luck on your own auto DIY project!

Daniel Calvin is the blog writer for Capristo, Australia BMW Performance Exhausts, sharing high torque content in the sports car world.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Photo attribution: Athol Mullen licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

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