How to Remove Scratches From Car Paint
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Scratches in your car should be removed as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the damage will get worse. If the scratches have left the metal bare, it will quickly rust and rot. Light scratches can be removed fairly easily with toothpaste and car wax, while deeper scratches will need to be carefully painted over. Here’s how to do both methods.
Buff light scratches out with toothpaste
- Car wash soap (not dish soap)
- Car wax
- Clean sponge or microfiber mitt
- Hose with spray nozzle
- Tooth-whitening toothpaste
- Soft, clean cloths
Step 1: Wash the car with car wash soap and dry it off. It will be much easier to see the scratches clearly on a clean panel.
Step 2: Look very closely at the scratches. Make sure they aren’t deep scratches that go into the paint or down to the metal.
If they are only light scratches in the clear top coat, proceed to Step 3.
If they are so deep that you can catch your fingernail in them, skip to Method 2.
Step 3: Apply the toothpaste to a soft, damp, clean cloth.
Step 4: Buff the scratches with the toothpaste using a circular motion. Use firm, steady pressure.
There should be a noticeable improvement in the scratches right away.
Step 5: Wash the toothpaste off the car with car wash soap, rinse, and dry it.
Step 6: Wax the area with a good car wax. Apply the wax with a soft, clean cloth using a circular motion.
Let the wax set for a bit (follow the manufacturer’s directions) then remove it with a clean cloth and polish the car.
How to remove the scratches with fresh paint
- Masking tape (3/4”)
- Paint touch-up kit
- Plastic sheeting or masking paper
- Respirator and protective eyewear
- Sandpaper (180-grit and 600-grit)
- Soft, clean cloths
Step 1: Wipe down the scratched area with a lint-free cloth and prep solvent. The lint-free cloth and prep solvent are usually included in the kit.
Step 2: Sand the scratched area with 180-grit sandpaper until it feels smooth. If the scratches are on a plastic panel, just scuff it up a little for better adhesion.
Step 3: Cover with plastic. Cover the area around the scratches with plastic sheeting and tape it down with the masking tape.
- Tip: Always tape around an entire panel, rather than taping off only a small portion in the middle of a panel. Otherwise, there will be an obvious line in the middle of the panel.
Step 4: Spray the area with primer. Put on the respirator and protective eyewear before spraying primer and paint.
Shake the can well before you spray.
Apply three coats of primer with five to ten minutes of drying time between each one. Use a special primer for plastic if the scratches are on a plastic panel.
Step 5: Wet-sand the primer after it dries for 30 minutes. Use 600-grit wet sandpaper with plain water.
- Tip: Use a wet sponge to keep the sandpaper wet.
Step 6: Wipe down the sanded primer with a clean tack rag after it dries. Do not wipe it down with solvent.
Step 7: Replace the masking tape, if it got wet while you were sanding.
Step 8: Apply the base coat. Shake the spray can thoroughly before spraying and between each coat.
Spray light coats and allow the paint to dry for five to ten minutes before applying another coat. Apply as many coats as necessary to match the surrounding paint.
Step 9: Apply the top clear coat 30 minutes after the last color coat. Shake the clear coat can vigorously.
Spray on four to five light coats with at least 10 minutes of dry time between each coat. The clear coat should be completely dry when you touch it.
Touch the clear coat on the masking tape to test, not the panel.
If you don’t feel comfortable repainting yourself, be sure to compare quotes from auto body repair shops to have a professional paint over your scratches for you.