How to Fix Scratches on Your Car

Unless you keep your car locked away at all times, you will probably find it scratched at some point. Here are some tips for fixing up your paint job without spending a fortune.

Rubber residue and other non-scratches

Not all scratches are actually scratches at all, says John Decker of Popular Mechanics. The first thing to do is figure out whether the mark actually penetrated the clear-coat, the outer layer of paint that gives most cars their shiny finish and keeps the sun from damaging the pigment of the paint underneath.

If the object that struck your car was softer than the paint – examples include the rubber on a shopper cart – it may just leave a line of residue on the surface of the clear-coat. To test whether this is the case, just try running your fingernail across the mark sideways.

“If it’s a mark that appears to be from rubber, plastic or even other paint, it may come off easily with an aerosol tar or adhesive remover,” says Decker.

Scratch removal

True scratches go deeper into paint, going into the clear-coat, the colour and even penetrating the primer. Deeper scratches should be fixed in a body shop, but you can take care of the smaller ones that only penetrate the clear-coat or partway through the colour.

You will want to sand the paint down to the depth of the scratch and no further, says Decker. Here are the basic steps:

  • To make sure you don’t go too far, fill the scratch with a substance that contrasts with the colour of your paint. Decker uses the example of black shoe polish for a red car.
  • Use 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper on a rubber-sanding block, dipping it into water with a bit of dish detergent.
  • Sand the scratched area gently, at 60-degree angles up and down the scratch, until the shoe polish is no longer visible. Wet the sandpaper frequently.
  • Once you’ve sanded down the scratch, without having gone through to the next layer of paint, apply a rubbing compound using terry cloth or a power buffer.
  • After removing any coarse traces of buffer, apply some car wax.

Note that if like most cars built in the past couple of decades, yours has a clear-coat finish, and you will need to re-spray. For more details on the process, check out this guide from Popular Mechanics.

Avoid scratches

Many scratches happen in overcrowded home garages. You can avoid this kind of accident by keeping your garage well organized. For ideas on organizing your space, check out Garage Living, specializing in custom garage interiors across Ontario.

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