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Your Basic Car Scratch Repair Guide

Unfortunately, respraying your car at an auto body shop can leave a serious dent in your wallet. Luckily, between paying a professional and living with the scratch, there’s a third option: fix the scratch yourself. Use these steps as a guide for your at-home car scratch repair project.

First, Establish Scratch Depth

Not all scratches are created equal! Before you can repair your scratch, you’ll need to establish its depth.

The clear coat is the last and outermost layer of paint on your vehicle – below that is the paint (basecoat,) the primer, then the actual metal/body panel of your vehicle.

A minor scratch is one that doesn’t pass through the clear coat and colour – these are much easier to fix than deeper scratches that penetrate through to the primer or metal body of your car.

You Will Need:

  • Buffer pads
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Buffer
  • Soap
  • Sandpaper
  • Rubbing compound
  • Rags
  • Car wax
  • Custom paint that matches your vehicle

For Shallow Scratches:

Step 1: Wash

Thoroughly wash and dry your vehicle, paying close attention to the scratched area.

Step 2: Sand

Lightly sand the scratched area in the direction of the scratch, taking care to sand through the clear coat only, but no further. Rinse the area with water every now and then, and avoid catching dirt on your sandpaper as this will only cause further scratching. Once you’re finished sanding, rinse the area then dry it with a microfiber cloth.

Step 3: Apply Rubbing Compound

Next, apply your rubbing compound using a buffer pad. This is an abrasive that smooths the paint surface and prepares it for waxing. You’ll want to move onto the next step fairly quickly so that the rubbing compound does not dry out.

Step 4: Polish the Area

Polish the area with a buffer pad – using the lowest level available – for about ten seconds. Then, turn up the speed to 2000 RPM for one minute, using a side to side then downward motion. Keep polishing until dullness is gone, but don’t polish the same spot for more than one second at a time as you may go through the paint layer.

Step 5: Wash and Wax

Lastly, wash the area once more, then wax to seal the newly applied paint.

For Deep Scratches

If you can see metal or a different colour through your scratch, you’re dealing with a that penetrates through to the primer or metal of your vehicle. Not to worry – these can still be removed with a little extra work:

Step 1: Get the Right Paint Colour

In order to find the exact colour of your car’s paint job, look for the factory-paint code on a metal plaque or a sticker in the doorsill, or under the hood of your car.

Step 2: Clean the Area

Wash the scratched area thoroughly with solvent.

Step 3: Apply Colour

Now it’s time to do your touch up – carefully apply the correct colour paint or primer to the scratched area. If you’re using a pen, make sure to shake well before you begin application. A fine-tipped touch up brush works just as well – simply make sure to keep a steady hand while painting to avoid leaving unsightly brush strokes behind. Let your newly-applied paint cure overnight.

Step 4: Sand

The next day, use a 600- or 1000-grit sandpaper (with a rubber block or sponge as backing) to sand the area. Keep sanding until any paint standing out from the surface is smoothed down, cleaning the area often.

Step 5: Apply Compound

Rub compound into the damaged area to return its glossy finish.

Step 6: Paint & Compound – Again

Repeat the painting process until the scratched is completely filled and level, then apply compound once more. Make sure not to wax your car for at least a month to allow all the solvents to escape.

Step 7: Apply Clear Coat

The last step of the deep scratch repair process is to apply a layer of clear coat.

First, clean the area with solvent, then spray a light coat or clear coat, and let it dry. Sand off excess product with sandpaper, then apply compound. Apply at least 2 coats of clear coat and compound, making sure to let the product dry for 24 hours between each coat.

Don’t Forgo Maintenance & Insurance

Repairing a scratch may leave your vehicle looking brand new, but looks can be deceiving. Don’t forgo regular maintenance to keep your car running like new, and always ensure that your vehicle is properly insured to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your (scratch-free!) car.

Your Basic Car Scratch Repair Guide

It happens to the most cautious of motorists. Whether it’s the fault of another driver, a vandal, or even a pet with sharp claws, no one likes to find a scratch in their vehicle’s paint.