How to Remove Paint Scratches from a Car

Updated: Nov. 08, 2023

From barely-there scratches to deeper notches, we show you how to remove scratches from a car, along with the best products to use!

It’s not the end of the world, but it’s certainly an inconvenience when you discover a scratch in your car’s paint. You can take it to a body shop for detailing. But if the scratch is shallow enough, you can save yourself money with some DIY car maintenance.

Gareth Boyd, an experienced automotive blogger at Range Rover Fanatic, says paint scratches on cars are quite common and can be caused by various factors, from gravel and branches to bad weather and keys. “Getting them fixed isn’t just about maintaining your car’s aesthetics,” Boyd says. “Paint scratches can expose the underlying metal, which can lead to rust over time if left untreated.”

However, a minor scratch is an easy, cheap fix. To check the depth of the scratch, run your fingernail across it. If your nail can pass over it without snagging, it’s DIY-able. But if it’s a deep gouge, your best bet is to call your local body shop.

How to Remove ‘Barely There’ Scratches from a Car

Car Scratches Toothpaste And Sand Paper Fh12jun 529 13 100Family handyman



We recommend starting with 3000-grit sandpaper. If you can’t find that, give the toothpaste method a try. Toothpaste is naturally abrasive and can be used for polishing. Be aware, however, it will only work on the shallowest of scratches.


1. Sand the car paint scratch

Start by dampening the scratch. Next, sand it down with your sandpaper. You’ll know you’ve sanded enough when the scratch looks like its faded. Wipe the area clean with a microfiber towel.

2. Apply compound

using a drill to polish a carFamily handyman

Apply your rubbing compound to the pad, then begin spreading it. Once you’ve coated the scratch, run the polisher or drill. You’re aiming for 1,200 rpm. When it looks hazy, you’ve run it enough. Finish with a polishing compound to bring back the shine.

How to Remove Small Scratches from a Car

If you try the fingernail test, and your nail snags but you don’t see the metal, you’ve got a small scratch. As long as you’re willing to put in some elbow grease, you can still get it out. As always, wash your car first so you’re starting with a clean surface.



1. Apply scratch-removal product

Man cleaning scratch on car with microfiber cloth and cleaner removerMumemories/Getty Images

Start with a quarter-sized dollop of the rubbing compound. Apply it to your scrubbing pad and start working it into the scratch.

2. Wipe away the residue

Man cleaning car with green microfiber cloth on hoodMumemories/Getty Images

Once you’ve covered the area, wipe it clean with a microfiber towel.

3. Repeat two to three times

If one pass isn’t enough, go ahead and give the scratch a second or third pass. It should get harder to see the scratch each time, so keep going until you’re satisfied.

How to Remove Deep Scratches from a Car

If the scratch goes all the way down to the metal, don’t fret. It’s still possible to remove the scratch yourself. Simply gather your tools and get to work.

If you don’t have prior experience with removing deep automotive paint scratches, we recommend consulting an expert or taking your car to a local body shop.




1. Sand the scratched area

Using a portable electric sander to sand off damaged paint from a car quarter panelEXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/Getty Images

After washing your car, sand down the area around the scratch until you can see the metal. Remember not to sand in the opposite direction of the scratch. We’re trying to repair one scratch, not add more!

2. Spray primer, then paint onto the sanded area

Man with protective clothes and mask painting car using spray compressor.Group4 Studio/Getty Images

Next, prep the scratched area for painting. Be sure to use masking tape and paper to section off the area. Apply automotive primer and wait for it to dry.

After the primer dries, apply the paint. If you’re unsure about the color, check with the manufacturer.

3. Polish until the area matches the rest of the car

Man asian inspection and cleaning Equipment car wash With red car For cleaning to quality to customer on car showroom of service transport automobile transportation automotive image.pakorn sungkapukdee/Getty Images

Once the paint dries, polish the spot so it blends better with the rest of the car. Apply a quarter-sized amount onto a polishing pad or microfiber cloth and work it into the car.