The Best Do-It-Yourself Solutions For Scratched Car Paint

Car paint gets marred all too easily, but you can easily repair scratches yourself (provided they're shallow) with polishing compound, sandpaper and polishing pads.

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remove scratches from car paint sand the scratch
Photo: Family Handyman

How to remove “barely there” car paint scratches

It’s no secret that car paint scratches easily. All you have to do is set a grocery bag on your roof, hood or trunk lid and then slide it off. Result? Instant scratches. But don’t freak out. You might be able to remove these minor paint scratches yourself in less than an hour and for less than $30. To see if your scratches qualify for this DIY repair, run your fingernail across the scratch. If your nail glides across the scratch without catching in it, it’s a minor scratch that’ll polish out. But if the scratch catches your fingernail, it’s a job for a body shop.

If your scratch qualifies, pick up 3,000-grit sandpaper, rubbing and polishing compound, and polishing pads. You’ll also need a portable drill or dual action (DA) polisher unit. You can buy most of the components off-the-shelf at any auto parts store. Or, you can buy a complete scratch removal kit.

You may have heard about the toothpaste method for removing scratches. This only works for really shallow scratches. Toothpaste is just as abrasive as 3,000-grit sandpaper and works as a polishing compound. If you don’t have the necessary tools and materials, this is a great option to remove small scratches.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need to Repair Barely-There Scratches:

  • Cordless drill
  • Polishing compound pad (Find out more tools every home mechanic needs.)
  • 3,000-grit sandpaper
  • Microfibre towel
  • Polishing compound
  • Rubbing compound

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Sand the car paint scratch. Wet the scratch and sandpaper and lightly sand until the finish looks dull and the scratch is no longer obvious. Then clean the surface with a microfibre towel.
  2. Apply compound. Squirt rubbing compound onto the polishing pad and spread it around with the pad. Then run the polisher or drill at 1,200 rpm until you get a light haze. Follow up with polishing compound to restore the shine.
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Polishing car paint scratches
Photo: Shutterstock

How to remove small car scratches

Small scratches are just big enough to stop your fingernail in our test. These scratches have dug down into the base coat. But don’t worry, we can still get them out using basic tools and materials. Remember to wash your car before attempting to remove the scratch. See the simple process below.

Materials You’ll Need to Remove Small Scratches:

  • Microfibre towel
  • Polishing compound
  • Rubbing compound

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Apply scratch-removal product. Dab a quarter-sized bead onto the scrubbing pad and apply directly to the scratch. Work the product into the scratched area, as well as the surrounding area.
  2. Wipe away the residue. Wipe away any residue with a microfibre towel.
  3. Repeat 2-3 times. It is safe to do this method a couple times. You may see a slight difference in the scratch after trying this method once but it hasn’t gone away completely. Give it a couple more go’s and the scratch will get harder and harder to see.

Want to get your car gleaming—without the professional price tag? Try these cleaning tricks car washers won’t tell you.

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remove deep paint scratches from car paint
Photo: Hedgehog94/Shutterstock

How to remove deep car scratches

Deep paint scratches are much harder to handle but can still be eradicated with some patience. If you can see down to the metal panel, then this is the method for you. As with all of these methods, wash your car before attempting to remove a scratch.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need to Remove Deep Scratches:

  • Sandpaper
  • Polishing pad
  • Microfibre towel
  • Masking tape
  • Paper
  • Car wax

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Sand the scratched area. Sand with 2,000-grit sandpaper until you reach your car’s metal panel. Always sand with the direction of the scratch, there is no need to make more scratches.
  2. Spray primer and then paint onto the sanded area. Mask off the area with paper and masking tape to not spread paint/primer to any other area. Spray automotive primer onto the area and let it dry. Next, spray the area with your car’s matching paint. It can be quite difficult to find the correct paint shade but if you look at your manufacturer’s specs, you will be able to find the code that matches your paint. Lay a heavy amount of paint onto the area and let dry.
  3. Polish until the area matches the rest of the car. Make the newly painted area match the rest of your car by polishing the spot. Lay a quarter-sized bead onto a polishing pad or microfibre towel and rub in a circular motion until all the polish is removed.

Next, find out how to repair chipped car paint.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman

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