How to Remove Paint Scratches from a Car

Removing paint scratches from your car is easier than you think.

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How to Remove ‘Barely There’ Car Scratches

It’s no secret that car paint scratches easily. Ever set a grocery bag on your roof, hood or trunk lid and then slide it off? You know the 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 will 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 You’ll Need

  • Cordless drill
  • Polishing compound pad

Materials You’ll Need

  • 3000-grit sandpaper
  • Microfiber towel
  • Polishing compound
  • Rubbing compound

1. Sand the car paint scratch

remove scratches from car paint sand the scratchFamily Handyman

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 microfiber towel.

2. Apply compound

remove scratches from car paint polishing compound padFamily Handyman

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.

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, you 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

  • Microfiber towel
  • Polishing compound
  • Rubbing compound

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

polishing car scratchesShutterstock/REDPIXEL.PL

Wipe away any residue with a microfiber towel.

3. Repeat two to three times

It’s safe to do this method a couple times. You may see a slight difference in the scratch after trying it once but it hasn’t gone away completely. Give it a couple more gos and the scratch will be harder and harder to see.

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 You’ll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • Polishing pad
  • Microfiber towel

Materials You’ll Need

  • Masking tape
  • Paper
  • Car wax

1. Sand the scratched area

remove car scratches sandingShutterstock/MongPro

Sand with 2,000-grit sandpaper until you reach your car’s metal panel. Always sand in the direction of the scratch; there is no need to make more scratches.

2. Spray primer and then paint onto the sanded area

remove deep paint scratches from car paintShutterstock/hedgehog94

Mask off the area with paper and masking tape to prevent spreading 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 difficult to find the correct paint shade, but your manufacturer’s specs will give you 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

car polish application remove deep scratchesShutterstock/hedgehog94

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 microfiber towel and rub in a circular motion until all the polish is removed.