How to Remove Scratches from Cars the First Time

How To Remove Scratches From Cars' Paintwork

When you get a scratch on your car, whether it’s the first scratch or one of many, it can feel bothersome, frustrating, and disappointing. What’s more, there are hundreds of different methods online for how to remove scratches from cars paintwork. How are you to know which one is best for you? There are several different methods you can use and different steps you can take, which we talk about below.

Evaluating Your Scratches

Before you do anything to the scratches on your car, take some time to look them over carefully. The deepness of your scratch defines whether it can be fixed easily or not. An excellent trick to use is the fingernail test. Run your fingernail over the scratch on your car lightly several times. If your nail catches in the scratch, it may require touch-up paint. If you can’t feel the scratch when running your fingernail over it, it’s usually an easy fix.

Once you know how deep your scratches go, it’s also time to consider the price. Regardless of your vehicle make or model, the cost of your car’s scratch fix varies widely. Professional work for small, shallow scratches usually costs anywhere up to $300, while the deepest paint scratches could cost you up to $1,500.

A shallow scratch may be fixable from home if you feel comfortable doing it yourself, but deeper scratches can require additional supplies or may need to be handled by a professional. The scratches on keyed cars, for example, can vary from very deep to rather shallow.

Depending on what your insurance deductible is and what coverage you have, some car insurance companies like Geico may cover significant scratch damage. If you have already hit your deductible for the term and don’t mind filing a claim, this may be the simplest and cheapest way to go. However, if the scratching is minimal, paying to hire out the fix or trying to patch it yourself may be better.

Decide on a Plan of Action

Your next big step will be to decide what you’re going to do. If your scratches are deep and you know a trustworthy repairman, they may be able to do a better job than you could. However, make sure you’re going through someone reliable. If you’re not, you may end up paying money for a botched repair job, or you might find afterward that you could have done the work just as well yourself.

If you have only light scratches on your car, you may only need something as simple as a polishing compound. Light scratches usually only affect the clear outer coat of the car’s paint, so repairing them is reasonably easy. The objective is to even out the jagged edges of the scratch, helping it catch less light and blend back into the paint’s surface. A gently abrasive rubbing compound can usually achieve this.

However, if you have scratches that go below the clear layer, you may be in for a bit more trouble. For these, you will need to either buy a scratch repair kit or buy the individual products themselves. Most of these repair kits usually range from anywhere between $15-$25 depending on what’s included in them. If you’d rather buy the pieces separately, you’ll need to buy:

  • Cleaning cloths
  • Sandpaper
  • Touch-up paint that matches your car
  • Primer (if the scratch reaches bare metal)
  • Clear coat paint
  • Scratch-filling putty, if the scratch is particularly deep
  • Finishing wax or polish
  • Car cleaning products or prep solvent

Keep in mind that, for touch-up paint, different car manufacturers use different types of paint, and some paint color formulations may be more difficult to find than others. A Ford that appears to be the same color as another brand of car, for example, may need a totally different color formulation even though it looks the same.

For flat colors, like plain black or white, this may not matter as much. However, for specialized paint colors like limited-edition paints or metallic colors, you should take care in selecting the touch-up paint you use. Always test your product in an area that can’t be seen first, like inside a door or underneath a bumper.

Getting Started

To get started on repairing your scratches, the first thing you’ll need to do is clean the area thoroughly. If you proceed with trying to paint the scratches on your car without cleaning the area first, you might end up with particles in your paint or with paint that doesn’t stick. You don’t want either of these solutions to happen, so make sure to clean it thoroughly before you begin.

If you want to clean the area with scratches only, try using a prep solvent to clean any grease or wax from the immediate area. If you have the time, though, washing and drying the whole car is an even more secure method. After all, if you don’t clean the entire car, you could end up brushing dirt or oil into your work area, which could cause you trouble later.

Additionally, you will want to consider parking your car in the garage, if you have one, for your repair job. If you don’t have a garage available, it might be useful to borrow a friend’s for the afternoon. You don’t want any pollen, dust, or other particulate falling into your freshly-painted scratches.

Once your car is nice and clean, go over the scratches with fine or medium-grit sandpaper, depending on the deepness of the scratch. If you have significant repairs to do, it might make sense to use a sanding attachment for your drill instead, as this will speed up your efforts significantly.

Using Touch-Up Paint

Once your scratch is nicely evened out, clean the area thoroughly of dust. Go over the area with prep solvent again if you feel it necessary. Once the area has been allowed to dry, it’s time to start repainting. If your scratch goes down to the primer layer – usually a layer of grey paint beneath the color itself – or down to the bare metal, you’ll need to start with primer first. If not, you can start with your touch-up paint right away.

Be very careful when applying your touch-up paint. If you’ve elected to use a spray-style paint or a touch-up pen, you’ll have an easier time than you would with brush-style paint. Instead of using the brush provided with your paint, an excellent trick is to use a toothpick or a smaller paintbrush instead, as this can help you get the paint into the repaired area more carefully.

After the paint has been applied, you’ll need to wait for it to dry. Once it’s dried, you may need to apply additional coats. If your repair looks even and thorough, you can proceed to apply a new clear coat on top of your new work. However, if your paint repair looks uneven or has raised edges, you may want to consider sanding it again before applying the final coats.

Other Things to Remember

Just because your car has a scratch doesn’t mean it’s done for. New truck prices and car prices are much higher than even a professional repair, after all. 

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