How To Take Scratches Out Of Car Paint – Paint repair options range from simple color waxes and As-Seen-On-TV miracle pens to multi-step treatments matched to the exact color of your car. Being a handy person with a wrench, I chose the latter and tested the Automotive Touchup kit on my pockmarked 1993 Ford Bronco. It costs about $50 depending on the materials you need, compared to $5,000 for a full professional repaint. This collection of spray cans and sandpaper is the closest thing to a date at the paint booth. Here’s how it works and whether it’s worth it.

Unless the car you are repairing is over 20 years old or has been custom painted, the paint is almost certainly a clear catalyzed enamel. Artificially hardened by toxic chemicals, it is stable within hours of factory application.

How To Take Scratches Out Of Car Paint

How To Take Scratches Out Of Car Paint

On the other hand, the paint you are applying, whether primer, tinted or clear, is a lacquer. Lacquers dry because the solvent evaporates, leaving the solids behind. While they may seem hard and sandable in a few minutes, they will continue to shrink for a while. Allow the lacquers to dry at least overnight so they can shrink before adding another coat. If multiple coats are needed to bring the paint film to full thickness for a repair, one coat per day is best. Of course, be cautious. The quantities of solvents used are small, but work in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to degrease the area with solvent before starting.

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Somewhere on your car there should be the factory paint code, probably on a sticker or metal plate under the hood or on the door sill. This will help a lot in finding the correct retouching.

If you can’t match the color in the touch-up paint display at the auto parts store, the next step, although expensive, is the parts counter at the dealership, at least if you have a car that’s less than 10 to 15 years old. years old.

If you’re really stumped, an auto paint dealer can whip you up a custom pint; take a sample, such as the gas cap or a mirror. I’ve also gotten great matches from and their motorcycle counterpart,, where you can mail order touch-up pens and bottles, spray cans, or larger gallons or cans of matching paint.

Minor scratches, those that do not pass through the clear coat into the color, or areas of low shine or orange peel can often simply be buffed out with a compound. Yes, this removes some of the clear coat, so polish the minimum area needed otherwise you will have to re-spray some of the top coat. After you’re done, clean the panel thoroughly to remove the scouring compound.

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You will need to get some matching paint. This same procedure can be used to repair primer scratches by first applying a layer of primer, then sanding away the excess until only the underside of the scratch is covered. Don’t skip this step – you will have poor adhesion and/or rust.

As with any serious touch-up kit, there are a lot of materials. The box for my black Bronco (color code M1724A) includes prep solvent, rubbing compound, various grits of sandpaper, rubber gloves, a rag to collect dust, pre-taped plastic to block overspray (such as blue tape for your car), and cans of primer, base coat and clear varnish.

It all suggests a lot of work, which turns out to be thorough. I watch one of the Automotive Touchup demonstration videos and print the instructions. I take everything outside, then pick out the most unsightly scratches and a rust spot on the hood. I clean them with solvent and rag, then tape a perimeter to protect my beloved Eddie Bauer fender badge.

How To Take Scratches Out Of Car Paint

It seems very wrong to lean on the bumper with a bent piece of 180 grit, but that’s what you have to do. Make the scratch much, much worse before improving it. I get large, ugly white spots on the fender, door, hood and rear quarter panel of the Bronco. But it’s cathartic, in a way, to strip down to bare metal in the name of making your car beautiful again.

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Let’s move on to the sprays. The first is the black sandable primer. It fills the sandpaper scores with something that resembles the original black, immediately reassuring me.

I add three coats to the metal in total, waiting five to ten minutes for each to dry before applying the next. This is a recurring theme in retouching work: spend two minutes painting and then ten minutes waiting to do another two minutes of painting.

In this way, a man could, hypothetically, consume several Founders All Day IPAs over the course of a job.

The primer gives way to the base coat, which means more spray cans. Each application seals the pigment and protective layers underneath. Between one spray and the next, sand with increasingly finer paper.

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Ultimately, you’re wet sanding with 1,500 grit, which feels smoother than a sheet of construction paper. With each interval, you get closer to the shine of the factory finish. The last transparent layer finalizes your work with a shiny shell.

The clear coat dries overnight and I buffed my work with sanding compound to bring out the shine. And it shines, which brings me to an unexpected dilemma: the touch-up job looks better than the original paint.

Inevitably, nine layers of new paint look better than the decades-old factory black. For work in general, I say, success. In fact, too successful. The instructions say that an all-over wax will help it blend. Final step: screw the orbital buffer and hope it fuses.

How To Take Scratches Out Of Car Paint

Of course, if you don’t plan on prepping and painting an entire section of your car, you can try a scratch removal product like Meguiar’s ScratchX 2.0.

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See two sections of the completely scratched Ford tailgate. The right was treated with Scratch X, the left is as it looked before. It can’t resolve the deepest chips and scratches, but the light bits are stripped away and returned to a glossy black.

To repair a deep scratch without having to resort to a complete repaint, you can also try with a marker. It looks like this corner of my Bronco has been polished with an angle grinder, so I purchased a Dupli-Color Paint Pen to try to improve the situation.

The marker comes with an abrasive tip so you can roughen the surface to accept paint. Depending on your car, you may be able to match your exact paint code. But I figured the 26-year-old paint didn’t exactly match itself, so I chose Universal Black.

My brushwork may leave a little to be desired (you can use the tip of a pen for finer scratches or a brush for larger gouges) but this section looks 100% better than before. Give it a couple of coats and some wax and it will definitely improve the look and protect the metal.

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Editor-in-chief and columnist. He now lives in North Carolina, but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. These facts are mutually exclusive.

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How To Take Scratches Out Of Car Paint

The 8 Best Dash Cams for Your Next Road Trip Best Remote Control Car Deals Prime Day 2023 Portable Starter Deals Prime Day 2023 Best Remote Control Car StartersThis article was co-authored with Chad Zani. Chad Zani is an automotive detailer based in Los Angeles, California. He is the director of franchising at Detail Garage, an automotive detailing company with locations in the United States and Sweden. He and his team are auto detailing experts offering car detailing and care services.

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There are 8 references cited in this article, which you can find at the bottom of the page.

This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of all facts cited and confirming the authority of its sources.

Scratches in car paint can be caused by a variety of things. Car accidents, vandalism, poor parking, and other parking mishaps are all common causes of a scratch or two on your perfect paint job. While scratches detract from your car’s appearance, paying a body shop for a new coat of paint or even a small touch-up can be expensive. You can try buffing out superficial scratches with toothpaste, using a scratch remover for small scratches, or sanding and repainting the area if the scratch is deep.

This article was written in collaboration with Chad Zani. Chad Zani is an automotive detailer based in Los Angeles, California. He is the director of franchising at Detail Garage, an automotive detailing company with locations in the United States and Sweden. He and his team are auto detailing experts offering car detailing and care services. This article has been viewed 2,623,005 times.

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