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How to Remove Paint Scratches

Removing paint scratches from your car is easier than you think

Car paint scratches all too easily, but you can easily remove shallow paint scratches yourself with polishing compound, sandpaper and polishing pads.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Sand, rub and buff the finish

Photo 1: Sand the scratch

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.

Photo 2: Apply compound

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.

It’s no secret that car paint scratches easily. All you have to do is set a grocery bag on your roof, hood or trunk lid and then slide it off. 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’ll 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 (one choice is the 3M Scratch Removal System No. 39071 available through our affiliation with amazon.com). Here’s the procedure.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

You’ll also need a polishing compound pad.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

You can buy these materials separately or in a scratch removal kit.

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