Scratches on a shiny new car or collector’s item are bread and butter for a body shop. For the consumer who drives a grocery getter that is held together with duct tape and prayer, learning to remove scratches from cars helps save money.
Step 1: How deep is the Scratch?
J.D. Power does a good job explaining the anatomy of a paint job. It starts with primer, which is the first layer on the vehicle’s treated steel. Next the factory applies a basecoat, which determines the color of the car. The final layer of paint is a clear coat that protects the basecoat and also contributes to the shiny appearance of the car. To remove scratches from cars, determine whether the scrape only damages the clear coat, the clear- and base coats, or actually goes all the way down into the primer and perhaps even steel.
Tip: Use the tip of the fingernail to gauge the depth of a scratch. A marred clear coat requires a different approach than a damaged basecoat.
Step 2: Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
Remove wax buildup, tar, bug guts and any smears of transferred paint from the affected area. Even for the driver who later on decides to just hide the scratches on a car, having a clean area to work with is essential. If all else fails, grease-cutting dish soap and water will do the trick.
Tip: Have some lint-free paper towels or shop towels ready to thoroughly dry off the area.
Step 3: Concealing or Buffing out Scratches on a Car
Concealing scratches on a car
Auto supply stores stock small vials of paint for the consumer with scratches on a car. That being said, it is critical that the touch-up paint and car paint actually match; fail to get a complete match and the scrape turns into a darker or lighter marking on an otherwise monochromatic surface.
Finding a paint match does not have to be difficult; an option sticker in the glove box, a paint code under the hood or a call to the dealership with the VIN number make it possible to find the right paint match. If all else fails, the year, make and model of the car can get the consumer into the general vicinity of paints used by the manufacturer. Apply the paint from the tube according to the instructions printed on the package.
Buffing out scratches on a car
Apply a substance of contrasting color into the scratch. Popular Mechanics suggests dark shoe polish for light-colored cars and White-Out for dark models. Apply 3,000-grit wet/dry sandpaper to the scratch and bring the surrounding area down to the deepest level of the scratch. Stop when the contrasting material is being rubbed out with the sandpaper. Apply rubbing compound with a buffer when done.