How To Fix Scratches On Car

how to fix scratches on car

The Ultimate Guide On How To Fix Scratches On A Car (Easy Steps)

At some point we’ve all dealt with the intense anxiety when scratching our car – or worse, somebody else’s car- and it’s never been a pleasant experience! Your heart sinks when you see that nice big scratch on the paint…

Oh, just thinking about it now gives me the shivers, especially when it goes through the paint and into the metal. Let’s stop thinking about that one, shall we? 

If this has happened to you, you’re probably wondering what the heck you’re going to do now, or how much this is going to cost you. It’s even worse if you’ve done it to someone else’s car and not your own… But don’t stress, we’re here to help you. 

Don’t worry… (It happens to the best of us 🤣)

Thankfully, you have a range of options to choose from to fix this vehicle tragedy. There are three types of scratches you could be dealing with, so here is everything you’ll need to know about the repair process. 

Of course, if you are looking to get your car inspected before purchase, it’s important to have all the scratches removed. Don’t forget, you can technically fail a roadworthy inspection test if the scratches make your car unsafe.

It’s definitely something worth considering fixing before we come and inspect your vehicle. If you would like to know how much a roadworthy inspections costs, read here. If you don’t have a clue what a roadworthy is, then read my guide here.

Table of Contents

What Are The Different Types Of Scratches On Cars?

Base Scratches

First, there are superficial base scratches, which are only just brushing the clear coat of the car. This is also known as the shiny topcoat.

In some cases, this type of scratch can be easily buffed off with buffing compounds from your local car retailer. This makes this a stress-less type situation.

Through The Coat Scratch

Then there are scratches that go a lot deeper into the base coat. These are scratches that go through the clear coat, and into the base colour itself. Basically, moderately more difficult to fix. But still, don’t start stressing. We can help you get rid of these…

Underneath The Primer Scratch

The next type of scratch is even deeper. It will go through the clear coat, base coat and underneath the primer.

Underneath this is an etch-primer, and then the bare metal or cold-pressed steel. This may sound concerning as it’s a bit more of an intricate ordeal but don’t stress. We’ll get you through this. 

Why You Should Fix Your Car Scratches As Quickly As Possible...

Failing to patch repair car scratches in time will allow moisture to enter the damaged area, which you don’t want to happen. This could be quite expensive in the future, so if we can avoid this then please do. 

The dampness will seep into and underneath the paintwork, causing the paint to lift and rust to form on the area where it is scratched. Not being proactive just means it’ll be more costly for you.

Repairing even a small scratch professionally can require the whole panel to be repainted, and yes this can get expensive. Light reflects on a freshly painted car surface, and this can cause flashing in the paint

To do this you really would want a skilled spray-painter, especially in metallic paint jobs which most modern cars have. However, if you ensure that your scratches never get to this stage 

Essentially, if you care for your car’s paint by fixing the scratches not only will the paint last longer, but the value of your car will also stay higher for longer. If you’re trying to sell your vehicle, then you’ll lose money if it has deep scratches.

a bad scratch that has been left for a long time

The Few Bulletproof Ways To Remove Scratches From Your Car (Step By Step)

What Could I Use For An Easy Car Scratch Fix?

If it is only through the clear coat, it can be salvageable with your own expertise. You can buff it out by hand with some cheesecloth and some cutting compound, and then easily remove the scratch on your car.

We recommend isolating the scratch and start getting to work with an abrasive paste and a cloth. Usually, you’ll be able to buff these out using a big of old fashioned elbow grease. 

If it is any deeper than that, you can get a colour-matching pen or clear pen that simply draws over the scratched surface like a texter. 

Using a pen is the simplest beginner fix for anyone even with little or no experience with car paint repair. This may not look perfect, but it may ease your panicking at this point.

What Materials Do I Need?

  • Rags or microfiber towels
  • A degreaser or methylated spirits
  • A paint colour pen or clear pen
  • A buffer of your choice
  • 320 Wet And Dry
  • Meguiar’s Scratch-X
  • Primer
  • Rubbing Compound

Wipe Down The Surface Area

Firstly, make sure you’re using a degreaser or methylated spirits and wipe them into the scratch with a clean rag or microfiber towel. Make sure the surface is oil, wax and grease-free! You can also use soap and water as an alternative. 

You don’t want to be buffing any dirt into your paint… A clean surface means that it will work better for removing the scratch without making it look worse.

wiping down the surface of the car to fix the scratch

Find Your Paint Code Reference Number

Under your bonnet, refer to your paint code reference number, which is located on your compliance plate on the firewall of the vehicle. 

It should say ‘paint’ with a number next to it! If the colour is unavailable, you can always get the year and model number of your car and ask your local automotive specialists for assistance.

Use The Right Pen For The Job

Once the colour has been found, then it’s made into a touch-up pen, and the pen can be used to draw directly across the lines. 

Even though the colours appear to match, test the colour pen on a section of the boot or under the bonnet. This way, you can see the similarities in colour tone. Make sure the pen is also well shaken! 

It’s important to say this a second time: ensure to wipe the scratch with a degreaser or other alternatives first.

Use The Pen Correctly

Ideally, you want a colour-match pen to match the colour of your vehicle, and then a clear coat pen to go over the top. When you put on the clear, you also need to do it in one decent stroke. 

Don’t play around with this too much, as the strength of the paint will eat away the car paint, stripping the existing paint job. Put it on quickly and accurately, then it will blend. It sounds harder than it actually is… We promise! 😅

The BEST But More Expensive Way To Remove Scratches:

Buff It Up!

If you have a buffer, it will help a lot. A buffer is similar looking to a grinder but has a larger head on the end with a lamb’s wool or foam buffer head. The buffer spins a lot slower than a grinder and usually has a variable speed controller so it can speed a lot slower.

It’s important not to mix these two up. It’s also worthwhile to buy a more expensive buffer, as this will work a lot better as opposed to a cheaper version.

If you are just starting out using a buffer and repairing a car, it is best to do it by hand. It is very easy to burn the paint using an electric buffer if it latches on to the paintwork.

fixing the scratches using a buffer

The Most Affordable Way To Remove A Car Scratch?....

If You Want To, Do It By Hand!

For smaller scratches, you are free to cut it out by hand with a cutting compound with gentle circular motions, repeating this process until the scratch isn’t visible. 

Overall, with scratches, you can choose between the pen, the cutting compound, or of course a professional job-well-done. 

Although a DIY approach is good, you may end up spending the same amount that you would for a professional to do the job for you. 

It’s up to you in terms of what you want to spend and how you want to spend it!

Base Coat and Deep Coat Scratches – Can I Repair Them?

For a deeper scratch, you could use the previous technique, but it is really a temporary fix. 

You made need to allow the paint pen to dry and do several coats to ensure that it’s sealed. Then you could get the remaining bodywork done by a professional. 

If this is a relatively new car, it is worth repairing it properly through a proper spray-painter. This will retain the value of the car. 

You wouldn’t want the value to decrease, especially if you got it recently. How frustrating would that be!

Here Are Some Of Our Best Tips For Removing Scratches Yourself...

If you really want to save it yourself, you could try to mask the area with automotive masking tape and lightly spray over the area with a pre-mixed spray can. Ensure you are using the correct car colour coating. 

The scratch would then be rubbed back with 320 wet and dry. Next, apply a primer and then a topcoat after the primer has dried. This may or may not achieve the desired finish, so it really is at your own risk. 

Honestly, it’s worth looking after your investment. If you have vehicle insurance, you may be able to claim the cost of the professional repairs back, and then pay the excess of your insurance. After all, besides your house, your car is one of your biggest investments!

Unfortunately, there is no quick solution for a deep coat, as it really needs a professional to re-spray and re-blend the car body. 

Such a small deep coat scratch, even on one panel, will require a large amount of work to get the car back to its original condition. With all of these steps aside, it will have to be repaired properly.

The Best Products To Help With Removal!

In terms of the best products available to you, Maguires is classed as the best product for scratches, as well as Kitten cutting compound. 

Kitten compound is a buffing scratch removal, it can last for many years and can obtain similar results for a cheaper price. 

3M also make everything from sticky tapes to sandpaper and are the best for most products. Although for cutting compounds and polishes (as well as interior products) Maguire’s wins, hands down.

What If I’m Not Satisfied With My Attempt To Fix The Scratches?

If you’re not happy with the outcome and prefer to get the scratch repaired to perfection, professional repair work on a panel can start from $450-$1500 in Australia. 

Although, when it comes to the overall cost it really depends on the intricacy of the damage, length and depth of the scratch, and the type of metallic.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

Pearl paints, for example, are generally near impossible to match up. Colours that are straight colours for example (white, red, blue) are the easiest to match and cheaper to repair. No blending/flashing is required. 

Blending/flashing helps colours to blend into the adjacent panels, so in this case, sometimes a small key scratch isn’t worth repairing. For this to happen, the whole panel needs to be re-sprayed completely. Again, don’t do anything that is going to make your car unsafe for roadworthy purposes.

Here’s a lazy tip: put a sticker over the scratch and put a matching sticker on the other side! 

No, but seriously, unless you’re okay with the possibility of it not being perfect, consider a professional to do the job. Especially if you are looking to sell your car and someone purchases an inspector to look over before the sale…

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