Keyed Car vs. Scratched: Is There a Way to Tell a Difference?

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There’s nothing worse than noticing a long, unsightly, mark on your car. While both a keyed car and a scratched car can produce a streak of this kind, and both will likely require some car repair, you might be wondering if there’s a way to tell the difference between the two to determine what happened to your vehicle while you weren’t around.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to tell just by looking at your car if it was keyed or scratched. But, if your car is damaged through one of these two means, there’s a lot of other information that’ll be useful for you to know. Here, we’re going over the actual damage caused when your car is keyed or scratched, common causes of scratches, what to do if you think your car was keyed, plus insurance coverage and repairs in both events.
While you might not be able to tell if your car was keyed or scratched, learning about the damage and how to repair it will help you in this sticky situation.

The damage done

According to the Car Cleaning Guide, there are three types of car scratches that each leave a blemish on your car to varying degrees, depending on the paint coat the scratch reaches. There are three coats of paint on your car. The primer coat goes on first, followed by the color (base) coat, and then the clear coat on the very top.
If your car has a clear coat scratch, no color actually comes off the vehicle. Instead, the glossy appearance of the car is broken, and light reflects that spot in a different way, creating a scratch. These types of scratches are very common and can be caused by a number of different things.
Then, there’s the color coat scratch, which penetrates the car paint a bit more. Color coat scratches will remove the color from your car, but won’t expose the metal underneath. These types of scratches are caused by contact with a heavy metal object, like a key.
Lastly, there’s the most severe scratch, the primer coat scratch. Primer coat scratches cut through all three layers of paint, exposing the metal of the car. Overtime, if these aren’t fixed, the metal can rust and make your car unsafe for driving. 

Common causes of car scratches

Car scratches can be caused by a number of different things, and the source is likely telling of the type of scratch you’re facing. According to House Grail, the most common source of clear coat scratches are car washes or improper washing. Additionally, clear coat scratches can be caused by parking lot mishaps.
If your car was keyed, you’re most likely facing a color coat scratch. Interaction with small flying objects, like gravel or branches, while driving might also result in a color coat scratch, reports DriveDetailed.
Primer coat scratches are the worst type of scratch, so they’re typically caused by the most severe catalysts. Primer coat scratches can result from flying large rocks or sticks while driving, as well as car accidents.  

What to do if you think your car was keyed

If you suspect your car was keyed, you should first report it to the police. Keying is an act of vandalism, punishable by the law. Next, report the incident to your insurance company, to see if you have coverage for keying (more on this below!)
Lastly, bring your car to a mechanic, or try to repair the scratch yourself, to fix the problem. Never let deep scratches stay on your car for too long, because they can get worse overtime and cause larger issues.  

Repairing a scratched or keyed car

If your car was scratched or keyed, you’ll likely want to remedy the damage quickly. If your car has a primer coat scratch, try washing it, buffing the area with a toothbrush and toothpaste, then waxing the area with a good car wax to combat the problem. You can also try touching up primer coat scratches or light color coat scratches with paint the same color as your car.
If you suspect your car was keyed and has a deep color coat scratch, you might be able to fix it on your own. Auto Supershield recommends trying these steps to fix a keyed car:
  1. Rub black shoe polish over the scratch to see it clearly.
  2. Spray prep solvent over the scratch.
  3. Use a piece of sandpaper (soaked in cold water before) to sand the scratch down.
  4. Use a rag to clean up the area.
  5. Use touch-up paint and touch-up clear coat on the scratch, then let it dry for 12 hours.
  6. Apply rubbing compound.
  7. Apply polishing compound.
  8. Apply wax.
If you don’t feel comfortable performing these steps, or if your car has a primer coat scratch, take it to a professional. 
But the good news is if your car was keyed or scratched and you have comprehensive car insurance, most will cover the damage after you pay your deductible. When getting comprehensive car insurance, always read the conditions covered before you sign, and always use Jerry to find the lowest rates on car insurance. 

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